Changing Times

I was chatting to a friend the other day and we were reminiscing about the “old days” and what our memories were as a child and how things have changed especially in our line of work over the years.

Mine was visiting my doctor as a child and just how things have changes so much over the years.

As a child I remember going into this great big house, (as a child I would have described this as a mansion) which was the Doctors Surgery, and where she lived. I can still remember so many details of that house, the grounds the house stood on, the big sweeping driveway that you drove in one way and out the other, the ivy climbing the walls and the great big red door to the main house – I always wondered what was beyond that door (this was the main entrance to the big house)

The Surgery entrance was at the side of the house, a smaller less obvious door and was black in colour. We would walk through the door and straight into the small waiting room – the receptionist sat in the same room behind a desk with one cabinet that held the notes.

Just one Doctor and one Receptionist, not even a nurse.

No fax machines, no computers, no scanners just a desk, a telephone with one line and one filing cabinet.

I used to think the receptionist was a nurse as she wore a white  coat. Confidentiality was unheard of as the receptionist discussed ailments with the patients and many personal details given at the desk for all to hear. Everyone would hang on to her every word as she spoke to patients on the telephone – often speaking names, addresses and ailments – no confidentiality at all – yet it seems to be accepted.

No radio or telly playing the background, no toys for the children to play with just a room with chairs and the reception desk.

I remember later on in years I went into that same reception area and as I approached the desk the receptionist looked up, beamed and said congratulations on your pregnancy – the room was full of people, and people in there that I knew but the worse for me was I wasn’t actually pregnant, she had in fact got me mixed up with another patient. It never entered my head to complain, to me a mistake was made and she was truly sorry when she realised her mistake. I wonder how that would have been handled these days?

We would then get called through to see the Doctor – as a child I was always in awe of her – she was old (or old to me as a child) but the one thing that enticed me into her room was the great big jar of jelly babies that sat proudly on her desk – if I was good I would always get a jelly baby before we left her room. I remember once actually getting 2 – I cannot remember if this was by mistake or if I had been particularly good.

The room was grand, it had big French doors opening onto a big garden, which would be wide open in the summer and in the winter months she would have a big open fire blazing away, not a fire guard in sight and her much-loved sheep dog would be lying in front of it. No Health and Safety issues back in those days.

There were no disabled access for patients in wheelchairs or any aids for people with special needs.

Training for patient care was basic yet then sufficient. Training for general practice was in its infancy.

Years rolled on and practices expanded and the new receptionist fared only slightly better. Often “sitting with Mavis” was accepted, the only method of training new staff. “Mavis” would tell the new receptionist what to do, showed her how to do it, and after a couple of weeks left her to discover the rest for herself.

The title of Practice Manager was practically unknown; staff were expected to learn fast, no doubt acquiring good habits as well as bad. The knowledge and skills for the role as the receptionist were picked up by trial and error, and some very inappropriate attitudes were acquired along the way.

Over the years the importance of general practice within the health service increased in leaps and bounds.

Practices grew in numbers; multi disciplinary teams worked under the same roof, the Practice Managers became an extremely important part of the Practice. Larger Practices would have a whole management team run what now has gone from a one-doctor practice into a Practice that could have many doctors’ nurses and numerous other healthcare professionals working together with one aim – Patient Care.

Patient care, confidentiality and health and safety became a vital part of our working day.

However, sadly, until recently, the methods of training Receptionists within some organisations have failed to keep pace.

It is now generally accepted that quality of care and job satisfaction go hand in hand. Staff need to know not only what they are doing but also why they are doing it – “sitting with Mavis” is just not acceptable anymore.

Receptionists must understand their role and how their individual job contributes to the care of the patients and the smooth running of the whole practice.

Receptionists need not only to be trained but also to continue their education and personal development in order to keep up to date with an “ever changing role.”

Training Reception Staff

  • Initial assessment should be part of the selection process before employment.
  • What knowledge and skills does the applicant have as a result of past experience?
  • Is the applicant flexible to fit in with the team?
  • Are the applicants knowledge and skills appropriate, and, if not, can they be modified by training and experience?

Training Programmes

Planning Receptionist training must take account information about the following:

  • What the Practice believes that their Receptionists need in order to improve performances and satisfaction in their daily work.
  • What new skills and knowledge the Receptionist needs to gain in order to cope with change.
  • What the Receptionists themselves feels they need/would like to learn in order to expand their skills.

Has your Practice moved with the times? Do you support your Receptionists with training?


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Do You Value Your Staff?


Through feedback on my blog, speaking to friends who are Managers and Receptionists and through training it always amazes me how differently employers treat their staff in various different ways.

I was chatting to a Practice Manager recently about training his Reception Team. It was uplifting to hear him talk so highly of his staff, and acknowledge the difficult role that they face at times.  He told me that he felt blessed with the Reception Team he has.

We discussed areas of training, and how we would approach this, and to work with the team to find ways forward in helping them in what can often be a very difficult role. His words to me were…………….

“I want to stress that we wish to assist them in their role and that we are building on an already excellent and valued team”

Music to my ears! A Practice that value their staff.

The Practice Manager and Partners have thought long and hard about supporting their staff in the way of training, and have invested an afternoon for the whole surgery to come together for a team building session.

From speaking with this Practice Manager it is evident that everyone at the surgery works together as a team, and this in turn gives the patients the services that their areas needs.

He acknowledges that his Reception Team are doing a great job, but as always there is room for change and perhaps some refresher in what cold be improved – not always clear-cut, but hopefully with some guidance and training this hopefully will help the team in their role and make their tasks easier and in turn help the patients receive a better service.

Nothing works better than a team working together.


I chatted to a friend today. She has worked in a GP Surgery for almost 6 years. She is one of those Receptionists that is loyal, has empathy, extremely hard-working and has great skills when it comes to dealing with the patients. She has exceptional skills in all areas of her role.

She has shared with me over the years of the problems she faces at her practice. There has been little support from her Practice Manager or partners. They never have any staff meetings, and there is never any staff training – despite staff asking for these in the past. In fact the last lot of training they did have they had to undertake this at home in their own time.

Not surprising they have had numerous members of the Reception Team leave steadily over the past few years – all because of the above.

Good staff leave, new staff are appointment and that results in more stress in the Reception area, training up new staff whilst still trying to keep the Reception area working as normal is not easy and it takes it toll on everyone – including the patients.

And still no support or training.

My friend sadly found that the job was affecting her health and with the lack of support she was find the job becoming extremely difficult, so she sadly gave in her notice at work.

She gave her notice to her Practice Manager in writing – which was accepted promptly without question. This in itself she found upsetting – she felt she should have been at least asked the reasons why she was leaving.

She said has she had harboured any hopes that she was worth fighting for; she would have found the way her notice was accepted very upsetting.

That same week other staff members handed in their notice – with the same acknowledgement.

I asked her how she felt, and her reply was she felt angry. She loved the role, and will miss her colleagues that she had worked with for so long and she felt she was letting them down at the same time, as many of them were devastated to hear she was leaving. She actually found them much more supportive than her Manager ever was.

She felt no appreciation for the 6 years of dedication and hard work that she had given to the Practice.

Good staff are hard to come by. Invest in your staff and everyone will reap the benefits. Patents, GP’s, Nurses, attached staff and the Practice as a whole.

Train the staff you have – help them do a good job even better – if you don’t you will still have to train, train new staff to take over a job that someone was doing perfectly well in the first place.

Talk to your staff. Do this through

  • Appraisals
  • Staff Meetings
  • Simply getting to know how your Reception Team work and identify their needs. How often do you as a manager interact with your team? As a Manager I would ensure that I would interact with my team throughout the day – if only for a few minutes at any one time. Just popping my head in the Reception area and saying Hi – just let them now you are there. As a Manager my door was always open to staff if they had a problem.

The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members better.

Well trained staff are confident staff and more than likely to do a good job and stay in a role if they feel appreciated.

Do you value your staff?


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved