Dealing with the Bereaved #caring


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It’s been a tough couple of months. 2 very close friends have lost loved ones and 2 family members have died. 2 of them young woman in their 50’s losing their life to that horrendously awful disease CANCER. Every single one of them leaving behind broken-hearted family and friends.

I have shared their journeys through the caring for their loved ones and it saddens me to hear that they had many battles along the way. Getting much-needed appointments, lack of communication between different organisations and sadly just not enough resources in the NHS to assist them in their caring. But also, the many different positive stories they shared about the many different GP, hospital staff and voluntary organisations that often helped make the day that bit better for their professionalism and caring natures.

Often when someone is ill, especially terminally life is very hard on the people caring for them. They often have very little support or no support at all. One of the carers had to give up their job to care for their wife so he could accompany her to the many appointments for chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to the many visits to A&E and the GP. They had to be the “strong ones” Every single bit of help for them (the carer) goes a very long way in their fight to give their loved one the best possible care that they can………………but they need support from so many other organisations to be able to do this.

The carers often get worn down, quickly feeling low or even getting depressed and often face financial difficulties. Who cares for the patient if the cater gets ill?

Attitude, communication, empathy, time, and listening skills don’t cost a lot but can be invaluable to the carer – and the patient.

If you are aware of such a carer needing a doctor’s appointment please communicate, have empathy and use your listening skills. Try and accommodate an appointment that will allow them to fit in around the caring that they are doing.  They might find a telephone consultation easier. Some carers are worn down by the sheer volume of the day-to-day caring and fighting for their loved one. When it comes to them seeking attention for themselves they just don’t have the fight in them anymore. You need to be their “fight” When someone is watching their loved one suffering in pain, they don’t need any extra pressure.

When I was a Receptionist I was often faced with terminally ill patients. People that were caring for loved ones with terminal illnesses and often them needed to be treated as a patient due to the stress of being a carer.

I still remember the first time I dealt with a family member who had just lost their loved one to cancer. They came into the surgery to collect the death certificate. This was the first time that I had ever come face to face with someone who had just had a death in their family. I was lost for words. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing and I felt bad for this afterwards. I just didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to upset the person.

I also was “surprised” at how some people behaved when then had just lost a loved one. Some would appear to be “happy” even cracking jokes, some would come in and were obviously very upset, some would come in and wanting to blame someone for the death of their loved one, others would just act as if nothing had happened.

I had the opportunity to go on a bereavement training session and this explained so much to me. It taught me why people react to death in many different ways.

The training explained the different emotions that people might be going through immediately after the death.

Shock: It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disoriented – as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.

Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.

Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.

Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. You may also feel guilt if you had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if you feel you didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.

Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die.

Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can’t stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. “Seeing” the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.

Other people’s reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don’t know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people can avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people’s memories of the person who has died fade.

The training was excellent and I would really recommend if such a training course becomes available. I understood and was able to deal with bereavement a lot better. I was also able to communicate better, had empathy and my listening skills often came into good use.  I felt I made a difference. I was more confident to talk to people and ask how they were coping and make sure that I did everything in my power to make their visit to the Surgery went as smoothly as possible.

People often appreciated this, and would often say that I would be the first person that day that had acknowledge their loss.

Being recently bereaved can often be a very lonely place.

When I was a manager I instigated a Special Needs Board – this was extremely helpful to Reception staff when it came to identify patients that had just died or were terminally ill.

See blog post:      Special Needs Board http://t.co/wnWKmxHV

As a Receptionist, its important how you react to someone who has just had a bereavement. Knowing that this person might have needs (especially if they are a patient) and how you can make such a great impact on them.

How you treat them can give a lasting impression. Make it a good impression and not a bad one.

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The Friendship Bench


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In a lot of our local school they have adopted the “friendship bench” or a “buddy bench”

This bench is a special bench situated in the playground where children can go when they have no one to play with and feeling lonely. All the other children are encouraged when they see someone sitting on the bench to go over and offer some support and friendship, to sit and chat or to ask the child to come and play.

I think this is a fantastic idea, and it teaches children to think of others.

Asked by one of the children they explained how it works….. he said “its where, if you can’t find your best friends and you don’t know where to go and play, you sit on the friendship/buddy bench and someone will come and find you and they will include you in their game” Another child agreed that the bench helps to ‘find friends easily when you are lonely and you don’t have anyone to play with’.

Fast forward to adulthood. Have you ever been in a situation whereby a friendship bench could have been a lifesaver for you? Maybe not the actually bench but having the hand of friendship being offered.

Have you ever started a new job and felt so alone, not included and that feeling of dread often being left on your own at break time? This is particularly difficult for people who do temporary work.

Have you ever been at a meeting where you feel that everyone knows someone except you?

Have you ever been involved in a large group and you seem to be the only person there on your own?

I am sure that you quite possibly might have been in this situation at some point in your life.

Some people are comfortable at mixing with strangers and find it easy to walk up and introduce themselves and start chatting to another person, or even a group of people. But there are many that haven’t got the confidence to do this, perhaps they might be shy, lack confidence or just feel that they are not good enough to be there for whatever reason.

What do you do when you are presented with a situation that puts you in a large group of people who you don’t know?

I am a generally a friendly person and will chat to anyone. I am one of these people who will start a conversation at a bus stop rather than stand in silence. If I am on my own I will look to see if there is another person standing on their own and go over and chat to them. If I approach a group I just smile and stand on the edge of the group until there is an opening for me to speak. This is harder to do, but I would rather do this than stand on my own.

So how can you look out for those that need that hand of friendship.

Always welcome a new member of staff and include them in the work place as much as you can. Try and arrange that they have someone with them at tea breaks or lunch breaks. Introduce them to other members of staff – even those that might not be in your department. Making someone feel welcome is a massive step towards someone feeling confident in their new role.

At a meeting, you might be aware that it is someone’s first time there. It is important for them to be made welcome and know of any procedures that may be required. People often worry about not knowing what is expected from them and that is a reason for nerves to set in, or mistakes to be made or simply them not taking part in the meeting.

If the occasion is bigger such as a conference look out for those people standing on their own. Go and chat to them or offer them to come and join your group. They well might be waiting on others coming and decline your offer, but you at least have asked.

If you a Manager and a new person starts its your responsibility to ensure that the “new person” is made to be felt welcome. If you can’t do it personally then ensure that they have someone who will mentor them and that they have someone they can go to. Often new people get “forgotten” in the busy day and that can be very scary.

If you are organising a training session or meeting try to include everyone and make them feel part of the group. I always make sure that I am there to personally meet everyone and chat to them on arrival.

Someone once said …… “There are times in my life when I could use a friendship bench. People of all ages are lonely at times. It’s a simple, transformative idea”

It can often take a lot for someone to go alone, the hand of friendship can be change so much.

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© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

When You Feel Let Down. #GPSurgery #Rejected #System #AppointmentsSystem


I am very passionate about the NHS and will defend (within reason) any criticism that I hear about anyone working in this wonderful organisation.

My experience comes with working in the Reception areas of both large and small GP Surgeries, Hospitals and for the out of hours’ service. I have seen lots of different policies and procedures, and have worked with many different set up within this different organisation – especially the GP Surgeries.

I hear a lot of people bad mouthing Doctors, Receptionists and other health care professionals, and most of the time it’s because they (the complainer) do not really appreciate or understand the system they are complaining about. There are always two sides of the story.

Sadly, I feel like “one of those people” that I dread hearing from. I have felt very let down by my own GP Surgery and I feel their “system” hasn’t helped.

Let me explain what happened.

When I registered at the practice I was told that you could only see the doctor you were registered with. When I needed to make an appointment I would have to speak to his secretary and she would offer me the next available appointment with him and him only.

In the event of an “urgent” appointment needed if he wasn’t available then and only then would you be offered another doctor.

I have an ongoing issue that has needed following up. I had to wait two and a half weeks to get an appointment with my doctor. I didn’t feel it warranted an “urgent” appointment as I very conscious about the misuse at times of these appointments and know how difficult they are to get sometimes.

So, I waited the two and half weeks. In the meantime, I started to get a bad ear, again, I felt it could wait as my appointment was due in a couple of days’ time.

On arrival at the surgery I used the check in system and it said that I was due to see the locum doctor and not my named doctor.

I was called in by the locum doctor, she said that she was there covering for my regular doctor. I explained about my ear and she confirmed it was indeed infected and issued a script for antibiotics. I then started to explain about the main reason of the appointment and she cut me dead – she said that she had already dealt with one issue and wasn’t prepared to discuss anything else in this consultation. I had only been in the room a matter of minutes. I fully understand that had it been a “urgent” appointment that I had booked that I couldn’t really discuss ongoing issues, but this was a routine appointment that I had booked some time ago.

I tried to explain that I had waited over two and half weeks to discuss the issue, to which she said I would have to make another appointment to come back and see my dedicated doctor.

I couldn’t believe it, what a complete waste of my time, I had waited two and half weeks for this only to be told I had to see my own doctor.

I left her room, quite upset by the whole thing, and more of her attitude in dealing with me, she wasn’t even prepared to listen to what I had to say.

I went to the front desk to ask about an appointment for my own doctor and was told it would be another 3 weeks ahead. So in all it will take five and half weeks to see my own doctor and thus taking a much-needed appointment that could be used by someone else when my issue could have been dealt with in the appointment I had just had.

This sadly would be one of those occasions where I don’t think I would have been able to defend the situation that I found myself in.

 

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© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

When Customer Service Goes Beyond Expectations


What is good customer service? When  good customer service go beyond your expectation.

Today is the 15th wedding anniversary of a very good friend of mine. Apart from the beautiful day itself one person at that wedding still sticks in my mind for the most amazing customer service that I feel that I have ever come across. Have a read and see what do you think?

My friend and her partner booked a local wedding videographer for their special day. The chose carefully as they were trusting someone to film their special day and capture those special moments. The met the videographer on several occasions and really got a good relationship going with him. Coming up towards the wedding he told them that he was about to move some distance away but assured them that he would be with them on their day, he was planning on coming up the night before and would be staying with friends, he also told them that his wife was due their first baby just after their wedding date, but he assured them that he wouldn’t let them down and would still be there.

The wedding crept closer and everyone was getting excited, a couple of days before the wedding my friend tried to contact the videographer to just go over the last-minute bits and pieces – she got no answer. She tried again and the same thing. The day before the wedding and there was still no contact from the videographer, they were getting concerned and could only think that perhaps his wife had gone into labour earlier than expected, and if that was the case perhaps he was backing out of the wedding. They resigned themselves to that fact and disappointed that they wouldn’t have a film of their day, but later that day the wedding the videographer telephoned and said that he would be there as planned and looking forward to seeing them both. They asked after his wife and he confirmed that she was in hospital and just having tests, he assured them that she was happy for him to come down, she didn’t want them to miss out.

The day arrived and it was absolutely amazing, I could see why they have chosen this guy as he was just fantastic, friendly, accommodating, and just great with the little ones, capturing their funny little moments as they played out on the green. He certainly did them proud.

He approached them around 9.15 that evening, and asked if it was ok that he went home, he had put in a full 12-hour day and hadn’t stopped much at all.

The happy couple went on their honeymoon and on arrival back home their wedding video was waiting for them. They were not disappointed, the videographer had caught such magical moments, captured everyone laughing and smiling getting some lovely interviews from the guests and even encouraged the little ones to say a few words. Such a lovely memory of their day.

Whilst the couple were on their honeymoon they bought a little present for the baby, who had probably now made his or her arrival. They tried to telephone the videographer several times to both say thank you for the video and to ask about the baby.

Finally, after they had been back a week the videographer returned their call. They asked about the baby, then he told them…….

Two days leading up to their wedding his wife had not felt the baby move, long story short she was admitted into hospital to be told the baby had in fact died. She had to go through labour and give birth to their beautiful sleeping baby.

Can you imagine what that poor couple must have been going through. But both him and his wife had discussed it and decided that their loss should not impact on the happy couple, his wife insisted that he still travelled up and film the wedding.

This man who had just lost his baby, left his wife in hospital to come and make sure that the couples day went as well as he could make it.

He smiled, he laughed, he was sociable and it must have broken his heart when he was filming the little ones playing on the green.  No one had any idea the heartache this poor man must have been suffering.

All he focused on was making sure that he didn’t ruin the couple’s day.

What a hero, how do you beat that for customer service?

So, on this day, my friend’s anniversary whilst I congratulate them, and wish them all the best, I always have a thought for this young couple that must have been going through a living nightmare and yet they still put others before themselves. That to me is just 1st class customer service.

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© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

When Communication Works Well #PooleHospital


 

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I went along to Poole Hospital at the beginning of the week with my husband for an outpatient’s appointment.

On arrival in the Blue Clinic we were met by a lovely friendly volunteer who was eager to show us how to use the self-service booking system. She talked us through it chatting away whilst she was booking him in. Her lovely friendly nature was a breath of fresh air and it was obvious that she enjoyed being there. She then took us to the area we needed to be ready for our appointment.

The TV screen in the department gave out useful information as well as informing us that the clinic was running a bit late – this was extremely useful as it allowed my husband to pop off to the toilet without worrying that he might miss being called in for his appointment.

After a short while a healthcare assistant came out to apologise for the delay and she told us how many people were in front of us (we only had one other person before us) She went around everyone else in the department informing them of the same.

When his appointment came we were had a lovely welcome from the consultant together with a handshake, smile and great eye contact. The consultation wasn’t rushed, we had plenty of opportunities to ask questions and everything we needed to know was covered. Everything was explained in full details and in a way that we could understand.

We were in the department no more than about 45 minutes from arriving to leaving. It was a brilliant service and the most impressive thing was the communication, it was excellent and this must be so useful for people who perhaps are unsure, or somewhat confused at a being in such a large department.

We were both very impressed with our overall visit. Well done Poole Hospital, your staff, volunteers and communication was excellent.

 

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© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Please Quote Me Right – #NotWhatISaid


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I was approached by another national newspaper last week The Daily Mirror  to do a piece on the bad publicity that GP Receptionists are getting recently in the press lately.

As anyone that reads my blog will know that I am not only passionate about good patient care, but also I am very protective of the Receptionists who do a very difficult and at times very stressful jobs.

The reporter more or less took me through what she wanted to write and for most of this she wrote what I had said correctly all apart from point no 2. DON’T PHONE JUST TURN UP.

I didn’t quote this and I never would. I even had a lengthy conversation with her stating that this was not an ideal solution as someone coming and presenting themselves at the surgery would not get them an appointment over someone who telephoned. If the Receptionists have appointments they will offer them – if they haven’t got any appointments free then someone standing there in front of them will not magic one up out of thin air! This would then annoy the patient and this is where they can often get the bad publicity from.

Every surgery have their own system in place for appointments, but I am confident that there will be very few if any that would suggest that patients turn up for emergency appointments rather than telephone.

The two articles I recently did for two national newspapers I did was purely to stand up for all GP Receptionists.

I never receive any payment for these articles I did it purely to stand up for all GP Receptionists and the great jobs they do, often going over and above their job description to help patients.

Here is the article – which again is a great support for all GP Receptionists across the country but again I would like to point out that I did not quote No 2.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/9-ways-you-can-make-8685940

Sadly because of this I will feel very reluctant in the future to do any more articles.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

 

 

Just how important are Telephone Messages #AnswerMachine


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Just how important are telephone answering machines? VERY important as it keeps your customers informed of you’re opening days and times.

Last week I needed to contact my dentist for an urgent appointment. He is a one-man dentist, with a hygienist and a nurse/receptionist. When he has any time off the practice closes.

I rang at 09.00 last Monday morning, the telephone just rang and rang, no one answered and there was no telephone answering message. I thought they might be starting at 9.30 so I range again – still no answer. I did think this was strange as usually when he has been away on holiday he has answered the phone via his mobile and has advised from there. This time there was nothing.

I tried again just after lunchtime and again around 4.00 pm. I wondered if perhaps he was having a long weekend off. I even checked that I was ringing the correct number.

I tried again the following morning, at 9.00 and 11.00.

The worse part for me was the not knowing. Had there been a message to say how long the surgery was going to be closed for I could have then made a decision to either wait and see him or to seek treatment elsewhere.

As I needed an urgent appointment I telephoned another practice locally and was luckily enough to get an appointment that same afternoon.

Just as well I did as I was told that had I left it any later I would have probably lost the tooth.

I have been with my dentist for over 9 years. No reason to change to be honest, I am not fond of the dentist at the best of times, but he always seemed to be good enough.

I actually found the new dentist to be extremely pleasant, she made me feel very much as ease. The surgery surroundings were very relaxed and the Receptionist was lovely, she chatted away.  I felt far more relaxed when I went in to see the Dentist and she talked me through what she was going to do. The surgery was also much closer to home and there was free parking where I used to have to pay for parking at my other dentist and to add to it all the new dentist’s overall charges were considerably a lot cheaper than my regular dentist.

Taking everything into consideration I have decided to move to the new Dentist, it suits my needs much more, but I didn’t realise that until I was forced to visit the new surgery.

Had my old dentist had a telephone message advising how long the surgery would be closed for I would probably still be going there now.

So, it is vital that you have a good telephone message set up on your phones. Ensure that the message is appropriate and you might have to change a message if you have the following:

  • Morning opening times that differ
  • if you close for lunch – state what time you open again at and leave any emergency numbers as appropriate.
  • Evening closing times differ – again leave any emergency numbers
  • Friday night – leave messages appropriate for weekend closing and again leave any emergency numbers
  • If there is a bank holiday, please ensure that this is mention in the last message before the holiday.

Get someone who has a good clear voice to record the messages. It is essential that they speak slowly and clearly and repeat any emergency telephone numbers twice.

Get someone to check the messages regularly to make sure they are the correct ones.

If you do not want anyone leaving messages add this to your message and make it clear that the service does not accept telephone messages. If you don’t people will use it as a message machine.

There is nothing worse that getting a telephone answering message that is out of date or wrong!

Having the correct telephone message on your answer phone is important. You could lose customers if it’s not.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved