ONE MAN AND HIS DOG. #GuestPost #ReceptionistsStory

People often do not realise, or forget that Receptionists working in GP Surgeries and Hospitals are faced difficult situations each and ever day. Certain events will leave imprints on our hearts,

It it their compassion and dedication to their job that will take them that extra mile to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care and much more. Their dedication often goes unseen by the general public, the Practice Manager and even the GP’s. They simply just get on and do the very best they can and ask for little recognition in return.

Receptionists are on the front line, often faced with situations that need to be dealt and often outside their job description, but they get on and do the job, because they care.

I would like to thank a Receptionists who kindly shared this story, an insight to her feelings, and how important this patient was to her.

Well done, and a big thank you to the many Receptionists that go “that extra mile” to ensure that all our needs are met.

Guest story………………..

When he rung that lunch time I recognised the name at once. I had taken a fax off the machine a month or so ago and speed-read the story before handing it on to the GP. A health professional had been contacted by the patient’s bank manager who was concerned by his erratic behaviour, and felt he needed to let someone know. (Credit to that bank manager!)

Details of that fax flooded back in fragments as he told me he wanted to see a doctor – he had been unable to keep any food down for some time, and now he could not swallow his cup of tea. It was the Monday before Christmas – we were heaving with patients and our appointments were long gone.

You know that instinct that floods you at times like this? I sensed if I hesitated at all he would simply vanish – put down the phone – give up at once. Everything inside me shouted that he NEEDED TO SEE A DOCTOR! Ask him to call back at 8.30am in the morning? Don’t be daft – he won’t. Secure something for him NOW!

At my practice the Duty Doctor has slots for ‘anyone who feels they must see a GP today.’ I booked him in. I prayed that he would show up. I watched from the desk as the time drew near – it was a bit like wondering whether you would catch a glimpse of some frightened wild thing in the bushes!

He came. Gaunt, pale, skin stretched over his face like parchment. An odd, nervy little old man, tiny in his winter clothes. He saw the GP. She messaged Reception to catch a nurse to test his blood urgently. He had his blood test. We booked him a return appointment (at the Duty Doctor’s bidding) the next day. He went home.

When he returned in the morning he was in a smart suit, which once must have fitted him and now simply drowned him. He went in for his appointment. More instructions to Reception – “An ambulance is coming for Mr Small. Print off an Encounter Report for the Ambulance Crew and come and collect the letter I am writing for them.”

Mr Small sat and waited. And waited. There was a quieter moment and I went across to him. I reassured – “The Ambulance WILL be here – it always takes a while.”

He looked at me hesitantly. “Left me dog at home. Be back soon though won’t I?”

“Your dog? Oh! Is – is there anyone with a key who can go in and look after her?”

“No. Don’t know me neighbours. She’ll be OK. Be back tonight wont’ I?”

I thought of the dog. I thought of the few lines of the letter I had just clipped together with the Encounter Report. This scrawny, sad little man wasn’t going anywhere for quite a while. The GP had found ‘A mass’ in his abdomen. His bloods were nightmarish. He was going in for major surgery I imagined.

He was talking once more. “On me way to me sister’s for Christmas. Will I still be able to go?”

What was I to say? I was ‘only the receptionist.’ I said I wasn’t sure – all would become clear once he got to hospital and the doctors sorted things out. That sort of safe, general waffle. (You know!) Then I went back to the office and wrote an extra note which I stapled on to his wodge of papers: “MR SMALL HAS LEFT HIS DOG AT HOME. PLEASE BEAR THIS IN MIND – HE WILL BE VERY ANXIOUS ABOUT HIS DOG IF HE HAS TO LEAVE IT FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS.”

Someone suggested ringing Social Services about the dog. I cannot now remember all I did – I remember making quite a few calls one way or the other but not achieving ‘closure.’ Before going home I handed it all on to another colleague in Reception – telephone numbers – people I had talked to – people who might (just might!) ring back to offer help – etc etc. I asked the colleague to ‘let me know’ what happened.

My laid-back colleague didn’t. Things got busy, and she was very distracted. We all know how easily that can happen. It was just a dog after all. I went to bed that night and my dreams were crowded with sad, hollow eyed old men, and whimpering, abandoned dogs starving in tiny locked kitchens. I went to work the next day with my heart in my mouth and my brain frayed.

It had been sorted. Social Services had arranged for the dog to be collected and taken to a kennels. Mr Small was still in hospital. As I knew he would be. Christmas, for him, had been abruptly cancelled.

My lovely family Christmas came and went. We staggered into January with all the winter ills which seem to blow in with the cold winter winds, and all the challenges of a new computer system to grapple with. And in the midst of this someone said – “Oh – that old man with the dog has died.”

Do we ever get used to this sort of thing? I remembered his haunted face – the far too large suit – the wasted eyes. His anxiety for his only real friend – his little dog.

The end of the story was that the sister with whom he never spent Christmas took the dog in. I hope she cherished her and loved her. At least she didn’t stay in the kennels, though she must have wondered, as dogs do, why she never saw her beloved master again.

As Receptionists we should never underestimate the breadth or the strangeness of our role at times. We have to react to so many different scenarios. We are expected to turn on a sixpence – shrug and move on to the next thing – not get involved – blah blah blah.

One man and his dog. Both went to my heart. And if ever the day comes when that doesn’t happen, I will look for another job. It costs to care – but I believe it is what our job is all about.


Speaking to Receptionists on the importance of Training


Would you employ a Doctor or Nurse at your Practice that didn’t have any qualifications? No – so why did I even ask such a stupid question? Of course you wouldn’t. You go for the best candidate there is don’t you?

What is the first thing you look for on a CV? Previous experience, qualifications/training and the availability they can offer.

When you employ a Practice Nurse or another member to the healthcare team they are usually offered ongoing training. This will benefit the Practice, more clinics can be run, and therefore a better service offered to the patients.

So, why should a Receptionist be any different? They are part of the team, they are there to give a good service to the patients, and to support the Doctors, Nurses and the Practice Management Team and to achieve that they need the appropriate training to do this.

A good majority of General Practice Receptionists are woman, over 40 years of age and on average half have been in the job for more than five years. Four-fifths work part-time.

Comments from Receptionists are they have chosen the job because it dovetails with the rest of their lives.

What they get from their job is satisfaction from helping patients, meeting people, having a good relationship with colleagues and doing varied work.

Sources of stress include difficult patients, work pressures often down to shortage of staff, problems finding appointments to give to patients, and feeling caught between the doctors and the patients demands (piggy in the middle effect)

Dealing with difficult situations at the front desk, or over the phone is often highlighted in training courses, and often Receptionists feel unsupported when dealing with these incidents.

Many had a sense of teamwork with colleagues, but many did not perceive the whole practice as a team. Many felt the doctors failed to appreciate the pressure and complexity of their work.

A receptionist’s work is very complex, demanding and intense often involving a high level of commitment to patients, colleagues and the practice.

Speaking to Receptionists at various training sessions always bring different responses on how they feel supported by their Practice especially when it comes to training.

They vary from hardly any support at all, and having to learn whilst doing the job, to others that have support and training on a regular basis.

A role as a medical Receptionist is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. I have seen Receptionists lasting as short as a day to perhaps a week before saying “this isn’t the “nice little job I thought it was going to be’

A Receptionist that lasts is there because of their love for the job. If they do not feel supported they will leave, and move on to a Practice whereby they will be supported and appreciated. Don’t be that Practice that loses all your good staff.

I asked a group of Receptionists what did they think is most important when it comes to training for the role of a Doctors Receptionist – their replies included:

Quality time to get used to the job and the rest of the team”

Shadowing and taking notes, one to one time somewhere quite and more so when it comes to getting to grips with the computer system”

“Training on confidentiality – understanding what can and cannot be said”

“I must admit I was frustrated at being  “thrown in at the deep end” approach. There has to be an element of this because of the nature of the role, but some protected time is needed”

“Reception training is an investment and saves time (and often tears) in the long run”

Learning to deal with difficult situations at the front desk – I was faced with a bereavement at the front desk recently and didn’t know how to handle it”

“Being able to ask questions that get fully answered”

I asked, “What training their Practice had for their Receptionists” and the replies included”

“I was told at my interview that an induction programme would be put in place for me when I started, and it never happened – although the intentions were there. There simply was never the right time”

“The two receptionists asked to train me on the job felt resentful and that they had been “landed with me which made me feel awful”

“Other staff members were often reluctant to explain things in fear I might ask more questions, they clearly felt under pressure”

“The office Manager was immensely encouraging to me and I learnt so much from her. She proved very canny at sensing when I was struggling and would step in with down to earth words and support”

“I had to cancel a couple of training courses due to staff shortages which meant I was needed in Reception – and to date I haven’t had the chance to re-do them”

“My Team Leader and Practice Manager are wonderful and support us Receptionist with ongoing training”

A new Receptionist needs time to pick up a wide range of skills and variables associated with this underestimated role. People learn in different ways and often at different speeds. Some are ace at IT and pick up the computer system in no time, but perhaps struggle with terminology. Some get flustered easily and find it difficult dealing with difficult situations; others are able to cope with the pressure that patients (and often doctors) throw their way on what can sometimes be an hourly basis.

The role of the Receptionist is endless. You never get to the point and are able to say “there I know it all now” every day brings something new.

I asked Receptionists how their felt that training has benefited them and their replies were”

“Good training can be enjoyable, fun and such a benefit to the Receptionist, the patients and the Practice”

“Patients deserve to have staff that are confident and comfortable in their role”

Patients will leave satisfied, and hopefully reassured’

“I enjoy training – I feel I have the space to ask questions and enjoy meeting others in similar roles”

“Doctors, nurses, Practice Management will be supported by the reception team and therefore be able to work more effectively themselves.

“Jobs are completed and not just “left” because the Receptionist is unsure about completing a task, be it a letter, phone call or a query at the front desk.

“Team members work more efficiently when everyone understands their role, and the role of others around them”

It is so important that a new Receptionist is given time, and more time if needed. Investment in staff right from the start is so important.

Take some time to find out the needs of your Practice and also the needs of the Receptionist.

You’re Receptionist are the ambassadors of your Practice and deserve to be supported in the role.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

5* Customer Service – #PremierInn #CustomerCare


We often take time to complain about a bad service, but very little of us complement a good one, so I would like to share with you a 5* customer experience.
We recently had to make a trip to Middlesex as a family member has just gone through major heart surgery at Harefield Hospital.
Arriving at 07.30 tired and hungry we booked into the Premier Inn near Heathrow Airport, (Shepiston Lane, Hayes) (Heathrow M4 Junction)
We had no reservation but the receptionist couldn’t have been any more helpful, and booking in at such an early time was no problem.
What we thought would have been a ordinary “run of the mill” Inn turned out to be 5* accommodation rounded off with the best customer service we have come across in a long time.
From the time we stepped through the front door the staff could not have been any more helpful, polite and extremely friendly.
The Reception staff we extremely friendly and nothing was too much trouble, the cleaning staff could not have done enough for us, and for the restaurant staff well they just went out of their way to ensure that our dining experience was as best as it could get.
Then there was the accommodation, oh wow it was just amazing. I can see why Premier Inn guarantee a good nights sleep – we certainly had that. The king size hypos bed was lush – and a good nights sleep we certainly had. Hard to believe that we were about 2 miles from Heathrow Airport, not a sound to be heard! We even had the most delightful pillows to lay our weary heads on! We found firm pillows on the bed and softer ones were also supplied in the room if needed then.
We had a good supply of tea, coffee, drinking chocolate, water and biscuits and more if we wanted them. We just had to ask.
After a hectic day visiting the patient we returned to have an evening meal. I can honestly say the restaurant was probably one of the best I have been in for a long while. The staff were very attentive, nothing too much trouble and we had two courses, a drink plus unlimited breakfast the next morning all for £22.99 each. The food was excellent. There was not one thing we could have found fault with.
When we returned to our room we found the telly had a range of Freeview Channels – my hubby was delighted to say the least!
The room was lovely and warm, with its own thermostat control panel.
After a really good nights sleep we went down for breakfast. The choices we had were unbelievable and again, I think that this was the best breakfast that we have ever had. The staff were tremendous and couldn’t do enough for us. They put the hot food out little at a time so there was a constant supply, which was fresh and hot.
And to add to all of the above, the checkout time was 12.00 midday. No rushing to book out of the room by 10.00 or 11.00 as some required. We were able to take our time, have another lovely cuppa before going on our way.
I cannot praise our whole stay enough. From the staff, to the accommodation to the food – all perfect in every way.
So, thank you Premier Inn for the lovely experience, and to the staff you have trained so well in giving such a great customer service.
We would certainly recommend your Inn and we definitely will be coming back.

link to the Premier Inn Heathrow


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved