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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You just can’t please some people


 

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As Receptionists we all at times have “difficult” customers to deal with. It almost comes with the job. It’s how you handle the situation that is most important.

As a Medical Receptionist you have to take into consideration that patients might be difficult due to many different reasons. They could be feeling poorly, worried, anxious, they could have mental issues or they could be worrying about a loved one. Patients are very different to customers in so many different ways and medical Receptionist are always fully aware of this.

But, there is a limit to the rudeness that a Receptionist should expect to take. I witnessed a patient recently approach the reception desk. The receptionist was very pleasant and approached the patient with a smile saying “good morning” and “how can I help you” She certainly didn’t receive a good morning or a smile back, but instead a very angry and aggressive man demanding, yes demanding that she get a prescription done NOW for him for his heart tablets as he had “run out”.

He thrust his repeat prescription at her and told her to get it done. I could see the smile fixed on her face while politely said “let me see what I can do for you”. The Receptionist typed into the computer and explained to the patient that 3 of the 4 items on the repeat slip where not actually due for another 10 days. The patient flailed up  and started shouting at the Receptionist demanding she do the script for his heart tablets. He wanted them NOW.

The receptionist again explained that 3 out of the 4 that he had ticked on the repeat were not due and the computer therefore would not allow her to request them. He started shouting and telling her how useless she was. He continued shouting telling her that it didn’t matter about the “other items” but he needed his heart tablets.

The Receptionist quietly asked the patient which ones where the heart tablets as she explained that she wasn’t medically qualified to know which ones where the heart ones. He then snatched the slip out of her hand whilst stabbing his finger on the slip of paper shouting  “this one – it’s this one”.

The Receptionist then entered something onto the computer and said that she had requested the tablets and the doctor would sign the script electronically later on that morning and advised the patient that he could collect it from the pharmacy later on that afternoon.

You would have expected the patient to have given the Receptionist a “thank you” of some kind. No – that didn’t happen. The Receptionist had gone out of her way to ensure that the patient had not gone without his heart medication, ignoring the fact that the patient had not allowed the usual 48 hours for a repeat to be done and therefore putting his own health at risk and instead of a simple thank you as he turned to leave the surgery he shouted how useless everyone was at the surgery and how it had gone down hill recently.

I wondered to myself what it would have taken for this patient to actually have been happy  as I felt that the Receptionist handled the situation exceptionally well.

I looked at the Receptionist as the patient left the building, she looked deflated, and almost ready to burst into tears.

Yet had she had said one wrong word to this patient, let alone explain that he shouldn’t have left it until he had run out to request his repeat I suspect she would have been hung drawn and quartered. She was in a no win situation.

Another patient came into the surgery and the Receptionist smiled and carried on……….

So, for all you Receptionists that go over and above your call of duty to help difficult patients and keep smiling –  well done.

 

© 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

Does your Receptionist recognise signs of Sepsis. A Patients Story #Bournemouth Hospital


There has been a lot of publicity recently regarding Sepsis. This is aimed at raising awareness and those that work in the GP surgeries and Hospitals will know on too well that this will create fear amongst some patients and therefore will be more than likely phoning the Surgery/Hospital for advice.

We are being told Sepis should be treated urgently as we would a heart attack.

For all Receptionists, Secretaries and Administrators who could be faced with a query regarding this are you fully competent to deal with it? Would you be confident in dealing with a call that could be Sepsis? I must confess I am not sure I would be able to identify this emergency a few weeks ago, but I feel a lot more confident now that I have read up on it.

You probably have procedures and policies in place for dealing with a heart attack. Have you a procedure or policies in place to deal with sepsis? Perhaps at your next team meeting you could put this on your agenda or speak to your Reception Manager or Practice Manager about having one written up.

The most important thing is that you know the facts about Sepis and what is expected from you as a Receptionist if you take such a call. Don’t be one of those surgeries/hospitals that could be highlighted as missing something that might be so obvious to someone who knows what Sepsis is.

Many doctors view Sepsis as a three-stage syndrome, starting with Sepsis and progressing through severe Sepsis to septic shock. The goal is to treat Sepis during its early stage, before it becomes more dangerous.

Sepsis usually comes with a probable or confirmed infection and includes several symptoms. These perhaps can be discussed with a Doctor and the Receptionists and a guide of what questions to ask the patient.

Septis has to be treated quickly as the patient can go downhill very quickly

A chart that I found very useful to help identify some of the symptoms:sepsisqa-2015-big

A very interesting clip from the Royal Bournemouth Hospital highlighted a patients experience and how his Sepsis was nearly missed. They are keen to spread awareness. Well done Bournemouth Hospital for sharing this short film.

Published on July 13 2016. 

Sepsis is a medical emergency, here at RBCH we are keen to spread  awarness and listen to patients experiences to improve care. 

 

Patient criticised on Facebook #confidentiality


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We often talk about confidentiality in Receptionist meetings and the backlash that it can cause by discussing other people on social media sites. Even worse if it is linked to your job when you have signed a confidentiality agreement.

Another headline to hit the paper only the other day was

“Hospital apology after doctor criticised motorbike victim on Facebook.”

A doctor who attended a fatal accident wrote a post on her Facebook page stating she had been the first medic on the scene and the accident was gory and had the most horrific outcome.

She went on to say that the motorcyclist was not wearing a crash helmet, saying that they are not a fashion statement and they are worn because they save lives.

The family of the motorcyclist was quite right by being deeply hurt by her post and the hospital where she works has had apologised for her Facebook post.

She never mentioned the motorcyclist by name, but there are many other ways that you can identify a person other than by name.

She is more than likely a very good doctor, and was more than likely extremely upset by the accident and the sad loss of a young persons life. But she should have never put this on her Facebook page.

It’s a shame that her job could be in jeopardy but a lesson to us all. When it comes to anything to do with work, think before you post it on any social media site.

Your opinion could be very offensive to someone.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

 

 

Happy Patients #guestpost


imagesCAUP3U1DThe guest post today is from someone I don’t personally know, but with her permission I would like to share it with you, and to stress how important it is to keep patients informed when the Doctor or Nurse is running late. Quite often patients are not annoyed at the delay in their appointments, it the “not knowing and lack of communication” that can quite often bring on frustration and anger.

By informing the patients that there is a delay you are taking away a possible frustrated patient coming to the desk demanding to know what is happening when their appoitment times has come and gone – it then too late the damage is  already done – the patient is angry and you as the Receptionist is more than likely to get the brunt of it.

Guest post:

“I had a Hospital apt today at Aintree Hospital here in Liverpool mum came with me, the clinic was running late. Billy the senior HCA was rushing around everywhere making sure everyone was ok and informed us all of the delay “no wonder he’s so thin he never stands still” mum commented. We went through from 1 waiting room to another and was again informed of the delay that there were 3 doctors on and were doing their best. Around 10 minutes later mum started nattering to the lady sat next to her, the lady said “there is a delay my apt was at 10:30am” mum “it is what it is, where would we be without our NHS”. No amount of waiting time is a problem for me or my mum if it means we keep our NHS, I am NHS staff myself and I love our care system its the best in the world and we should all fight to keep it. The poor doctor I saw had a packet of biscuits on his desk to keep him going, clearly working through his lunch”

 

I have previously written a post on keeping patients informed:

When The Doctor/Nurse is running late. http://t.co/Tlnpi4OD