Goddard Veterinary Group reached its own diamond jubilee during June 2012 and the staff celebrated with a cruise on the Thames the day before the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. During their cruise, 23 of the group's staff received long service awards, including head receptionist Julie Driscoll who has worked at the Wanstead Veterinary Hospital for over 33 years.
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What attracted you to the role of receptionist in a veterinary practice?
I liked the fact that it was a small, family-run business that was very local. Although the group is much bigger now, the individual practices have a family feel.
What does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?
I run a busy reception team of 10 staff at Wanstead, and liaise frequently with our 40+ branches and hospitals. We have eight incoming phone lines and are dealing with the public constantly, both face-to-face and on the phone. We are open 24/7 every day, so managing staff effectively can be challenging, because we're constantly busy and shift patterns mean that I rarely see some of them.
How has the job changed over the years?
Expansion is the big difference that I have experienced. When I started, we had four branches and a card filing system. Now we are much larger, and we have so much technology at our fingertips, but we work hard to maintain a small, personal and approachable feel. Generally the receptionists play a stronger role in the practice team now. We're fully trained in insurance protocols, for instance, and are also given product training so we can advise owners or pass them on to the veterinary team if necessary. The sheer scale and complexity of everything we're involved in has increased significantly, but it makes the role constantly challenging and enjoyable.
What do you enjoy most?
For me, dealing with the public is the best bit of my job. I live locally and I know many of our clients, and see them out with their dogs. It's good to get to know them and their pets – in good times and in bad.
What's the most challenging part of the job?
We tend to see owners at times of great stress and when emotions can be running high. Some get frustrated if they are kept waiting for an appointment because an emergency has been brought in, while others can feel in a state of despair if their much loved pet has to be euthanased. I recently attended a special bereavement counselling course, which I found very helpful and it enabled me to help an elderly client who had lost her dog. When she arrived back at the practice a few months later with her new dog, I felt I'd made a difference and it was very rewarding.
Are you involved with training other receptionists?
Yes, I organise all the training for the reception team – whether it's IT, product training or training on other aspects of our work.
What was you most unusual or surprising experience?
In truth, being awarded a long service award at our group's diamond jubilee party, was the biggest surprise. I had no idea it was coming and it was a lovely gesture. It's because the firm takes this personal approach that I'm still here.
How has your job influenced your family?
My interest in the veterinary world has rubbed off on my family. My daughter Jennifer is now a qualified VN, having done her work experience with us.