I had only been in my role of a Doctor’s Receptionist for about 3 months still getting my head around “Temporary Residents” “Immediately Necessary” and “Allocated patients”. Patients that were not registered at our surgery but needed to be seen. Different forms, no history and often quite complex cases and often without patient notes.
I sadly witnessed some racism within the team, often trying to avoid giving appointments to those that could easily be fooled that we didn’t have any appointments hoping they would try another surgery. And I have to confess we did sometimes have some very complex cases. We would have drug addicts trying to obtain drugs and alcoholics, often wanting an appointment just before closing time with the forms to fill and not having notes these appointment would usually run well past closing time, another late night finishing after a very long day.
We had self harming patients that were at the end of their wit’s end – nowhere to go and nowhere to turn to and the patient that was “allocated” to the practice.
Did I judge these patients? If I am honest to begin with I sadly did. I was new to the job – the world of a medical Receptionists, a job like no other, I had never dealt with patients before. No proper training on how to deal with such people desperate for appointments, or identifying those simply just “playing the system”
It is so easy to see the drug addict and the self harmer and look down on the homeless person without seeing the actual person.
I was with the practice about 6 months and we had a training session where the Manager from the local Homeless Shelter came in to talk about the homeless people and because they didn’t have permanent addresses often moved from shelter to shelter and when they needed to see a Doctor they had to be seen as immediately necessary, and she shared with us some of the horror stories that some of her residents had faced when trying to get them a doctor’s appointment. Often being sent from surgery to surgery before being seen.
She then told us about one of her regular customers. His name was Edward. Edward was an alcoholic – he was what some people would call a down and out. Edward just got by from day-to-day. He had tried to take his life but failed. His life was a mess. He had no life as such.
Edward had been homeless for 2 years. Up to this point Edward was just a name, another homeless person – until she told us how he became one of her customers.
Edward was a successful business man. He was very well off and had a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters who he adored. They lived in a lovely house in a nice part of town and very respected within the community. They were all out one afternoon and Edward who was driving crashed the car and his adoring wife and 3 beautiful daughters were killed outright.
Edward suffered with depression, took to drink to block out the memories of that awful day, through the drink he lost his job, his friends, his car and then his house. Edward became homeless.
Edwards story made a big impact on my career, and from then on in I always treated every single person that came into the surgery as exactly that – as a person. Who am I to judge, who was I to decide whether someone should see a doctor or go elsewhere – everyone deserves respect and from then on in every single patient got just that.
Whenever I think back on all the training I have had, that must have been one of the most powerful training sessions I have had and it certainly did teach me a lot.
Every person has a story to tell. Always treat people with respect. What right do we have to judge and count yourself lucky you are not walking in their shoes.
I recently came across this short clip and it brought me back to my story that I have just shares with you.
Have a look – do you see these people any differently after watching it?