This time of year it can be very stressful working in a Surgery or Hospital environment. The flu season is upon us and Christmas approaching fast – stress levels can be high. Patients can often be more demanding as they too are stressed, little ones are poorly, no one wants to be sick for Christmas – appointments are few and far between.
Staff are going down like flies with flu and other winter bugs and on top of that people are trying to take last-minute annual leave – which of course can put enormous pressure on others in the team. Often receptionists come into work feeling poorly when they should be at home as they do not like to let their team down, but there comes a time when they just cannot get in as they are too poorly.
Being short-staffed can lead bad feelings, between the team and between the team and management – moral can get low at this time of year. How do you handle such times as your surgery?
A Surgery that I worked for had two sites – in all about 28 reception and admin staff. But on top of that we have a team of 8 bank receptionists (temporary). They all worked on a part-time basis as and when we needed them. They would cover at both sites. Some of them would be willing to do a full week when needed others preferred to keep to certain days or a certain number of hours per week – but they were all very flexible in a time of need. They were often our angels in times of need.
As a practice we only paid them for what they worked. We did also give them holiday pay depending on what they had worked. No more than paying a regular receptionist to do overtime that perhaps she didn’t really want to do – or giving her time off in lieu which then meant when she took that time back cover would be needed for her.
But it was important for the bank staff to feel part of the team. Keeping them informed of changes within the Reception team/Practice was vital and I always ensured that any memo’s or emails that went out to the regular staff they received copies of too. They were very much part of the team and treated so.
Every single bank receptionist was included in every training programme and was invited to join in any social event that we had both in and outside of the surgery. They were always included in any receptionists meetings that we held.
In fact some of our “bank” receptionists actually worked more hours than some of our regular receptionists. It really was a system that worked extremely well.
If you think that each 28 reception/admin staff was entitled to 4 weeks holiday, plus cover needed for sickness and days needed for training it amounted to a lot of cover being needed throughout the year and because of this it didn’t put pressure on other staff to cover those times.
We would still offer extra hours to our regular receptionists but they were never under any pressure to do so if they didn’t want to. There was always plenty to go around.
I am surprised that this has not taken off in more Practices as it really did work out very well indeed especially around this time of year.
None of us wants to put pressure on staff to cover for colleagues, but of course we do because we do not have another option – but do we?