The “Stick It” and My Credit Card

I had an appointment today to see a consultant – It was a private appointment – something that I had to get sorted sooner rather than later and going private was my best option.

The hospital was small the staff very friendly. The consultant went through everything and his secretary gave me a date for my operation – 2 weeks time.

Armed with all the necessary paperwork I headed over the Bookings Office. The clerk took all my details, and asked for an initial payment of 125.00.

I gave her my credit card – she then said that payment would not be taken until the day of the operation.

She reached for a “stick it” and promptly wrote all my credit card details down on this little piece of sticky paper. But why not put it on a proper form to be added inside my file.

My heart sank – although I use “stick its” a lot – I certainly would not have used it in this instance. I didn’t feel happy about leaving my credit card details on this loose sticky piece of paper. I was actually gob smacked that this method was used in taking all my details
of my credit card.  My thoughts went to my blog on “Taking a Message” dated 20.7.11

In the blog I actually advised against using such a thing for the taking of messages or anything of importance – and to me my credit card was certainly important. This piece of sticky paper so easily could be lost with all my details on it.

Quick thinking – I spoke up and said that in fact I would prefer to pay by a cheque – which I did – and thankfully the small sticky piece of paper was torn up by the clerk.

What are your thoughts on taking messages on “stick its” do you think it is a safe enough?

Chaperoning The Doctor

As a Receptionist we at times were asked by the Doctors to chaperone whilst they would be examining a patient.

This was something that took me by surprise when I was first asked. But I soon learnt that this could be for the benefit of the Doctor and the patient.

For those of you that don’t know what was required for this I will explain a bit more.

Chaperoning can be considered a risk management strategy when performing intimate examinations. The use of a chaperone may protect the doctor from allegations of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct or misconduct by the patient. Allegations against the doctors occur infrequently. Both male and female doctors report inappropriate behaviour by patients’ e.g. spurious requests for intimate examinations, sexual harassment
of doctors.

Practice should no long use untrained practice staff to fulfil the role of a chaperone. Chaperones need to be trained so that they understand what a legitimate clinical examination entails and at what stage it becomes inappropriate.

Although a chaperone does not have to be medically qualified they must be:

 Sensitive to the patient’s confidentiality

Prepared to reassure the patient

Familiar with the procedures involved in an intimate examination.

Prepared to raise concerns about a doctor if misconduct occurs.

 As a chaperone I never seen anything that I should not have – the patient was always treated with dignity and I always found most of the time the patient would welcome the “third” person in the room as quite often there would be a three-way conversation going on – resulting at putting the patient at ease.

While the patient was getting undressed behind the curtains I would chat quietly to the Doctor – thus giving the patient time and no “awkward silences” and while the Doctor was examining the patient I could get the appropriate paperwork ready to save the Doctor time
after the examination (and us Receptionists usually completed the forms better than the Doctors did – and in handwriting that could be read!!) This of course was all before it could be done on a computer. Then after the examination I would chat to the Doctor while the patient got ready again.

At times we would have a mum in with a young baby or toddler – and I would often keep them amused while the examination went on. Mums were always grateful for this.

Now you will remember in a previous blog that Doctors only have 10 minutes allocated to see each patient. So imagine the scene its the middle of winter when 70-year-old Mrs Higgins comes in to see the Doctor and by the time she had told him her problem and he has suggested to her that he will have to examine her his time is quickly running out – but like every good Doctor they ignore this and procedure to do what they have to do.

The doctor phones out to Reception to request one of the girls to chaperone and by the time I  went it time has well gone by 10 minutes.

The Doctor asks Mrs Higgins to go behind the curtains and undress and pop herself up onto the bed. We chat quietly in the room about the weather / his children – anything that you can think of at such a moment. She took ages – after all she had piles of clothes
on and of course she is in no hurry.

The Doctor asked if she was ready – she said she was – he went behind the curtain and I could hear him say:

 “No Mrs Higgins you need to take off all your bottom garments  – not just your shoes and socks.”

He comes back out again – he rolled his eyes we made more small talk – at this point the patient has been in with him well over half an hour. He looks at his computer and sees a list of people booked in waiting to see him. He starts to get a bit stressed. He knew only too
well that patients would be given the girls a hard time at the front desk complaining about their appointments running late.

He asks Mrs Higgins if she was ready. She called out

“Yes Doctor I’m ready”.

He smiled and went behind the curtain.

I then heard him say in a very calm manner but with a big sigh

“No Mrs Higgins – you need to take off your underwear too – after all I am a Doctor not a magician”

 So next time your Doctor is running late please give him a bit of slack – he might have just seen a “Mrs Higgins”.

A Tragic Tail


I spoke to my daughter this morning and she was pretty upset. She had heard some very sad news about a friend – let me explain what happened

My daughter walks her dog at a regular time each morning and has formed friendship with other people who walk their dogs at the same time.

One particular girl she has got to know quite well over the past year was due her baby last Monday – she was having a girl and they had even named her. My daughter looked forward to the daily meetings and the updates on her pregnancy.

Last Sunday her friend was not at the park – my daughter wondered if she perhaps had the baby. How exciting if she had she thought.

Then on Tuesday my daughter met up with another regular on the park walk. The woman asked my daughter if she had heard the news – my daughter expecting her to say that her friend had in fact had the baby.

She had, but what she heard next just was the most awful news.

Apparently the girl was walking her dog on the Sunday (the day before the baby was due) and she met up with another “doggy” friend who had not been in the park for some time – this woman’s dog is a large bred and his owner had suffered with a bad back and was unable to take him to the park. The stood chatting and the big dog suddenly ran past them both and knocked the pregnant girl right off her feet – it was a pretty nasty fall and they had to call an ambulance.

She arrived at the hospital and they discovered that in fact the placenta had actually come away – resulting in the hospital having to give her an emergency caesarean. Her baby girl sadly dies 6 hours later. How awful. Such a freak accident and such a terrible tragedy.

We discussed how awful it must be for everyone – including thewoman’s whose dog it was. My daughter said that she was  due home a couple of days after the birth – and that apparently her mum had gone in and taken all the baby items away –  because she probably
would not want to face it when she came home. This took me back to a mum that was a patient at the surgery……………………..

When I worked as a receptionist one of my duties was to “manage”
the anti natal clinic one a week. I was responsible for helping the midwife
during her clinic – I would help book mums in, get their records ready and
weigh them before they went in to see the midwife. I loved this as I got to
know the mums all the way through their pregnancy and they would always bring
their babies in to see me when they were born. I always had a special bond with
these mums and their babies too.

But, there were the odd one or two that didn’t get to show their babies off – it might have been due to a miscarriage or a stillbirth – every one of them so very sad.

One particular mum had a baby that had died a few hours after giving birth. We were always notified from the hospital when such a thing happened. Every effort would be made to ensure that the patient would have easy access to the Doctor, Nurse or Health visitor if they needed. (I did in fact set up a procedure to ensure that people who were terminally ill or recently bereaved had easy access and I will tell you more in a future blog).

She came into the surgery about 2 weeks after she lost her baby. She came to the desk – I told her how sorry I was and asked if she was ok. She started crying – I took her into a private room – she went through the events of losing the baby – I felt she needed to talk about it I sat and listened. But what she did say and has stayed with me all these years – and make me think of it again this morning.

When she came back from the hospital after losing her baby she found that everything had been taking out of the house that was there for the baby.

Everything had gone the pram the cot, the mobiles, the furniture everything that they had bought together with all the clothes and baby toys. Someone had thought it would be the best thing to do.

But she said that walking into the house and everything gone was like the baby was never real. It was like stepping back 9 months – she felt that everyone had just wanted to get rid of the memory of being pregnant or even the baby. She knew that this wasn’t true but that is how it felt at the time.

She said that what she had wanted to do was go home and grieve – she couldn’t do that in the hospital. She wanted to go home and go into the baby’s room and say goodbye there – surrounded in the love that had been put into everything in the room – it was the one last time she felt she could be close to the baby and that was taken away from her.

She explained that she hadn’t told anyone how she felt as she didn’t want to put guilt on anyone’s shoulders. After all her husband and family has been though a lot too. She realised that they were trying to spare her any more hurt and pain.

So although we think we might be doing the right thing at the time – are we? I hope this never happens to anyone close to me – but if it did – I think I would ask the mum what she wanted to do.

The Prescription

Following on from yesterdays blog I mentioned that many GP’s
have their own specialities in different areas. This can be very beneficial to patients at the practice and can often avoid having to be referred to a consultant at the local hospital.

One of the GP’s that I worked with Dr Paul was a right character. I have written about him
in previous blogs:

The Urine Sample  and

The Million Pound Cheque

Both are very funny and well worth a read.

I always enjoyed working with Dr Paul, he was fun, always time for a joke or two, and he
would always find time to answer any questions that we Receptionists might have
had. He was also extremely professional.  I learned a lot from him over the years that I
worked with him. If I ever a question about a certain drug, an illness that a
patient might have or just routine medical questions he would always explain it
in such a way that was easy to understand and he always made it interesting. I
have a lot to thank Dr Paul for – he was such a great mentor and very dedicated
to his job. He was the newest partner into the practice and also the youngest –
a breath of fresh air.

Dr Paul was always very popular with the patients – they liked his young outlook –they
liked the way he took time to explain everything to them and always gave them
the time they needed. But on the downside of that he surgery ALWAYS run late – and I don’t mean just 10 minutes late – often his surgery would run late by an hour or more. But what he did say was the most important patient at that moment was the patient that
was sitting in front of him – and that he would always give them the time that
they needed. And the patients all knew this – and those that thought the sun
shone out of him accepted that and would quite happily wait the hour or so to
see him. Of course there were the odd few that would not be happy – but if we
could we would always pre warn people just how late he was running. This went
against all the local Primary Health Care Trust guidelines that said that each
patient should be given a 10 minute appointment.

It could at times be frustrating for us the Receptionists – because if he was on a late
surgery (the evening surgery) we could quite often be there until way after our
finishing time – sometimes an hour late – as we had to ensure that everyone was
booked in and seen before we could shut up the Reception area and go home.

Dr Paul worked as a pediatrician (a Doctor that works with children) before joining the practice – and often would work shifts in the local children’s hospital. He was just great with the children – they used to love going into see them and he was just fantastic with
them – not many of them come out of his surgery without a sticker, or something
else that he might have had in there for them. He had so much time for the tiny
ones of the Practice.

And of course the parents loved him too, they loved him because he was great with the
children and they loved him because he talked TO the children and not over them
– he was just great with them.

One thing that did make me smile – when a child around 8 or 9 would go in with their mum or dad obviously unwell they might have a virus, flu or an infection. He would
give mum the prescription if the child needed one but he would also give the
child a prescription too – but what he would write on it would be something
along the lines of :

“This allows Billy Jones a week off tidying his bedroom due to him having a throat infection”


“This allows Elly Howard a week off doing the washing up due to her having a virus”

 The children would come out of his surgery clutching their “prescriptions” and mum or dad would come out with a smile on their face. What more could you want after
seeing the doctor? Medicine in itself!

The Million Pound Cheque

Following on from a recent blog re “The Urine Sample Pot” I have another story to share you will regarding the friendly GP – Dr Paul

I was in reception before morning surgery began opening the daily post.   In walks Dr Paul. He took his post out of his tray and started his daily signing of prescriptions, letters and other requests. The Practice Manager came along and asked him for a cheque that he was due to give to her. He got out his cheque book and wrote the check as requested.

I turned to him and asked while he was writing out cheques could he do one for me!! “No probs” was his reply – and duly wrote a cheque out to me – he wrote my full name on the cheque, dated and signed it and gave it to me.

The cheque was made out for one million pounds. We had a good laugh and I said that I probably would never have a cheque like this again and that I was going to frame it!!

A couple of weeks later I was working for the out of hours service and was working with a GP who happened to be a good friend of Dr Pauls, and was just as mad as he was.

I told him about the cheque and with a big grin and a twinkle in his eye said………right let’s get him!!

The out of ours GP took the cheque – and phoned me a couple of days later. He had arranged for his secretary to phone Dr Paul the following week – on the 1st April – April Fools Day.

Picture the moment – the secretary phones me and we had a chat – she was well and truly up for the joke as I put “the call” through to Dr Paul. I phoned him in his room – told him that I had his bank on the phone – he had a rep in his room with him at the time but was happy to take the call. Even better as the rep in there would be able to tell us his reaction.

I put the call through……………………….. About 4 minutes later all I hear is you bas***ds coming along the corridor – luckily there were not patients in the waiting room!!

Speaking to the rep later he said that we had well and truly had ‘got him’. His face was just a picture. The rep said that he had NEVER seen Dr Paul  lost for words. He certainly was on this occasion. All he kept saying to the caller on the end of the phone “this is a big mistake”.

Speaking to Dr Paul afterwards he said couldn’t believe that he had been well and truly caught. He said the call came through and the secretary made out that a cheque for a million pounds had been presented to the bank – and asked when he was going to put the funds into his account to cover this. He tried to explain that it was a joke and it shouldn’t have been banked. To which she replied “well Sir the cheque is dated and signed by you – is it not” to which he had to say yes!! The conversation went on and obviously the secretary was making life very difficult for him – she kept asking him difficult questions – until he heard the other Doctor in the background laughing!!! Game over.

He took it very well – relieved I think that this wasn’t really happening.

He came out into reception and gave me a friendly thump! The secretary on the other hand got a box of chocolates from him for the laugh!

I never got the cheque back – shame – as I said before – it probably will be the one and only time that I will ever get a cheque for one million pounds.

“I want an appointment NOW”

Before I started working at the Surgery I thought a Doctor
was just a Doctor. If you were ill you would go and see one of the Doctors that had the nearest available appointment. I soon learned how wrong I was.

We had 6 GP in the Practice that I first started working in.
Each and everyone one of them was different in many ways. Some patients would get
along better with one Doctor more than the others – and the same with the
Doctors – some patients for whatever reasons just used annoy the Doctors– but given
the professionals that they were never showed that side to the patients.

In my first few weeks I used to wonder why some patients
would only see one pacific Doctor and would wait up to a week for an appointment
with them – and the patients would climb the walls if their Doctor was on
holiday or fully booked – you would have thought that the patients world had
almost come to an end – they would just refuse to see anyone else.

There was one occasion when a patient phone for an
appointment to see Dr Stafford – I explained that Dr Stafford was not in surgery that day and was fully booked for several days ahead and then he was on holiday the following week. I offered the patient the next available appointment with another Doctor in the practice. The patient was   not happy. I could sense his blood pressure going up and that was over the phone. He explained that he HAD to see Dr Stafford THAT day as it was URGENT. I explained again that Dr Stafford was not in surgery that day and I would put him in with the Doctor that was running the surgery for “urgent” appointments that day – he was having none of it. He then started shouting at me down the phone – accusing me of “refusing” him an appointment adding how he had found me rude and unhelpful. (I might add I was never rude at any time to him)

I had to make sure that the patient understood that I was
not refusing him an appointment – but just not able to give him one with the
Doctor of his choice. I calmly repeated that I could give him an appointment
that morning with Dr Paul but the patient continued to shout down the phone to
me. I politely asked the patient not to shout – and explained that I was trying
to help him – he was having none of it – and his parting words were “so that’s
it then – you have refused me an appointment – so it’s on your shoulders if I
die then” and slammed the phone down.

Unfortunately we did get some calls like that – but thankfully
they were very few and far between. The first couple of times that happened I
worried myself sick. But soon learnt that as long as I was clear in my words
and offered the patient an appointment to see a Doctor there was not a lot more
I could have done. It was the patient’s choice not to take the appointment
offered to him.

But what I would do was document the call – I would make a
brief record on the patient notes that he called for an appointment with Dr
Stafford, was offered another Doctor due to Dr Stafford being fully booked and
the patient refused. I always put the time the call was taken too. I learned
very quickly to always cover yourself in any such incidents. If in the event
that something had happened to the patient – and he had told someone that I had
refused him an appointment where could that have gone? So I always documented
anything that I felt could come back at a future date.

Then I slowly began to see why some patients preferred to
see some Doctors more than the others. Each Doctor had their own area of expertise.
We had one Doctor that was fantastic when it came to anyone that had a bad
back. Another was excellent in skin conditions another on sports injuries and
one that was excellent with children – he actually still did some work in the
local  pediatric hospital. A lot of GP’s actually do clinics in their areas of
expertise in local hospitals.

It then made sense to why certain patients would only want to see one Doctor – and I could see the logic behind it.

And there were also some patients that for whatever reason
did not see eye to eye with certain Doctors in the Practice and would point-blank
refuse to see them. Difficult when at times these Doctors would be the only one
with an available appointment. Just like my story above.

One piece of advice I would give new Receptionists over the
years was when someone did have a go either over the phone or at the front desk
to try to not take it personally – because the angry person was not actually
directing their anger at them personally it was directed at the “Receptionist”
and if any one of us was standing there they would have had exactly the same
complaint. I found that this helped me in the earlier days when I felt that
they were shouting at “me”.

And to remember – patients are not customers. Patients are
often in pain, worried about themselves or loved ones, frightened or at times might
have a mental problem – and all Receptionists should remember this at times
when patients show their anger – I am not saying it’s right  – but we do have to take it into

Receptionist Training: Taking A Message

In today’s society emails are used as a way of communicating messages. But you must be sure that you know that the person you are sending the email to reads their emails on a regular basis.

Working with Doctors Nurses and other Healthcare professionals over the years has proved that this sometimes email is not the best way to pass a message on.

I have worked with Doctors that simply do not check their emails and of course some messages will be meant for a team rather than an individual – such as District Nurses or Health Visitors. Your practice might have a counsellor or a physiotherapist that only comes in once a week and they might not have access to a computer.

Some of our Reception staff was absolutely great on the desk – but not great on IT skills and a few unable to use email so all of this had to be taken into consideration when passing on messages.

Your practice will have a procedure of passing on messages – ensure that you are fully aware of their protocol on message taking.

The practice that I worked in had several ways of passing messages let me share some of these with you.

The Doctors had a MESSAGE BOOK  that was kept  in Reception at all times. The enabled all the doctors to read the book and take the appropriate action if needed. Ensure that your message book is set out in a clear way. Have a columns for

  1.         the date
  2.        the time the message was taken
  3.        Who the message is for (Dr’s Name)
  4.        And signature of person taking the message.

Another Surgery that I worked in had a message pad instead of a book. The message pad had carbon copies and they could tear off the message and a copy would be kept in the book. Its really how your Surgery best works.

 The Doctors also had a VISIT BOOK that was kept in Reception – this had all the details of patients that had requested home visits. It is vital that you enter the correct
time the call was taken. Your visit book should have columns for

  1.        Date
  2.        time visit was requested
  3.        name address and telephone number of patient
  4.        Contact details of person requesting the visit (ie. family/carer)
  5.        Date of birth of patient (age can be imporant ie elderly/baby)
  6.        Brief details of why the patient needs a
  7.        Signature of person taking the visit.

Receptionists and Admin staff had a RECEPTIONIST MESSAGE FOLDER – general messages to all of the Reception team were put in this book. Everyone had to sign and
date it when they had read it – it was their responsibility to read it every day. Memo’s from various departments were also added to this folder.

All Reception and Admin staff had their own individual staff in trays – any individual message would be placed in their tray for them to read at the beginning of their shift.

All other Healthcare professionals within the Practice all had in trays and messages would be left here and it was their responsibility to ensure that the messages were collected on a regular basis. Some of the various departments had message books like the Doctors and Receptionists – but these books were kept in their tray at all times.

Here are some important tips on how you should take a message.

Every time you take a message over the telephone it is important that you take the following information:
ALWAYS put who the message if for
ALWAYS date and time the message
ALWAYS write the message clearly – someone else has to read it.

ALWAYS get a contact name and telephone number if appropriate
ALWAYS sign your name at the end of the message.

With all messages if you think that the message is urgent always ensure that you pass it onto someone for immediate attention. Do not leave a urgent message in a book or a tray.

Often you may take a message on a Monday and the person the message is meant for is not in for a few days – or could even be on holiday – without a date or time they have no way of knowing when the message was taken.

A message could be used in a court of law. It would be classed as evidence. It would be proof that correct procedure was carried out – if the time, or date of the message is not included your Practice would not be able to relay on this evidence.

It is important to sign the message – if the person who the message is for has a question then they know exactly who to speak to rather than having to speak to several members of staff get before getting the right person.

Try not to put message on “stick it” pad as often they can get attached to another piece of correspondence and often turn up in completely the wrong place and often days or weeks later.

ALWAYS take a contact telephone or extension number from the person leaving the message in case they need to be contacted – never take it for granted that the person the
message is for will have that number. You might even have reason to phone the
person back yourself for some reason.

And it is very important to store you message books or diaries away when they are full – your practice could need this information years after the entry if needed in a court of law.