National Volunteers Week 1-7 June


Today starts a week celebrating all volunteers across the country.

This week is also aimed at raising awareness about the benefits of becoming a volunteer. As well as helping others, Volunteering as been shown to have a positive impact on the lives of those who are volunteering. I know how volunteering helped me in way that I would never have imagined. It made me feel good that I was helping someone out. It gave me back my confidence and I went on to learn new skills that I never knew I had.

We had moved due to my husband’s job. I went from working full-time and having a very active social life to living in the country with no job. It wasn’t for me, I felt isolated and extremely lonely.

I looked into volunteering and found a local Resource Centre that were looking for volunteers to help at their older people’s club once a month. I would help make tea, help with the bingo and arrange the monthly raffle. We would encourage the group to participate in some country dancing. The people who came to the group were all elderly and some very isolated. For some it was the only time they got out. We would also go on a year’s trip away which consisted of 2 nights away in a lovely hotel with lots of activities organised by the group. If it were not for volunteers this group would not have survived.

From that group I then started volunteering with a disability group. The people in this group were amazing, to be part of such a happy and proactive group was a privilege. We also had many trips out and had some great laughs. Being part of this group, I got to know the people, discovering their personalities and looking right past their disability. If it were not for volunteers this group would not have survived.

I then was asked to be a member of the Board of Directors, something that I would never have thought I would have done. How honoured I was to be asked. Every single member on the board was a volunteer and gave up their time for the monthly meetings.

I then trained to be a facilitator for the Rainbow group that took place at the Centre. This was for children that was going through a family separation or bereavement. This for me this was volunteering at its best. To work with these amazing children through such tough times made me feel very humble. I certainly learnt a lot from these little ones. I then went on to train to become a Coordination for the Rainbows Group where I would be responsible for the group facilitator and the children. If it were not for volunteers this group would not have survived.

I was then asked to volunteer on the HR sub group at the Centre. I also became a member on the volunteers committee and helped to produce a booklet for the older people in the area with all useful information.If it were not for volunteers this group would not have survived.

Throughout the years volunteering I was very privileged to have attended numerous training sessions, workshops and open days. I helped organise various fun days, Christmas Fayre and education sessions. I took first aid courses, I took courses that came with a certificate at the end and none of these ever cost me any money – just my time. From every course and workshop, I always learnt something that I not only used in my time as a volunteer, but often in my own personal life.

I met some amazing people and it made me realise that volunteering actually did something for me. It gave me a purpose, to get out, to meet people, and knowing that my volunteering actually meant a lot to people.

The good thing about volunteering is you can choose to volunteer in an area that you are really interested in. You can often choose your hours, give as little of as many as you like. You make friends, learn new skills and for the gesture of your time can often mean so very much to someone.

The Threatened Receptionist

Working in general practice as a Receptionist, Supervisor and a Manager nothing ever surprises me anymore, and just when you think you have seen it all something else comes along to add to the endless stories that working in a surgery brings.

The highs and lows the funny and the sad you never get two days exactly the same.

This story was a new one to me, one that I haven’t come across.

I was chatting to a friend yesterday to works in a GP Surgery. She told me that there had been an incident in their admin office. Whilst she was talking to a patient she could hear raised voices at the end of the office. When my friend had finished her call she turned her attention to the receptionist who was obviously very upset by the call.

She presumed that the caller has been an “unhappy patient” – she was wrong.

The caller phoned the Surgery and asked for the receptionist by her first and surname. The caller was put through to her and she was not expecting what came next.

The receptionist explained the nature of the call and how it involved Facebook.

A couple of days previous the Receptionist had been on Facebook. She came across a random post that one of her friends had shared. She didn’t know the person but she left a comment, which she didn’t think was upsetting or rude but obviously the person that had posted the comment felt very strongly about the comment she had left and was not happy.

The person traced the Receptionist to her place of work. How? She had it on her Facebook Profile where she worked and that she was a Receptionist.

The Receptionist was worried, as the caller had her name, knew where she worked, and of course could easily be identified due to the fact that all the staff wears name badges, with their first and surname on and she had no idea what this caller looked like – it could be anyone that walked in through the Surgery doors.

The caller told her that she was going to come along to the surgery and give her a black eye. The Receptionist was obviously worried and upset as the caller sounded angry and threatening.

She worried that the caller might wait for her outside of the surgery and follow her home.

As a Manager how would you react to this? Would you see it as a problem you would have to sort out, or seeing it started outside of work would you not want to get involved?

We then have to question should staff be putting information on their Facebook to where they work and what they do? Have you a right as a manager to say staff cannot do this? Perhaps not, but it is something that could be discuss at a team meeting, to make people aware of the consequences when they do put where they work.

A similar story to this happened when I first starting working as a Receptionist and one of my colleagues had an unusual surname, a patient that used visit the surgery on a regular basis took a liking to her. He asked out on a date a couple of times and each time she gently let him down.

The patient had mental health problems; because he knew her name he was able to get her address and number out of the telephone directory (this was before internet times). He then started stalking her, telephoning her at all hours of the day and night. The incident involved the police, many sleepless nights, which resulted in her moving out of her flat for a while. It was sorted, she changed her telephone to ex directory and everything calmed down.

At the time this incident affected the whole team. Name badges were questioned.

As a manager I always kept this story in my mind, and would only ever have first names on name badges for Receptionists who deal with the general public.

Does your staff give their full names whilst working?

Are first names sufficient on name badges for Receptionists? I think so.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

The Swans. Calm on the Top – paddling like mad on the bottom


I was invited to carry out some Reception training yesterday. It was for a private healthcare provider that accommodates in and out patients. It was a big organisation and I must say it was a stunning place to be in.It was 5* and one of the nicest healthcare buildings that I have been in. The grounds were beautiful and the facilities just top notch.

As soon as I walked through the door the atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone smiling, extremely friendly and their customer service was excellent. The residents and their families looked relaxed and extremely happy.There was a buzz around the building.

I had rung on several occasions prior to the training to speak to the HR Manager and every single time the Receptionists telephone manner was excellent.

I began to ask myself why was I here. Their Reception skills appeared to be perfect.

I did two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to attend.

It soon began to emerge that at times some of the Receptionist were like swans, swimming calmly on the top yet paddling like mad and not getting very far on the bottom.

The reasons slowly started emerging throughout out the session.

The Reception is covered from early to late evening 24/7 with security over night. Each Receptionist works on their own in Reception and each shift is very different. Although they work in Reception on their own there is constant support if needed.

This was the first time that the Receptionists had actually come together for training. The weekend Receptionists coming together with the morning, afternoon and evening receptionists and the night security was there too.

They never have any team meetings. Never have the opportunity to talk together as a team or to discuss reception issues or to put ideas forward, to be together as a team instead of working as an individual.

During the training it was obvious that each shift is worked very different. Each of the shifts had their own daily tasks to do. The morning shift busy with telephones, suppliers, and doctors’ visits and staff queries.

The afternoon shift is busy with administration, post and staff winding down for the day. Both morning and afternoon shift have visitors coming and going. Funeral directors calling, and the usual numerous telephone queries that they have to deal with.

The evening shift is busy with the mainly visitors coming and going throughout along with taxi’s turning up to collect people. The evening shift also had administration duties to do.

The weekend staff hardly ever see their colleagues that work during the week. Their main duties are looking after the vast amount of visitors that come and go all weekend.

Some of the Receptionists admitted they felt incompetent when they had to cover another shift. They often didn’t know what was expected of them, and admitted they often made mistakes due to the shift doing such different tasks. Some admitted that this could actually put them off helping out on another shift.

As any Receptionist will tell you. Reception is not just about greeting people and answering the telephone…………….It is so much more.

We discussed the benefits of having protocols and many agreed that they would really feel more confident if they had some sort of guidance there to help them if they become stuck. Lets face it — it is pretty embarrassing when a funeral director calls for paperwork and the receptionist has no idea what to do as she usually works weekends.

The Receptionists all agreed that it is something that they would like to do, understanding that it would be their responsibility to do a protocol for each of their jobs on their shift. They agreed they would be the best people to write the protocol.

They full understood that it wouldn’t be something that they would do overnight, it would take time to build up the protocols, but all agreed it would be worth it in the end, and from that they all felt that they would be more confident to cover other people’s shifts, and in the event that they come across something that they were not sure about that there would be a protocol to follow.

Each shift would have a file with their protocols in.

The training was fun, they were a lovely group of people and their customer skills are fantastic. They are lucky to work in such a beautiful building for a company that appear to be lovely to work for. Every single one of the Receptionist  said that they loved their job and that really did shine through, but they felt that they would love to have the opportunity of knowing what tasks were expected of them if they worked another shift.

But a bit more support in the way of a team meeting every so often, and perhaps more in house training, or as we discussed protocols to help them understand what goes on in the other shifts would certainly go a long way to giving them more confidence, and in turn wanting to help out when a session needs covering.

Working in and managing Reception staff in GP surgeries I could identify with what the Receptionists were telling me, each shift is different, and have many different tasks that needed to be carried out.

Not having the correct training or adequate information could prevent staff not wanting to cover other shift, which could result in staff shortages on shifts, or difficulty getting someone to do a shift.

Residents, Visitors, Staff all see the Receptionist as one person – the person that is there to carry out a task asked of them, some not aware that perhaps they do not know what to do.

It is the employers responsibility to ensure  that the staff are all shown or have the information available to do these tasks asked of them.

Fully trained staff are confident staff  resulting in less mistakes and in turn are happier in their role .

Protocols do not have to be complicated — simply written out. Here is an example on how you could start off your protocols 


(Sample Procedure)

Procedure / Protocol


Incoming Post

  • Post will arrive approximately 9.00 every day.
  • All post is opened by the Receptionist – except the following

–  Letter marked private and confidential

–  Letters marked for addressee only

–  Letter from Bank   – all to go to Pat in Account.

  • Each letter is date stamped — the date stamp is kept in the 3rd draw under the desk.
  • When all the letters are date stamped the letters should go into the appropriate pigeonholes
  • Follow protocol for “Post for staff on holiday”
  • Any post that has to be signed for please inform the member of staff immediately that it has arrived.


Hand delivered post

  • Follow procedures as above.


Outgoing Post

  • All staff are aware that the post has to be in Reception no later than 4.30
  • As the post comes through to Reception throughout the day frank with the necessary postage — taking care when difference postage amounts is required.
  • Try not to leave all the post to the end of the day as you could be busy doing something else and the postman will then be kept waiting.
  • Put the post in the basket on the back shelf behind the Reception desk.
  • The postman usually calls into Reception at 5.00 to collect the post.


Post needing to go to the Post Office

  • Any post that needs to go to the Post Office such as a registered letter/package will need to be done before the end of day.
  • If you are going to the post office ensure that Reception is covered or if not covered ensure that you let someone know you are going and the desk will be left unmanned for a short time.


Procedure/Protocol written on…………………………               updated on……………………

Prepared by……………………………………………….                      Position……………………….

Approved by ………………………………………………                    Position………………………..


The most important thing to remember when having protocols in Reception is that they are kept updated as and when the task changes. Not doing this could be worse than having nothing in writing. Perhaps you could review the protocols every so often and discuss at team meetings.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

What Was Your Most Memorable Interview?


I applied for a position in a large GP Practice for the position of Reception Manager. Getting the position would mean a big step up in my career so I was obviously both nervous and excited when I got an invitation to attend an interview.

I did my research, prepared for the interview and arrived early and felt pretty calm. I felt the eyes of the Reception team boring into the back of my head as I sat in Reception. I imagined at that moment I was the topic of conversation behind the Reception desk.

The Practice Manager introduced herself and took me into the interview room. The Senior Partner introduced himself and the interview began.

I answered questions with confidence and asked many in return. I started to feel a bit more relaxed. The Practice Manager was lovely. She then gave an almighty yawn. She was mortified and apologised we laughed, we both looked over at the Senior Partner to see what his response was and to our amazement he was fast asleep in his chair arms crossed – with his mouth opened!

The look on the Practice Managers face was a picture, she coughed loudly, he slowly opened his eyes with that glazed look of “where am I” the room was silent. I wanted to laugh, mainly due to nerves, was I that boring?

He sat up, apologised and we continued with the interview.

I was told they would be in touch as they had other candidates to interview. I left thinking that for some reason I had blown my chances.

To my delight I received a call the following day asking me back for a 2nd interview. This time the Senior Partner kept awake and after a lengthy interview I was offered the job. I was delighted.

He was a great Senior Partner with a great sense of humour and we would often laugh at the time I impressed him so much he fell asleep.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved


A Degree in Filing


Filing was every single Receptionists (and managers nightmare). Scanning is the new filing now and that sometimes can get just as behind.

No one enjoyed filing – it was always left, not being done blamed on shortage of staff due to sickness or holidays. Not enough hours in the day and so on…………

Every so often one of the doctors would come into my office complaining on the state of the filing. Of course the longer it got left, the harder the job became and it just became a vicious circle.

Then at the surgery we had a Receptionist leave. She worked 6 hours every day so I decided to replace her hours with a Receptionist that worked 4 hours per day and I was going to create a new role for a filing clerk 2 hours every day. I was worth a go – the filing had to be done.

I decided that we would have the filing clerk working 4-6 pm every day. She (or he) would do nothing but filing for 2 hours. The other Receptionists were over the moon with the new proposal – but on the understanding that they were still at times expected to help out with the filing.

Some of the GP’s wondered if this would work, they asked who on earth would want to come in for 2 hours every evening at 4.00 to do filing – but they agreed that if I felt it would work I should give it a go.

I advertised the position and was just overwhelmed with the response that I received – far more applications than I did for the Receptionists position that I advertised at the same time.

I went through the many application letters and CV’s.

I received letters that showed they really were not interested in the position and that they were probably just applying for the position so they could tell the job centre that they were “applying for jobs”. I received letters from teenagers still at school looking for a part-time job. I received letters from students looking for temporary work until they went on to university. I received letters from mums at home looking for some part-time work, and I received a letter from a lady with a degree who had a vast amount of qualifications and experience.

I whittled the numerous applications down to a sensible number. I carefully chose some from each group, an unemployed person, a 18-year-old student, a local mum and the lady with the degree. For some reason something was telling me that I should interview her.

As I usually did with every interview I let the Staff Partner have a look at the applications. He came back to me with some comment on the forms and the form of the lady with the degree he had written –  I don’t feel that this position is not for her.

I still felt for some reason that I should interview her.  Part of me wondering why she had applied for this position – no qualifications required yet she had a degree, and what really could be seen as a boring job to a lot of people.

So, I made my list for interview and included my “degree lady”.

I arranged for the people to come in for interview.

The person that was on the dole didn’t show up, didn’t even phone to cancel the appointment – nothing – not a word from. Sadly this did happen a lot. Even those that often appear to have the qualifications for the position.

The student that came told me they would not be able to made certain nights due to a course they were taking – so in fact the position was advertised for 5 evenings a week and the were telling me they could do 4 evenings a week. Errr not what we wanted at all.

The mum was very eager for the position, but told me that she might have problems actually getting to the surgery for 4.00, as she would have to wait until her husband came in from work before she could leave. The times could have been adjusted slightly but I felt she was not right for the job.

One lady came along for the interview and I realised that I knew her – not very well, but I did know her – and she seemed to think because of that the job was her’s!

I also interviewed another couple of people who I felt could have fitted in just right with the team, and do the job.

Everyone at the interview was told that the role would be filing for 2 hours every night and at times it could get pretty boring – but they all understood and still wanted to be considered.

Then last of the interview was the “degree lady”

She was lovely. She had a vast amount of experience and her CV just blew me away.

I had to ask the question “why do you want a job that is just filing for 2 hours every day”

Her reply was  her previous jobs had not been without stresses and strains. Recently bereaved it made her look at her life and decided she wanted to make changes. She decided this was the time for her to retire from her previous job. She had grandchildren she wanted to spend more time with. But she also wanted to still have a purpose to get out every day; to be with people and for her the job and the hours were just perfect. She actually said she felt she would enjoy the filing.

She was truthful, and a really lovely woman.

So, much to the surprise of the GP’s and the Reception Team I hired the “degree lady”. There were a few that doubted that she would last – why would someone like her just want to file for 2 hours every day. Some even said she would not last the week.

The “degree lady” started the following Monday. What a delight she was. She soon was very much part of the team, was loved by everyone and was excellent at her job and had the filing up to date and in order in just no time.

She was extremely helpful and in no time was actually helping out in Reception, and soon became a bank Receptionist for us – coming in to cover for sickness and holidays. But she never gave up on her filing hours. She loved the job.

For me she was one of the most successful applicants I ever employed.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved


A Guide to Patient Care

Patient care is vital for your Practice. You are wasting your time getting the system right if you blow it at the last-minute by rude staff, keeping someone waiting on the phone or not responding to something that has been promised.

Your Practice will be judges in the first 30 seconds of contact with the first person the patient sees. This may not be a highly paid or “senior” member of staff – but of course they ARE important because of this.

The essence of Patient Care is making every patient feel important. Do not prejudge your patients by appearance.

The first part of Patient Care is getting the basics right. These are the expected things – getting their name right, appointments being on time, giving them the service that they expect, having clean and tidy premises, smart and friendly staff etc.

If you get these right and the patient will not even notice, but if you get them wrong and they will. You will need systems and procedures for these, so they never fail.

The second part of Patient Care is the “delight”. You need to think creatively about what you can do to “delight” your patients. These are the things they do not expect. These are the things that they will tell their friends about – for example:

  1. My Surgery has A Carers Register
  2. My Surgery has a Prescription Collection System
  3. My Surgery has a Nurse Triage
  4. My Surgery will fit me in if it is an emergency
  5. I can telephone and speak the triage nurse
  6. My Surgery has a Smoke Stop Group
  7. My Surgery has a Weight Management Clinic
  8. My Surgery has a Health Visitors Clinics
  9. My Surgery has a Practice Newsletter
  10. My Surgery has a good informative noticeboard

After a while the “delights” may become expected. You will have to keep thinking of new “delights” for your patients. Discuss new “delights” at your next team meetings.

Sometimes it is a Delight to bend the rules for a patient. This needs careful management, but is unavoidable. No one likes a “Jobsworth”. Always check with your Surgery Supervisor/Manager before “bending the rules”.

Different patients want to be treated in different ways. For some it is about being dealt with quickly, others it is attention to detail, and for others it is about good friendly staff. Staff need to be trained to recognise these types of variation and adapt as necessary.

Patient Care is not just about new patients – it needs to be ongoing for existing patients too. The biggest cause of lost customers is “Perceived Indifference”. Replacing a lost patient, ie getting a new one, causes more work, ie new patient medical, registrations, sorting of notes, tagging etc. Staff need to be “warm and friendly” types rather than “cold and uncaring”.

Patient care is vital. It is important that management recruit the right people. Staff need to be friendly, and this means setting up a system to make sure that your Practice procedures are followed. Lead by example and to get moral to a level where cheerful staff are motivated to care about the patients.

Only 4% of unhappy patients complain. But the damage is done when they then tell other people negative things about the Practice. So every complaint must be taken seriously and dealt with immediately.

Complaints can be turned into a net gain if they are handled well. If a complaint is handled well share it at your next receptionist / Management meeting – talk it through with others – learn from every complaint.

Read previous blog on: Dealing with a Complaint.

Patients need to be surveyed in order to find out what they think of your Practice. This means existing patients, and if possible non-patients (visitors to the surgery – as they too are customers). You need to know what they think is important and how you are at the important things.

Be your own mystery shopper occasionally. Try phoning in to your organisation. What are the first impressions like? Try sitting in our own reception area with some “work” and take notes on:

  1. How quickly the phones are answered?
  2. How professional / Helpful the receptionist is on the phone
  3. How does the receptionist deal with people at the front desk?
  4. Can you hear any confidential information being given out by the receptionist?
  5. How do you think the patient was treated?
  6. How good do you think “your surgery” is at Customer Care?

Read previous blog on: The Other Side of the Desk

Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.

Receptionist Training: Receiving A Telephone Call


ALWAYS answer the telephone promptly.  It may be urgent.

Apologise if there is any delay in answering

Give your company name, followed by good morning/afternoon/evening (some companies require you to give your name at the start of the call)

Identify the caller and the nature of their call and give them your full attention.

Listen carefully, concentrate and take notes. You will be expected to pass on messages and it is important that you get the information right.

Remember to get the caller’s name and contact details – even if you are passing the call on. It is polite to let the person you are passing the call to know who you are putting through to them.

Sound pleasant and interested – remember to smile – even on the telephone.

Indicate your understanding (check spellings of names / places if you are unsure). Remember confidentiality if you are on the front desk.

Answer clearly and concisely.

Ensure the caller understands the actions you will take and that you understand theirs.

Ensure the caller feels you have done everything to help them.

End the call as soon as possible – do not be drawn into long unnecessary conversations.

Ring back when you said you would – even if you do not have the answer for them,
acknowledge you haven’t got the answer – but will contact them again as soon as you have.

If the caller is hard of hearing do not shout – just speak clearly and slowly. Shouting can often distort your voice.

Eating is not allowed in the front desk. DO NOT answer the telephone when you have food in your mouth.

If the phones are ringing and you are by a phone that does not have a computer still
answer it, it might be something that can be dealt with quickly and without having to use a computer. If you need to use a computer then explain to the caller that you cannot deal with their query straight away and ask them would they like to hold or ring back or if you are able offer to ring them back – ensuring that you do. This way the caller has a choice. They don’t have a choice when the telephones are not answered!!!!!!!





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