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?
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?