Behind a Cancelled Appointment #Dentist


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Its happens to the best of us – most of us as a Receptionist will have at one time or another booked someone in with the wrong healthcare professional. But it’s how you deal with mistake, and the actions we take to ensure that:

  1. a) it doesn’t happen again and
  2. b) the patient is inconvenienced as little as possible, most important to remember it wasn’t their mistake they were booked in with the wrong person.

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A good friend of mine had this happen to her only last week. She was booked in with a wrong dentist at her Dental Practice – and here is the impact both emotionally and financially it had on her life due to a wrongly booked appointment.

Firstly, the patient has a phobia of the dentist, so to book an appointment in itself is a major ordeal for her. She was told at her last appointment that she needed to have a tooth extraction. The appointment was booked some 6 weeks away – 6 weeks of anxiety about the forthcoming appointment.

No one enjoys going to the dentist but to have a phobia is on another level and unless you understand this you have no idea the stress and anxiety it can cause the patient and those around them.

Her appointment was booked for 10 am last Monday morning. At 9.15 she received a call from the Practice tell her that she had been booked into the wrong dentist (she had been originally registered with the dentist she had mistakenly been booked in with – but because she had gone over a certain period of time without an appointment she had to re-register with the same Practice but was registered under another dentist) She was told that the dentist she was NOW registered with was fully booked for that day, and her previous dentist had refused to see her despite having the half hour appointment booked out.

The receptionist did apologise, and commented that she could hear how anxious the patient was at having the appointment cancelled. She was offered another appointment for the Wednesday at 8.30. She had to refuse this because she had children that she had to get to school and the dentist was a good few miles away from where they lived. She was then offered another appointment on the Friday morning at 10.00.

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Now this already had started causing the patient problems. Because of her phobia of the dentist her husband who is self-employed had to arrange to take time off from work to accompany her to the dentist. When he doesn’t work he doesn’t get paid. The patient also works 3 evenings a week, and Mondays were one of her nights to work.  Because she was going to have a tooth extraction it was suggested because of the type of work she does that she didn’t go into work that evening, so she had to arrange a swap with someone at her work. So, the cancelled appointment had already started to cause unnecessary problems as she now had to have another night off as the appointment was booked for the Friday which was another night she was scheduled to work.

She didn’t feel she could ask for another swap and she didn’t want to take this off as sickness as she prides herself on her exemplary sickness record and didn’t want to leave her work colleagues under pressure if she phoned in sick. She spoke to her boss and she had to take the night off as unpaid leave – another loss of earnings. Her husband had to also swap work around meaning that he was again losing more money on the Friday morning.

She arrived at the dentist, with her phobia now causing her concern she looked for reassurance from the dentist – which sadly she didn’t get. She was given the injection and asked to sit in the waiting room – the injection didn’t seem to take, so she was given a second and third injection before being told that it hadn’t taken and therefore the dentist couldn’t do the procedure. She was told she would have to be referred to the hospital to have the extraction done under a general anaesthetic and was told to expect to wait between 3-6 months. She really wanted to have this procedure done and dusted just to get it out-of-the-way and she certainly wasn’t keen on the thought of having a general anaesthetic, but understood why this would have to be done.

So, she was sent home, she had paid for the extraction that she didn’t have. On top of that now having to take a night off work without pay as well as her husband losing another half day’s wages. This tooth extraction that didn’t happen had now cost them both a lot of money.

10 minutes after leaving the dentist her mouth went completely numb and she couldn’t feel a thing, making her question if she could have indeed had the procedure done after all. She did feel that the dentist had certainly rushed through the appointment.

All of this causing annoyance and stress which could have been avoided if she had been put in with the right dentist when the appointment was being booked.

The importance of getting the appointment right is not only for the benefit of the Practice but also the benefit of the patient – you never know what is behind a cancelled appointment.

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Customer Service #LondonTransport


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My training often involves me travelling to London.

Growing up I lived on the outskirts of London and the underground was very much part of my life often travelling on my own at a young age. Fast forward a few decades and here I am once again using the underground as a way of getting to my destination.

I still find travelling on the tube kind of magical, I absolutely love people watching and amazed at the speed that the tube takes me to my destination, many times almost taking me to the door of where I need to go.

There are often many options of the routes that I can take and this gives me the option of travelling one way and back a completely different route.

When I am asked to host a training session it involves me having to do a lot of research before going. Planning my travel, choosing the best routes to take. Taking in account how many times I might have to change and go onto another line, to planning the distance from the tube to the organisation that I will be doing the training. Time management is vital for my job.

I love the fact that I can use my debit card on all the transport including buses, no worries about having to purchase different travel cards or standing in endless queues to purchase a train ticket. Having this system can often mean that I can alter my route at the last-minute (often to pop off and do a bit of retail therapy!)

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But what I have found every single time that I have travelled on the underground over the past couple of years is the brilliant customer service that the London Transport staff have shown. Every single time I have had a question be it for the best route to take or simply asking what platform I need to go to. Every single member of staff has always given me clear easy to follow instructions, every single member of staff have always been polite, friendly and always have had a smile on their face. Not only has their knowledge of the underground been incredible their local knowledge outside of their station is also exceptional.

I am useless at following maps and often when you come out of the underground there are several exits from the station which can at times be very confusing. I have often asked a member of staff for directions to a certain point, or even a Road by name and every single one of them has always given me good clear instructions. This has made my journey so very stress free.

Thank you London Transport your staff are a credit to an amazing service that you give to us all, and they can often make what could be a stressful journey a lot easier just by being the kind helpful people that they are.

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Working Together #NHS #111 #A&E #GPSurgeries


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Sadly, as most of you are all aware there is a lot of negative publicity in the press at the moment about our great NHS service and sadly some of it with good reason.

It saddens me to read some of the dreadful reports about patient care and those working for the NHS being abused and often overworked. Working for the NHS and being a patient I can see a lot of this from both sides.

Doctors surgeries are busting at the seams with patients struggling to get appointments. Practices are merging together but are they able to continue to offer the service they did before?

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The Ambulance service is stretched and A&E are struggling to find beds resulting people being treated in corridors, whilst Ambulance crews are held up in the car parks with patients on board waiting to be seen and treated, often resulting in the ambulance crew not being available to go to the next emergency.

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Sadly, there are still the time wasters and abusers of the service. Those that call that emergency ambulance when all they needed was a GP appointment, the hoax callers that can tie up the emergency services for hours before they finally find that there was no “emergency” to those that present at A&E for minor ailments. Working in the past in A&E it never ceased to amaze me just what people would present with at A&E with. (I have written other blog stories when I worked in A&E)

As a Manager working in the NHS it’s a hard job. Struggling on a daily basis, trying to hit targets, wanting to give best patient care is almost impossible, dealing with staff that are forever under pressure on the front line and answering to stressful those who need to be obeyed.

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As a Receptionist, you will never please everyone, and many will be sure to be vocal and let you know how unhappy they are and often blame you for the “awful service”.  Telephones ringing constantly, people demanding urgent appointments that you just haven’t got, GP’s and Managers constantly asking the impossible from you, and all while you are working for barely more than the minimum wage.

Hearing from friends, updates on social media and press reports everyone is struggling to be seen resulting in people misusing the NHS because they had no alternative.

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A friend recently phoned 111 (for my overseas readers this is an out of hours service which covers GP surgeries when they are closed – an excellent service which gives patients 24/7 cover). My friend felt very unwell, sore throat, temperature and generally feeling very unwell. She spoke to somewhere at the 111 Service, for whatever reason the 111-service suggested she took paracetamol and phone her GP surgery the following morning. She had a bad night and phoned her GP Surgery first thing the following morning. Her surgery was unable to offer her an appointment and she explained how ill she felt, she was than advised if she continued to feel unwell to take herself off to A&E – as ill as she felt she would have never done this but many might have acted on this advice. She left it another 24 hours and phoned the surgery again where she was given an appointment for that day where she was given Antibiotic and Steroids for a chest infection.

My husband was recently poorly at a weekend, as thought he had a nasty chest infection. I phoned to see if we could get an appointment at a local Treatment Centre (the out of hours service where you can see a GP). After giving the operator all his symptoms (he was breathless due to the cold/chest infection) the operator said they she recommended that they send an ambulance out to him. The protocol said that if the patient was breathless or had breathing problems that an ambulance should be sent. There was no way that he needed an ambulance, he could have actually driven himself to the Treatment Centre, he was ill but not that ill, and even if he was I could have driven him there.

I believe that both of the above where 2 incidents where the emergency services (A&E and an ambulance) were not needed. I know that people have protocols to follow but in these two instances the patients could just have been seen and treated by a GP.

Do we need to look at the bigger picture, to look as how we can signpost people in the right direction, to ensure that people who need A&E are seen, and those that can see a GP do so? We have a great NHS, we can see a GP free, we have GP cover 24/7 and at a last resort we have a great emergency service in the ambulance service and A&E. It’s important that everyone needs to see those that are appropriate to them. Is there anything that we can do together to ensure that this happens most of the time?

I would be very interested to hear from my many overseas followers on how their GP Practice work. How does your routine appointment system work and when patients request emergency appointments what is your practice policy and does you’re A&E Departments get clogged up with people who don’t need to be there?

 

© 2011-2018 Reception Training all rights reserved

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.

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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© 2011-2018 Reception Training all rights reserved