Receptionists Training: How To Identify People that Have Difficulties Reading and Writing.

How would you identify and deal with a patient that might have problems with reading and writing – and not embarrass them?

I have seen many patients embarrassed by a receptionist insisting that the “complete” the form in front of them.


  • They will often become agitated or look uncomfortable when given a form to complete
  • They might go very red in the face with embarrassment
  • They will try to make an excuse ask if they can bring the form back at another time
  • They might say they can not wait and will fill it in next time (when they can bring
    someone back with them)

And the most often used excuse is:

They have left their glasses at home!

Many of the above could indicate that the person had problems completing the form. For
whatever reason do not embarrass the person by insisting they complete the form.

If the form can be taken away and completed and brought back all well and good, but as I
well know many of these forms never come back again. So I appreciate the importance of getting the forms completed there and then.


If you have reason to believe that the person is having difficult completely the form you

  •  Be very discreet
  • Never ask the person if they have problems with reading and writing
  • Never snatch the form back and say “give it to me”
  • Offer to help complete the form
  • Try and put them at ease – if they say they do not have their glasses just tell them that it is ok and that lots of patients do the same and you are more than happy to
    help complete the form.
  • Put the patient at ease by saying that it might be quicker for you to do the form
    because you know what parts have to be filled in.

You will often find by showing kindness and not judging the person will in fact tell you
that they have problems in completing forms. If they do tell them its fine – and they we get many request for help with filling in forms.

Explain  to them that you would be more than happy to help again, and that they should ask for you or another member of staff to help complete the next necessary form.

Ask the person if you want them to make a note of it on their patient notes – so in future they are not asked to complete a form again at the desk. Many are happy for you to do this. It also helps other team members know of their disability in not being able to read or write.

Every patient should be treated with respect at all times.

2 thoughts on “Receptionists Training: How To Identify People that Have Difficulties Reading and Writing.

  1. Do you know in the five years I have worked where I do this has never once been mentioned?

    I did not think of it either until I asked a man to check in using our touch screen (as we do.). He went puce, turned back to me and said, in a strangled voice, “I can’t read!’ I apologised at once and checked him in using the computer on the front desk, but I was sorry I had caused him distress.

    I had no idea the classic excuse was lost glasses, so will be more aware from now on!

    Thank you… Another very useful blog.

    • Thank you – I am so pleased that the blog might have been of some help. It must be awful for people in this day and age not to be able to write – You did exactly the right thing, he identified that he couldnt read and you dealt with the situation. It must have took a lot for him to admit to this. Another thing you could have done was quietly asked him if he would like it recorded on his notes – which in turn would help other healthcare professionals in the event that he had to fill in forms either at the front desk or when he was in seeing the Doctor or Nurse.

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