The Walk In Patient


I had been working at the surgery for a couple of years. I got to know many of the patients and formed quite a bond with a lot of them.

We had our regular patients that came  in on a weekly basis they would come in for all sorts of things. Perhaps to have their blood pressure checked with the Practice Nurse, or have follow-up appointments with the Doctors, or perhaps mums to be popping in to see the midwife for their anti natal appointments. Or just to drop off and pick up their prescriptions.

For whatever reason you couldn’t help getting to know them and their families. The biggest thing for me was the bond that was built up – the unspoken trust that was there between the Receptionist and the Patient. That is what I liked about the surgery work – was getting to know your patients.

Working for the out of hours was different – very rarely did you see the same patient – although it did happen sometimes.

So, one Monday afternoon around 1.00 a gentleman came into the surgery – he came to the desk and asked if he could see a Doctor straight away. I explained that the Doctors were out doing their visits – he asked if he could see a Doctor that afternoon – I checked the appointment diary – and I suspected before looking the surgery was full. I looked and I was right. I told the gentleman the surgery was full – and before I had the chance to ask him if it was urgent (as I suspected it might have been) he replied – “that’s fine – sorry to have troubled you – I will try again tomorrow” He turned to walk away.

Alarm bells rang straight away. Why might you ask – well that the difference of “knowing” your patients – let me explain.

  1.  I did not recognise this patient. OK that’s not enough to ring alarm bells. But I knew he was not a regular to the surgery – so I had to ask myself what brought him in today?
  2. If the patient had been a regular patient he would have known that we did not have a surgery at that time of day and there would be a great possibility the doctors would be doing their visits.
  3. Regular patients would have known that a Monday was near on impossible to get a “walk in” appointment, so therefore if it had have been important/urgent he would have said. Appointments were always given if it was urgent. So it was either not urgent – or he didn’t know the system.

As he turned away I seen that this man certainly did not look too good I called and asked him his name.

He gave me his name I asked him to wait and I went and got his notes. He notes very paper-thin – again alarm bells started ringing – why? Because this was a man who hardly came to the Doctors – so why was he here now?

Being a Doctors Receptionist you have to ask patients on a regular basis what their problem is – this is not to be nosey but to ensure that the patient is seen by the correct healthcare professional. It’s amazing how many people will ask to see the Doctor when in fact they can be seen by the nurse, the midwife or the Health Visitor. It is vital to keep appointments for the doctor for those that need to see the Doctor.

So I asked the patient what the problem was – and if it was urgent then I would have ensured that he was put into surgery that afternoon.

He then turned to me and said that he had been experiencing chest pains all that morning.

I had to act quickly – without distressing the patients in any way.

By luck the duty Doctor had just arrived back from his visits. I went to him and explained about the patient with chest pains. He saw him straight away.

Within minutes the doctor had called 999 – the man was having a heart attack.

Being a Doctors Receptionist is a very responsible job. The pay is not great – and the work is never-ending. But there is such a great deal of satisfaction that you can get in many areas. I will be sharing more stories about my experiences throughout my blog.

The patient mentioned in this blog was in hospital for a week, made a good recovery and was back to normal again soon after.

I am so glad that I recognised the “signs” and asked him what the problem was.

So next time the Receptionist asks you what the problem is ……………………..it is for your benefit – not theirs.

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