Happy Patients #guestpost

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

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

Guest post:

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


I have previously written a post on keeping patients informed:

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


Recipe for A Successful Team


*  Respect

*  Trust

*  Commitment

*  Communication

*  Diversity


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

A helpful Daily Checklist

 As a Receptionist the Reception area is your responsibility from the minute you start. There will be several things that you will need to do at the start of the day and also the end of the day. These will vary from each organisation.

It is a good idea to have a written checklist for the start of the day and the end of the day – especially when you first start in the role, often windows can be left open because you forgot that you should have closed them or other similar things.

For organisations that close at lunchtime they may also have one for lunchtime.

Having such a list is also a great help if someone is covering for you when you are on holiday or perhaps off work because of sickness. It will ensure that all tasks have been carried out as you would normally do. It will save on jobs not being done, and will in turn ensure that the Reception area is run smoothly – and a credit to you for organising this in your absence.

It just needs to be simple but it can be so effective and in the long run saves you so much time.

Here is an example of a checklist you could have and of course every Reception Area will have different tasks to carry out so you can design one to fit your organisation.

You can simply have a list and just follow that or you can actually tick off the list as you go along – some Receptionists keep a their list as some of their tasks only take place every other day or maybe once or twice a week.

The form is helpful for new Receptionists, Receptionists that perhaps do not normally work at the beginning of the day or the end of the day and for any member of staff that might be called on to help open or shut the surgery – this is more than likely to happen an emergency such as staff sickness and one of the management team will be asked to help out – believe you me they will be so grateful if they have such a list available on guiding them through on what to do.

I know from experience how I wished I had such a form when I started my role as a Receptionist – I worked with a particular receptionist who had no interest in training me for the role and therefore not always fully explaining on what should and should not be done. I therefore try to made things as easy for new staff and any staff that is training new staff – and the form is always a great hit.

You can make the list as simple or as complex as you like.


Daily Checklist




  • Put phones on and check answer machine messages.
  • Pass on any relevant messages
  • Put phone on night phone and put answer machine message on
  • Check Fax machines and distribute any faxes
  • Check fax machine has paper in
  • Ensure that visitors book is on reception and ready to use.
  • Check diary and action as necessary
  • Put visitors book away
  • Put diary away
  • Ensure that all patient information is locked away
  • Open windows if appropriate
  • Ensure all windows are closed
  • Ensure that Reception is tidy
  • Ensure you leave the Reception area tidy
  • Put Reception computer on
  • Put office computers on (if required)
  • Check Reception computer is off
  • Check office computers are off
  • Empty all rubbish bins in Reception into main bin
Mon / Thurs
  • Get confidential waste ready for collection at 11.00
  • Money from petty cash to pay milkman (remember to get receipt and put in petty cash)
When Used
  • Check Conference room is left clean and tidy
  • Check Conference room is left clean and tidy



Communication between the Surgery and the Hospital.


As a Doctors Receptionist you will have a close working relationship with your local hospital(s). Working for both Doctors Surgeries and Hospitals I can say that their systems are  quite different. Not that anyone of them is right or wrong – it is just down to the type of work that they both do. But one thing that they both have in common is patients, and at the end of the day it is vital that you and their patients get the best possible treatment. So communication between your surgery and the hospital is vital for the wellbeing of your patients.

The surgery would often work closely with the outpatients department in the hospital, as well as the labs – checking up on patient results, sending in samples etc.

You at the surgery will all have come across the sample that has been sent in without the correct information on. The doctor or the receptionist has forgotten to enter the patient’s details correctly onto the specimen bottle – or perhaps the lab technician just would be unable to read the doctors handwriting although computers have come a long way in making this a lot easier to get right.

I have been “that” receptionist that receives the call from the lab saying that they cannot accept a sample as it was not labelled correctly – I  like many did not understand why the labs just could not take the details from me – after I had all the details of the patient in front of me.

The outcome of this would have resulted in the patient being called back into surgery to have another sample taken to be sent off to the labs again.

As I worked my way up to a Manager these incidents still occurred from time to time, I had receptionist complaining that they felt the hospital was being unreasonable when they offered to give over the patients details.

So, I arranged a visit to the local hospital. The first visit was to the laboratories – I brought along the supervisors from each team of Receptionists. We spent several hours with some very helpful members of the management team at the hospital and they went through the whole journey of when the sample reached the hospital via courier from us at the surgery.

It was amazing watching the process of these samples. What did surprise us was the amount of samples that they received in from each and every surgery in the local area – and some from outside the area too. This highlighted the importance of having each and every sample labelled correctly – and the awful outcome that could occur if one sample was given the wrong details.

Meeting the team at the laboratory was lovely; it was nice to put a face to the voice that for years we had only spoken to on the telephone. We both listened to each other’s points of view, and both sides admitted that there were definitely areas that they could improve on the main one better communication between the two units.

For us the biggest lesson learned was that each and every sample would be checked at the surgery before it was handed over to the courier before heading for the hospital. The Doctors were reminded regularly about the importance of completing the sample bottles correctly – and most importantly in handwriting that could easily be read by the laboratory technicians.

We discussed our visit at our next receptionists meeting. Because of the volume of receptionists that we had it was impossible for them all to visit the hospital, but it was important for them to learn from our visit. This was also something that I would discuss with every new receptionist.

A month after our visit I phoned and spoke to the member of staff that had been our guide for that afternoon and he also agreed that things had become a lot better, samples were being sent it properly  labelled, and if there were any queries it was a pleasure to phone and speak to someone who they knew. Our Supervisors also said that communication between the two units had improved a lot.

About 6 months later I organised a similar visit this time around the outpatients department. I took the supervisors along with me again, this time they were shown around the department and how the hospital dealt with a patient’s referral letter when it arrived from the surgery. Again, communication was greatly improved after this meeting.

So, much so we invited a couple of the ladies from the outpatients department to come and spend a few hours with us at the surgery, sitting with the secretaries and the receptionists seeing for themselves just how busy and hectic it was. They too found it an extremely helpful exercise.

They agreed that they never really fully appreciated how busy it was at the surgery, and again communication between the two departments was greatly improved.

Me – the patient

If you have been following my blog you will know that I am passionate about

  • Customer care
  •  communication and
  • Team work

It is vital in any job that you are doing when working with the general public.

When I am out I love to ‘people watch’. It might be in a restaurant, a shop, on a bus or train or in an  Airport – I love to watch how people react and how good people are at giving a good service.

So, it was no different when I had to go into hospital recently for a day procedure – a colonoscopy.

Let me take you through my day and the build up to it and see if you feel that I had “good customer / patient care”.

It started 3 weeks ago when I had to phone the consultants secretary to see if she had received my referral as I had not heard anything –  I phoned 2 times and left 2 messages before she phoned back and confirmed that she had in fact received the letter from my GP and went on to give me a date for my procedure.  I did not find her very helpful and found myself apologising for phoning and bothering her! Why did I feel I needed to do that?

She said that they would phone me the day before to let me know what time I have to book in for my procedure.

It got to 2.30 the Friday before my procedure and I had to phone to see what time they wanted me in – the secretary still did not know – but did phone me back at 4.30 and confirmed that I have to be in for 10.30 the following Monday. Still appeared to be cold and uncaring.

The day before my procedure I had to starve from 08.00 – that was pretty hard going I must say as everywhere I looked there was food being advertised. On the telly, in magazines and every social network that I looked on everyone was talking about the wonderful roast dinners they were about to have. It was a tough day.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty awful – I had one almighty headache and was sick – perhaps a combination of not eating and taking medication the day before.

I arrived at the hospital at 10.15. I reported at the front desk giving my name and the name of the consultant that I was seeing that day. The receptionist said that I needed to have an ultrasound and would I please go to the 2nd floor.

I went up to the 2nd floor – I went to the nurses’ station. The nurses were obviously busy and flying backwards and forwards – one stopped and asked if she could help me – I said that I had been sent up for an ultrasound – she asked my name and  pointed me towards the waiting area asking me to take a seat. There were 3 other people waiting there too. One by one they went in –  a nurse came along and asked my name – again. I gave it to her and she said that they would be long before someone would call me. The third person went in – and then two more people came into the waiting room. Another nurse came along and asked my name again, the two people who came in after me went in. An hour after I have arrived I was still sitting – feeling quite unwell.

Then a nurse came along and asked my name – for the 4th time! She asked me to go back down to the reception desk. No explanation given.

So, I went back down to the main desk – there was a woman (I now know was a secretary) who promptly said “oh there you are – I had to come down to see if you have arrived”.  No introduction to who she was – no name badge that I could see for myself who she was – but was just ordered to “follow me”.

We then went back up to the 2nd floor – and into a different area – I was asked to take a seat and then was called in for my ultrasound. Up to this point I had no idea where I was going or why. I explained to the secretary that I had in fact been in the hospital for over an hour at this point – but no apologies to the fact that I had been sent to the wrong department in the first place. No conversation – just left sat in silence.

Then, after the ultrasound was done I was asked to go BACK down to the main reception desk and report in there. So, off I went.

Got to the ground floor, the receptionist ticked me off ‘her list’ and I was asked to go to the patients waiting room on the lower level. So off I trotted again. At this point I was getting to know the hospital very well.

I waited 5 minutes and was called  – I booked in and was asked to report to the nursing station on the 2nd floor.

So off I went to the 2nd floor again – getting to know this area pretty well at this point – and reported to the nurses’ station – for the second time that morning.

A nurse took me along to the ward and asked me to get ready and pop myself into bed – she then came along and took my blood pressure and gave me an ECG – how on earth they were not both through the roof at this point still amazes me. I certainly felt pretty stressful.

I waited, and I waited – many had already gone down to have their procedure or had already had it done back up and eating tea and toast – and I waited and I waited – nothing – no one came to tell me anything.

Eventually I was taken down – it was about 4.00. I actually have visions at this point of being told they had run out of time and I would have to come back. I wonder if they have ever had a “sit in” from a patient before – because I certainly was going through this again in a hurry. I vowed I would have stayed there until they had done it come hell or high water.

I came back up from my procedure – I should have been left to rest for an hour – but after half an hour the tea and toast was there in front of me. Not that I was complaining at this point – and boy it tastes as good as those roast dinners people were talking about the previous day. If not better.

I looked around – I was the last one in the ward – the nurse then came up and asked who was picking me up – I told her my husband – she asked me to call him which I did.

The cleaners then started coming in the ward clearing up around me – I really felt like I was in the way.

5.30 came and my husband arrived to pick me up.

I was never so pleased to see him and be going home.

I was more than happy with the procedure and the consultant, but I did feel that communication, and patient care could have been a lot better and perhaps prevented me from feeling so very drained and stressed from it all.

Did I really need to go to all of the different places to book in? Had I gone to the lower ground floor first and booked in then on to the 2nd floor that is where the ultra sound and day ward was – why send patients up and down all over the place.

As a manager I certainly would be looking for a more stress free way of admitting patients into the hospital.

There certainly was a lack of communication, and in areas lack of team work – no one knew what the other teams/departments was doing – something that really needs addressing.

And to top it all this was a private hospital – somehow you would expect a slightly better service that what I got.

The importance of being a good Supervisor or Manager?

Managerial effectiveness is a crucial element in the running of any Practice. But being a “good” manager is not just about hitting targets and working for the company – it is all about managing your staff in the most proactive way you can. Leadership is the only way forward. Here are some points that are vital to a Manager to help manage a good and happy team.

I will use the term “Manager” in this blog but this is also for anyone in a supervisory
role – being a Supervisor you are in a responsible role and lead a team and this is just as important as a managerial role.


In every organisation there is a definite need for leadership. Whether it is a Team Leader, Supervisor or Manager they are vital to the practice. You will need to be goal orientated, self-motivated and possess boundless energy and have to learn how to exert influence effectively in all directions – upwards, downwards and sideways. You will need to show strong leadership both to your bosses and the staff.

You will need to earn respect from your staff and your Partners – and that comes with
time. You need to be seen to be fair, treating everyone with respect and not show any signs of favouritism.

Strict neutrality is also necessary in your dealings with staff. It is hard to maintain a strictly unbiased approach if you are particularly friendly with one or more members of staff.

The role of a Manager can sometimes be very lonely.


Team building is vital for the whole practice.

Communication plays a big part in Team Building. Get to know your team where possible as individuals. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses, their goals and their hopes. These will help when it comes to yearly appraisals. By knowing your staff and their abilities you are able to place them in the job best suited to them. You might have someone who has great people skills – they will be ideal to put on the front desk, and someone who has great computer skills yet not so good on people skills, they would be great at carrying out admin and computer work. By placing these people in these roles make for happier staff – they are doing something they enjoy  rather than just doing a job given to them.

You need all types of staff to have a team. Someone that is has a great telephone manner, someone who has great people skills and someone who has great organisational skills – use them to the best of their ability.

Team Building is such an important part of your job.


Motivating staff is an essential part of any manger’s work. Most staff seeks not only an
interesting job but usually like to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and that they have job security. They need to be able to respect their boss(es) and have the respect back. Offer staff opportunities – training, learning new skills, and promotion wherever possible.

Staff are more likely to be motivated if they receive recognition and praise when it is deserved. This can be given to individual members of the team or to the team as a whole.

If you are praising an individual do not do it in front of the other members of the team. This can often lead to embarrasment on the member of staff involved and also cause bad feelings amongst others. Call them to your office and give the praise – if the praise is to the whole team give this at a team meeting – and ensure that staff that are not at the meeting receive the praise. You could verbally give the praise followed up by a memo to all concerned.

Staff will work better if the management of the practice is not only consistent by also seen to be fair.


Finding time to have staff meetings is never easy. Especially in Practice as many of the
staff are part-time workers and therefore you never having everyone there at the same time.

Some practices have staff meetings in the evenings; some have “breakfast” meetings before their surgery opens. Others have staff meetings during the lunch break. One thing is for sure if you have a big team of receptionists you will never have everyone attend the meeting. Look at the best times that staff can attend. Send out a memo asking them what they would prefer. Try to rotate the meetings every time so everyone gets a fair change of attending the next one.

But the important thing is to keep staff informed if they are unable to attend. For me the best way was to have each and every meeting has minutes taken and copies sent out to all staff – those that were present and those that could not attend also copy in your manager and the staff Partner. Always keep a copy of every meeting on file for future reference.

It is important to give staff plenty of notice when the next meeting is going to take place. A good suggestion is to agree the next date at the meeting you are holding. This way you can add it to the minutes.

If you have a lunchtime meeting a good idea is to provide lunch – perhaps a nice kind rep would be happy to help.

As a Practice you will have to decide if overtime is going to be paid and at what rate or if they can have time in lieu for attending the meeting.

Let all staff have an opportunity of adding items to the agenda. Let them feel that they are part of the meeting.

In my experience most staff are happy to attend meetings if they can see the point of it and a positive outcome with direct action being taken if appropriate.

If you learn to hold successful meetings, you should be guaranteed a good attendance.


Staff training is vital – it is essential for every Practice to be able to move forward. Well
trained staff are confident staff.

Invest in good training. It does not always have to cost a fortune. There are several options that you can take when it comes to staff training. You can either send individual staff on training courses outside the practice – your local PCT (Primary Care Trust) usually run excellent courses and many of these are free.

You can attend courses and then bring them back to the and train staff.

You can have an outside organisation come into the Practice and train several staff at the same time – this can be some similar to a staff meeting when it can be done during a lunchtime. Again Reps are often able to help in the cost of training.

Ensure that you log all training that staff has been on – keep a training log of their individual training skills in their staff files.

Staff Appraisals

Appraisals are a two-way process. If you need to explain to staff that one of the reasons
why you wish to hold individual appraisals is because you wish to learn from them, how they feel about their particular job and their role in the practice, this should ensure that they begin to feel less apprehensive about the whole process.

For some reason staff always see appraisals as a negative thing. Try to change that.

The appraisal interview should provide a forum for feedback from the employee as well as a chance for the manager to praise past efforts and offer constructive criticism on ways in which improvements can take place. Training needs can be identified and methods of monitoring development can be set up.

It is important that you listen to their views and recommendations and, where possible implement changes that they have suggested. But do not make promises that you will not be able to keep.

And most important


Communication is vital. Staff needs to be kept informed in anything that might involve them. Lack of communication is a good way to start rumours and bad feelings amongst staff. Keep your staff informed of necessary changes within their jobs or within the Practice.

Talk to your staff, feedback when and where possible – staff meetings are good for this as
are memo’s and talking to staff wherever possible.

And remember – there is no “I” in TEAM


Disability Awarness and The Reception Desk

Back in 2010 I worked for a private hospital. All the staff from cleaners, receptionists, nurses and Doctors was all just so lovely – a great bunch of staff who all have exceptional customer care skills.

What did surprise me was that very few Receptionists (and some nursing staff) knew what the “nicely designed” reception desks were really for.

When I say “nicely designed” receptionists desks I mean the desks that were there to help assist the disabled, especially people in wheelchairs.

As you can see in the pictures the desks are designed in such a way that a disabled patient, can have easy access to the desk at all times.

The “modern” receptionist desks are usually quite high – this enables the receptionist to sit on a high chair or stand so they are at the same level as the person they are dealing with.

Can you see how difficult it would be for a wheelchair user at this desk?

So why should a disabled person be any different?

By having a lower desk it gives the disabled patient the option to sit at the lower part of the reception desk if they need to complete any necessary forms, or just to talk to a receptionist that is sitting on a low chair face to face rather than the receptionist standing and talking down to them. Its far more patient friendly doing it this way – and asking anyone that is either a receptionist or a disabled patient will both tell you it is a much nicer way to communicate. It is also excellent for confidentiality when the receptionist might be asking the patient some questions.

It is not just wheelchair users that may need this facility – people on crutches would be unable to stand at the higher desk to complete necessary forms, and of course there are others that are disabled that have no signs that they are – but they still may need to sit down to complete necessary forms or just to book future appointments.

So, to my dismay I actually witnessed a Receptionists standing talking down to a patient in a wheelchair at the highest part of the reception desk. The patient was asked to complete a form whereby the receptionist gave the patient a clipboard to balance on their lap whilst they completed the form. Other standing patients were crowding around the patient in the wheelchair and I am pretty sure they must have felt very uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to embarrass the receptionist or the patient so I let it go. But as soon as the patient had finished I asked the receptionist why she though the low part of the reception desk was for. She replied she thought it was just the design of the desk. She then laughed and asked was it was for sitting on!

I had to point it out it was actually there for disabled people to use – to enable them to complete any necessary forms at ease and the receptionist could speak to them at this point and avoid having to stand over and talk down to them – sitting on a low chair they would be talking to them face to face – as they would do with a patient that would be standing at the high part of the desk.

She was amazed and agreed it was a great idea. I asked several other receptionists after this and a good 30% of them were exactly the same and thought that it was just a design factor instead of being there to help the disabled.

Because of this the lower part of the desk designed to assist the disabled had no information leaflets like they had on the higher part of the desk, or pens that were needed to complete necessary forms.

So, do not take it for granted that a new member of staff will be aware of what this part of the desk is for – get your Supervisor or Team Leader to use this in their Reception training and always ensure that the lower desk is as well equipped as the higher part of the reception desk.