The “Stick It” and My Credit Card

I had an appointment today to see a consultant – It was a private appointment – something that I had to get sorted sooner rather than later and going private was my best option.

The hospital was small the staff very friendly. The consultant went through everything and his secretary gave me a date for my operation – 2 weeks time.

Armed with all the necessary paperwork I headed over the Bookings Office. The clerk took all my details, and asked for an initial payment of 125.00.

I gave her my credit card – she then said that payment would not be taken until the day of the operation.

She reached for a “stick it” and promptly wrote all my credit card details down on this little piece of sticky paper. But why not put it on a proper form to be added inside my file.

My heart sank – although I use “stick its” a lot – I certainly would not have used it in this instance. I didn’t feel happy about leaving my credit card details on this loose sticky piece of paper. I was actually gob smacked that this method was used in taking all my details
of my credit card.  My thoughts went to my blog on “Taking a Message” dated 20.7.11

In the blog I actually advised against using such a thing for the taking of messages or anything of importance – and to me my credit card was certainly important. This piece of sticky paper so easily could be lost with all my details on it.

Quick thinking – I spoke up and said that in fact I would prefer to pay by a cheque – which I did – and thankfully the small sticky piece of paper was torn up by the clerk.

What are your thoughts on taking messages on “stick its” do you think it is a safe enough?

“I want an appointment NOW”

Before I started working at the Surgery I thought a Doctor
was just a Doctor. If you were ill you would go and see one of the Doctors that had the nearest available appointment. I soon learned how wrong I was.

We had 6 GP in the Practice that I first started working in.
Each and everyone one of them was different in many ways. Some patients would get
along better with one Doctor more than the others – and the same with the
Doctors – some patients for whatever reasons just used annoy the Doctors– but given
the professionals that they were never showed that side to the patients.

In my first few weeks I used to wonder why some patients
would only see one pacific Doctor and would wait up to a week for an appointment
with them – and the patients would climb the walls if their Doctor was on
holiday or fully booked – you would have thought that the patients world had
almost come to an end – they would just refuse to see anyone else.

There was one occasion when a patient phone for an
appointment to see Dr Stafford – I explained that Dr Stafford was not in surgery that day and was fully booked for several days ahead and then he was on holiday the following week. I offered the patient the next available appointment with another Doctor in the practice. The patient was   not happy. I could sense his blood pressure going up and that was over the phone. He explained that he HAD to see Dr Stafford THAT day as it was URGENT. I explained again that Dr Stafford was not in surgery that day and I would put him in with the Doctor that was running the surgery for “urgent” appointments that day – he was having none of it. He then started shouting at me down the phone – accusing me of “refusing” him an appointment adding how he had found me rude and unhelpful. (I might add I was never rude at any time to him)

I had to make sure that the patient understood that I was
not refusing him an appointment – but just not able to give him one with the
Doctor of his choice. I calmly repeated that I could give him an appointment
that morning with Dr Paul but the patient continued to shout down the phone to
me. I politely asked the patient not to shout – and explained that I was trying
to help him – he was having none of it – and his parting words were “so that’s
it then – you have refused me an appointment – so it’s on your shoulders if I
die then” and slammed the phone down.

Unfortunately we did get some calls like that – but thankfully
they were very few and far between. The first couple of times that happened I
worried myself sick. But soon learnt that as long as I was clear in my words
and offered the patient an appointment to see a Doctor there was not a lot more
I could have done. It was the patient’s choice not to take the appointment
offered to him.

But what I would do was document the call – I would make a
brief record on the patient notes that he called for an appointment with Dr
Stafford, was offered another Doctor due to Dr Stafford being fully booked and
the patient refused. I always put the time the call was taken too. I learned
very quickly to always cover yourself in any such incidents. If in the event
that something had happened to the patient – and he had told someone that I had
refused him an appointment where could that have gone? So I always documented
anything that I felt could come back at a future date.

Then I slowly began to see why some patients preferred to
see some Doctors more than the others. Each Doctor had their own area of expertise.
We had one Doctor that was fantastic when it came to anyone that had a bad
back. Another was excellent in skin conditions another on sports injuries and
one that was excellent with children – he actually still did some work in the
local  pediatric hospital. A lot of GP’s actually do clinics in their areas of
expertise in local hospitals.

It then made sense to why certain patients would only want to see one Doctor – and I could see the logic behind it.

And there were also some patients that for whatever reason
did not see eye to eye with certain Doctors in the Practice and would point-blank
refuse to see them. Difficult when at times these Doctors would be the only one
with an available appointment. Just like my story above.

One piece of advice I would give new Receptionists over the
years was when someone did have a go either over the phone or at the front desk
to try to not take it personally – because the angry person was not actually
directing their anger at them personally it was directed at the “Receptionist”
and if any one of us was standing there they would have had exactly the same
complaint. I found that this helped me in the earlier days when I felt that
they were shouting at “me”.

And to remember – patients are not customers. Patients are
often in pain, worried about themselves or loved ones, frightened or at times might
have a mental problem – and all Receptionists should remember this at times
when patients show their anger – I am not saying it’s right  – but we do have to take it into

That Rare Free Appointment

The events described in my blog are based on my experiences as a Receptionist and Manager. For obvious reasons of privacy and confidentiality I have made certain changes, altered and fictionalised some names and aspects, but my blog remains  of life as a Receptionistand Manager working within the Healthcare Sector.

Who would have guessed that first day in my new job as a Doctors Receptionist how my life would change? This was the first day to the start of my new Career.

I started on a Monday morning almost 16 years ago. Anyone working in a GP Surgery will all know that Monday mornings are really busy. At times busy beyond belief. Patients that have been sick over the weekend all wanting to be seen – that same day people who have run out of medication needing an “urgent” script all wanting to see the Doctor urgently.

I was assigned to another Receptionist Jackie on my first day – I followed her around like a shadow – and I have never forgotten her kindness or patience over the weeks showing me the never-ending tasks and jobs that had to be done.

I was just gobsmacked at the volume of people coming to the desk, the fact that the phone did not stop ringing for the first 3 hours and how all the receptionists were running around like headless chickens doing 2 or 3 things at once. I have never been in a Reception environment where it was so manic.

The senior Receptionist Jane was what you would call “a dragon” yes I am afraid she was one of those few that certainly won that title. She was nothing more than a bully which I like others before me was about to find out over the coming months.

I had only been there about an hour when she told me to answer the phones – I didn’t have a problem with that as I have always worked in roles where I used the phone a lot. But what I didn’t bargain for was the amount of people who all wanted appointments THAT same morning.

As I said before we still used an appointment book – everything was put in pencil – easy to be rubbed out in the event of cancellations etc.

I had to keep asking my guardian angel Jackie what I should do as there were just no appointments slots spare – something that on the day was a rare as elephant’s eggs!!!

Jackie would take over the phone – sometimes fit someone in at the end of one of the Doctor Surgery and other times take messages or put the caller in with an appointment later on in the week. I wondered how on earth she “knew” who needed what.

I was horrified at the amount of people who were requesting urgent appointments and how cool and calm the Receptionists were when dealing with the requests.

Believe you me I soon got used to it – it’s a skill believe you me. You could have someone demanding an urgent appointment only to find out that it is something that could wait until there was a free appointment, or you have someone who asks for an appointment that day but when told that you are fully booked does not push the matter any further – but over the years I have learnt that the person that does not push for the appointment can in a lot of cases be the one that needs that “urgent” appointment more – it’s a skill to
try to find out without asking too many questions to why the “urgent”
appointment is needed. People are all so very different – and the only way you
can find out what it is they need is to ask!

I know a lot of people don’t agree with the Receptionist asking the caller what they need the appointment for – but please believe me it does help to ensure that the people who need to see the Doctor urgently do get the appointments. Some patients are adamant that they do not want to tell the Receptionist why they want to see the Doctor and that is fine – as we do appreciate that there are some personal matters that they only want to discuss
with the Doctor. But, but asking why the appointment is needed can help
everyone. Sometimes an appointment is not always necessary – maybe taking a
message and passing this onto the doctor for an answer will be sufficient.
Perhaps someone needs an urgent repeat prescription and again taking a message
could avoid another appointment being used. It can help everyone if we ask “can
I ask what the problem is please” when an urgent appointment is requested.

Being behind the reception desk you do get to see both sides. The Doctors are supposed to see around 16 patients every morning and again around 12/14 in the afternoons (Surgeries do work differently so these numbers are not set in stone). But I can count on one hand the amount of times that a Doctor would see his or her quota. Doctors always had “extras” put in atthe end of their session – these are where the “urgent” appointments were often

We would also have the people who would phone in for a home visit either the patients themselves or someone on behalf of the patient.

Again it was important to ascertain why the visit was needed. The Doctors always wanted to know what the visit was for so they could prioritise their visits and visit the ones that were very sick or vulnerable i.e elderly or very young.

It never ceased to amaze me in all the years that I worked in that area the amount of people who would phone for a home visit when it just was not needed. The excuses were many. People would phone for a visit to ensure that they got seen that day. If the weather was bad they didn’t want to come out and expected the doctor to come to them, and there were times when the doctor would call to visit the patient only to find that they were not “back” from shopping or the hairdressers. Yes, they could go shopping or the
hairdressers but not go to the surgery to see the Doctor.

So, it was important that the patients that were sick, housebound were the ones that got the visits.

We had to try to keep the visits to a minimum – because each visit could take the doctor over half an hour or more to do – getting from one address to the other and seeing to the patient – just think of how many people could have been seen in surgery in one half hour?

Some people think that because the Doctor only has a 2 or 3 hour surgery in the morning and a 2 or 3 hour surgery in the afternoon that is all they do. But that is so far from the truth.

After their morning surgeries they have to attend to a large volume of paperwork. Go through their daily post, fill out insurance forms in all shapes and sizes – and this is a never-ending task then it’s onto their daily visits.

They then come back to do an afternoon surgery and if they are the doctor that is on duty that afternoon they could have several more visits to do either before their afternoon surgery begins or after their surgery has finished – with the usual “extra” urgent appointment added to their surgery list.

On top of this the Doctors have targets to meet – so teams meetings often have to take place on a weekly basis. Hard to believe that a Doctor has targets to meet – but they do.

But for me the one thing that I never could understand was the amount of DNA that every surgery across the country has to put up with. And it’s not only Doctors Surgeries that have to put up with this its Hospitals too. What is a DNA you might ask – well this stands for Did Not Attend (appointment).

For every appointment that is filled means that someone else
has missed out. So might argue that they might make an appointment a couple of
weeks ahead and are better by then, ok buy please cancel the appointment so
someone else that is ill can use it. On the other hand we quite often get
people who DNA when they have been one of those patients that have requested an
“urgent” appointment only that same morning!

Appointment systems in every Practice were always an ongoing saga – Practices would often change their system hoping that one day it would work well for everyone. But today 16 years on – I don’t think it’s a whole lot better. Do you?

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