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 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

The Intensive Care Bed #Hospital


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Here in the UK last night the BBC aired a programmed called “Hospital”. It was a very moving programme showing how stretched the NHS is. It certainly opened my eyes to the daily nightmares that consultants, managers and nursing staff find themselves in on a daily basis. The shortage of Intensive Care beds the result in operations having to be cancelled and patients being turned away for life saving operations. The look of frustration and helplessness etched on the faces of many.

How I felt for the patient that had his operation cancelled for the second time, being sent home after waiting in the ward anxiously waiting to hear that an Intensive Care bed was available – it didn’t happen the bed was needed for another patient.

It brought be back to when my mum was “that patient”. Extremely poorly with bowel cancel, awaiting a life saving operation. She was prepared for the op by having nil by mouth for 24 hours the day before the scheduled operation. By 4.00 that afternoon she was still waiting, we her family were waiting with her trying to keep her spirits up. Finally, I went along to the nurse’s station to find out what was happening to be told that her operation was cancelled due to there being no Intensive Care bed that she needed after her operation. Her operation was delayed to the following week.

The following week arrives, my mum another week on, getting weaker by the day but we were all optimistic she was having her op that day. It got to lunchtime and we got the dreaded news her operation was cancelled again for the 2nd time. The Intensive Care bed was needed for a man who was involved in a road traffic accident. I remember feeling anger at this person who I didn’t know – because of him my mum was not able to have her operation again – and then the instant guilt of feeling like that. This faceless unknown person fighting for their life as my mum was doing got the bed first – WHY!! I often wonder how their family felt – they probably just took it for granted that the Intensive Bed was there – as I thought before this nightmare began. Her operation was delayed for yet another week.

The 3rd week arrived – just a few days before Christmas. We were told previously that mum would be first on the operating list. I sat with her – her fight all gone. All 4 and half stone of my beautiful mum wasting away in the bed before my eyes. They came around to get her prepped for the operation. Excitement building like this was something that we didn’t believe was ever going to happen. Somthing that before this we had just taken from granted. Patients starting going down to the theatre – the consultant came up and asked if he could have a word with the family. His dreaded words “I’m sorry but we are going to have to cancel mum’s operation again” Our grief at that moment was unbearable. My heat was torn in two – how on earth could she survive another week. Amongst all of the shouting and swearing the panic and the disbelieve I still remember the look of despair on the consultants face. He just didn’t know what to say. He apologised and said that he would have felt exactly the same if it had been his family. It was the same story – they didn’t have an Intensive Care bed for mum after the operation.

I would never in my wildest thoughts that it would have been a bed that would have prevented my mum from having a life saving operation. It just didn’t make sense. I actually believed at this stage that this was just a lie – that they didn’t feel that mum at the age of 70 years was worthy of this operation. I felt they were just waiting on her dying.

The consultant went and spoke to mum. She had lost the will and just nodded – perhaps like me she thought that she was never going to have this op.

I remember mum saying she was hungry – I sent my Dad to get her a sandwich from the canteen. This has been her 3rd week of starving for 24 hours before being told she wasn’t having the op. She then asked the nurse for the commode. The nurse went off to get one. The nurse took longer than mum could wait and she attempted to get out of bed to get to the toilet – as ill as she was she still had her pride. As she stood upright the tumour burst – all over the floor. Within 10 minutes she was being rushed to the operating theatre where she had the operation.

She finally had the Intensive Care bed that she was promised 3 weeks ago, albeit only for 2 nights instead of the 5-7 she was told she would be in there for. She was  then transferred to the high dependency unit. I often wonder if someone had to be moved out of intensive Care to make way for mum, or if someone who was waiting for it had been cancelled like my mum had.

Watching the programme last night brought it all back. It made me see the nightmares that the staff have on a daily basis trying to access Intensive Care beds for patients. As the programme showed last night we in the UK have the most wonderful consultants with the most amazing powers to carry out life changing operations, the dedicated staff who work around the clock to look after the patients before and after their operations and the most marvellous well equipped hospitals that we should be so proud of. But how shocking it is to think that it sometimes comes down to the “luck of the draw” when it comes to needing that much-needed Intensive Care bed.

 

© 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

 

 

Can I Help? I’m a Doctor #RoadTrafficAccident #999


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Coming home after a few days visiting family we noticed black smoke in the distance. As we came off the roundabout and entered a small country road the traffic abruptly came to a standstill – the black billowing smoke an indication that there was something going on ahead.

Everyone sat in their cars like us wondering what was happening ahead. It was a hot day and people started getting out of their cars to see if they could see what was ahead – there was no traffic coming the other way.

After a few minutes a car came in the opposite direction, he stopped the car and ran over to a few of us chatting informing us that we might like to turn back as there was a serious traffic accident up above and the road would more than likely be closed for some time. He said that group of people had to rescue a man from a burning car and he appeared to be in a serious condition. The mood changed, everyone stopped moaning about the hold up and the heat of the day and immediately wanted to know what they could do to help. The man in the car was on the phone to the emergency services and asked if I had a fire extinguisher,  we didn’t so I immediately went from car to car to see if anyone had one while another woman ran to the back of the traffic telling them to turn around as there was no way through. Everyone had a job to do and wanted to help.

No one in the cars in front of us had an extinguisher. I went to the car directly behind ours. A woman got out of the passenger seat – I  she was foreign but spoke perfect English. I asked her if she had an extinguisher – like the other cars but she didn’t.

She asked what the problem was ahead, I explained about the accident, she then asked me a couple of questions that gave me the impression that she had some medical knowledge. I asked her if she was medically qualified – she abruptly replied no.

She got back into the car and put on her seat belt in a calm manner, and before she could tell the drive who I presumed was her partner/husband what had happened he had wound down his window and asked me what was going on ahead. I told him that there was a serious crash ahead and they had to get someone out of the car. He immediately told me that he was a Doctor and he would go to see if there was anything he could do until the emergency services got there.

His wife entered into a conversation with him, I didn’t understand the language but from her body language and tone of voice it was obvious she didn’t want him to go – an argument went on between them for a brief few moments before he got his jacket and begun running up the road towards the accident. Judging by her face and body language she was not one bit happy that he had done that.

The emergency services were on their way, the doctor on scene and people who had perhaps saved a mans life helping in every way they could.

I was haunted by the attitude of the woman; why didn’t she want her husband to get involved? Had that been my husband I would have only been too proud that he might have made a difference in the life of death of the poor man lying in the road.

I tried all week to find out about the accident and hopefully hear that the man was ok. I finally found out that it was a very serious head on collision between two cars. Three people were involved one seriously ill woman. So the man they dragged out of the car did survive – and who knows that might have been down to the fact that the doctor went up to help – who knows! But everyone worked together as a team and did as little or as much as they could have done and that must have made all the difference.

Sadly all except for one woman in my opinion.

 

© 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