Being a doctors receptionist is no easy task, and certainly not the job some people seem to think it is, some think it’s sitting at the desk booking patients in to see the doctor and handing out prescriptions, oh no it’s so much more and more again. Being a doctors receptionist is a bit like marmite, you either “love it or hate it”. The receptionist that ‘loves’ his/her job will be loyal, hard-working and very proactive. They are the ones that can see problems ahead, make the best suggestions and really want the best for the practice. They are the ambassadors of your practice.
It saddens me when at some of my training sessions I hear that they sometimes do not feel appreciated and they don’t feel part of the team. They often blame Management for lack of communication who are occasionally not caring and unapproachable. This might not be true, but it’s how they feel. Lack of training is also another complaint that I hear of often. Many Receptionists feel that they could do so much more in their role, if only they had the appropriate training. This is where I step in and defend the managers! I know how hard the role of a manager can be, often being piggy in the middle; the Partners shouting on one side and the Staff on the other. There are budgets to follow and targets to hit, whilst trying to stay loyal to both sides. Being a manager can often be a very lonely job. Who is there for the Manager when it gets tough?
My role of manager soon taught me that communication is key. In communicating with the receptionists I came to learn, first hand, what the problems in reception were, before it got too late and became a bigger problem than it already was. Receptionists need to know what is going on, if they don’t they often jump to the wrong conclusion. They will often gossip between themselves and make up their own minds, which can often cause bad feeling within the team. Having a team with a low morale is often extremely hard to turn around.
What is the best way to communicate with your receptionists? Hold Regular staff meetings; weekly, twice monthly or monthly.
- Ask the staff to contribute to the agenda, make the meetings their meetings.
- Make the meetings interesting! If they are interesting the staff will actually want to come, they will contribute and as a result they will be a success.
- Rotate the meetings on different days and times to enable part-time staff to attend at least every other meeting.
- It’s your chance as a manager to give the facts, to tell them as a team what is happening within the practice; it’s a great way to avoid rumours and discontent.
- Take minutes for future reference and make copies available for those that were unable to attend. Make a copy for the partners too.
- Ask a Partner to attend a couple of meetings a year, this shows support, and in my experience, always goes down very well with the receptionists. It also gives the Partners an insight in what is happening in reception and how hard their roles can often be.
- Use the meeting to discuss any issues that have occurred and ask the team how they feel it could have been dealt with, often they will come up with the solution. This will help in the future as they will then start to solve problems themselves, rather than running to you every time, expecting you as the manager to have the answer. Meetings can often make the team more proactive.
Another complaint is lack of communication. Often, many of the staff will be told something but others don’t hear about it. This can lead to confusion and often anger, which can result in jobs not being done properly, as some staff have not been informed. A lot of the time this happens to staff who are on holiday or that work part-time. Memos or emails sent to every member of the team seems to work well. Having a receptionist message book works extremely well. Receptionists can leave messages that everyone can read before they begin their shift.
Communicating with your team will often highlight concerns, and often they will share good ideas, after all they are the “experts” in their field and will often offer very productive ideas. Many of my training issues, ideas and changes came from my experiences of “walking in their shoes”
Another way of communicating with your staff is to simply show your support. Go and see what they are doing and praise them regularly. Most importantly, always remember how difficult your job as a manager would be if the receptionists did not do their job well.