Patients and their Samples

You think that nothing will surprise you being a Doctors Receptionist. If you haven’t seen
or heard it before as sure as eggs are eggs you will do some time soon.

There are ups and downs working on the front desk – you might be the one to take “that” emergency call, hear of a patient’s death that you got to know so well – or perhaps have the tongue of an angry patient. But there are also nicer sides – the new mums coming in with pride to show you their new babies – the children popping up over the desk showing you their new shoes or telling you excitedly about their day and the elderly popping in the odd cake in for you all to have with a cuppa.

And there are the funny stories – let me share a couple with you…………….

Being on the front desk is not just making appointment and booking people in. There are various other tasks that you have to do and one of them is taking charge of “samples” that patients are asked to bring in to be tested at the surgery or sent off to the local hospital.

Samples come in all shapes and sizes from wee samples, stool (poo) samples, toe nail cuttings, and phlegm.

Most patients will discretely pass the sample over the desk to you – and some will have no fears of holding up the sample and loudly telling you what is in the container. And asking for your comments on them!!!!

The Receptionist has to take the sample pot and ensure that all the patients’ details are entered onto the container – which is vital for the hospital. We have to ensure that there is no way that the container could be mixed up with another patient. So they have to ensure the patients name and the patients DOB (date of birth) are on the container.

So – in comes Mrs Dixon – she approaches the desk – and loudly tells me that she has been asked to bring in a poo sample from Jimmy – her 4-year-old son – she progresses to tell me just how difficult it was to obtain the sample from him and they produces the poo sample in a children’s bucket (as in bucket and spade). She was most surprised when I told her that we could not accept the sample from the bucket – and it had to be taken and put straight into the supplied container – which was sterile.  She expected me to transfer the poo from the bucket into a new container – without even realising that the child’s bucket in fact was not a sterile container – which the poo needed to be in. She was most put out when I advised her to take another sterile container away and bring it back with the appropriate contents in it.

Then some months later Mrs Stafford comes into the surgery – she was asked to produce a urine sample for testing in the surgery. She handed me a plastic container with the urine in – and asked when it had been tested could I please keep hold of the container for her to collect next time she was in because it was one of her best Tupperware containers. I often wondered what else she used it for after that.

As you can imagine at the time these did not seem funny at the time, but after the event it did bring a smile to my face when I thought back.

People come in all shapes and sizes and you can never take anything for granted – especially beyond the reception desk.


All names in this post have been changed to keep the identity of the patient. 

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