You just can’t please some people


 

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As Receptionists we all at times have “difficult” customers to deal with. It almost comes with the job. It’s how you handle the situation that is most important.

As a Medical Receptionist you have to take into consideration that patients might be difficult due to many different reasons. They could be feeling poorly, worried, anxious, they could have mental issues or they could be worrying about a loved one. Patients are very different to customers in so many different ways and medical Receptionist are always fully aware of this.

But, there is a limit to the rudeness that a Receptionist should expect to take. I witnessed a patient recently approach the reception desk. The receptionist was very pleasant and approached the patient with a smile saying “good morning” and “how can I help you” She certainly didn’t receive a good morning or a smile back, but instead a very angry and aggressive man demanding, yes demanding that she get a prescription done NOW for him for his heart tablets as he had “run out”.

He thrust his repeat prescription at her and told her to get it done. I could see the smile fixed on her face while politely said “let me see what I can do for you”. The Receptionist typed into the computer and explained to the patient that 3 of the 4 items on the repeat slip where not actually due for another 10 days. The patient flailed up  and started shouting at the Receptionist demanding she do the script for his heart tablets. He wanted them NOW.

The receptionist again explained that 3 out of the 4 that he had ticked on the repeat were not due and the computer therefore would not allow her to request them. He started shouting and telling her how useless she was. He continued shouting telling her that it didn’t matter about the “other items” but he needed his heart tablets.

The Receptionist quietly asked the patient which ones where the heart tablets as she explained that she wasn’t medically qualified to know which ones where the heart ones. He then snatched the slip out of her hand whilst stabbing his finger on the slip of paper shouting  “this one – it’s this one”.

The Receptionist then entered something onto the computer and said that she had requested the tablets and the doctor would sign the script electronically later on that morning and advised the patient that he could collect it from the pharmacy later on that afternoon.

You would have expected the patient to have given the Receptionist a “thank you” of some kind. No – that didn’t happen. The Receptionist had gone out of her way to ensure that the patient had not gone without his heart medication, ignoring the fact that the patient had not allowed the usual 48 hours for a repeat to be done and therefore putting his own health at risk and instead of a simple thank you as he turned to leave the surgery he shouted how useless everyone was at the surgery and how it had gone down hill recently.

I wondered to myself what it would have taken for this patient to actually have been happy  as I felt that the Receptionist handled the situation exceptionally well.

I looked at the Receptionist as the patient left the building, she looked deflated, and almost ready to burst into tears.

Yet had she had said one wrong word to this patient, let alone explain that he shouldn’t have left it until he had run out to request his repeat I suspect she would have been hung drawn and quartered. She was in a no win situation.

Another patient came into the surgery and the Receptionist smiled and carried on……….

So, for all you Receptionists that go over and above your call of duty to help difficult patients and keep smiling –  well done.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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ONE MAN AND HIS DOG. #GuestPost #ReceptionistsStory


People often do not realise, or forget that Receptionists working in GP Surgeries and Hospitals are faced difficult situations each and ever day. Certain events will leave imprints on our hearts,

It it their compassion and dedication to their job that will take them that extra mile to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care and much more. Their dedication often goes unseen by the general public, the Practice Manager and even the GP’s. They simply just get on and do the very best they can and ask for little recognition in return.

Receptionists are on the front line, often faced with situations that need to be dealt and often outside their job description, but they get on and do the job, because they care.

I would like to thank a Receptionists who kindly shared this story, an insight to her feelings, and how important this patient was to her.

Well done, and a big thank you to the many Receptionists that go “that extra mile” to ensure that all our needs are met.

Guest story………………..

When he rung that lunch time I recognised the name at once. I had taken a fax off the machine a month or so ago and speed-read the story before handing it on to the GP. A health professional had been contacted by the patient’s bank manager who was concerned by his erratic behaviour, and felt he needed to let someone know. (Credit to that bank manager!)

Details of that fax flooded back in fragments as he told me he wanted to see a doctor – he had been unable to keep any food down for some time, and now he could not swallow his cup of tea. It was the Monday before Christmas – we were heaving with patients and our appointments were long gone.

You know that instinct that floods you at times like this? I sensed if I hesitated at all he would simply vanish – put down the phone – give up at once. Everything inside me shouted that he NEEDED TO SEE A DOCTOR! Ask him to call back at 8.30am in the morning? Don’t be daft – he won’t. Secure something for him NOW!

At my practice the Duty Doctor has slots for ‘anyone who feels they must see a GP today.’ I booked him in. I prayed that he would show up. I watched from the desk as the time drew near – it was a bit like wondering whether you would catch a glimpse of some frightened wild thing in the bushes!

He came. Gaunt, pale, skin stretched over his face like parchment. An odd, nervy little old man, tiny in his winter clothes. He saw the GP. She messaged Reception to catch a nurse to test his blood urgently. He had his blood test. We booked him a return appointment (at the Duty Doctor’s bidding) the next day. He went home.

When he returned in the morning he was in a smart suit, which once must have fitted him and now simply drowned him. He went in for his appointment. More instructions to Reception – “An ambulance is coming for Mr Small. Print off an Encounter Report for the Ambulance Crew and come and collect the letter I am writing for them.”

Mr Small sat and waited. And waited. There was a quieter moment and I went across to him. I reassured – “The Ambulance WILL be here – it always takes a while.”

He looked at me hesitantly. “Left me dog at home. Be back soon though won’t I?”

“Your dog? Oh! Is – is there anyone with a key who can go in and look after her?”

“No. Don’t know me neighbours. She’ll be OK. Be back tonight wont’ I?”

I thought of the dog. I thought of the few lines of the letter I had just clipped together with the Encounter Report. This scrawny, sad little man wasn’t going anywhere for quite a while. The GP had found ‘A mass’ in his abdomen. His bloods were nightmarish. He was going in for major surgery I imagined.

He was talking once more. “On me way to me sister’s for Christmas. Will I still be able to go?”

What was I to say? I was ‘only the receptionist.’ I said I wasn’t sure – all would become clear once he got to hospital and the doctors sorted things out. That sort of safe, general waffle. (You know!) Then I went back to the office and wrote an extra note which I stapled on to his wodge of papers: “MR SMALL HAS LEFT HIS DOG AT HOME. PLEASE BEAR THIS IN MIND – HE WILL BE VERY ANXIOUS ABOUT HIS DOG IF HE HAS TO LEAVE IT FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS.”

Someone suggested ringing Social Services about the dog. I cannot now remember all I did – I remember making quite a few calls one way or the other but not achieving ‘closure.’ Before going home I handed it all on to another colleague in Reception – telephone numbers – people I had talked to – people who might (just might!) ring back to offer help – etc etc. I asked the colleague to ‘let me know’ what happened.

My laid-back colleague didn’t. Things got busy, and she was very distracted. We all know how easily that can happen. It was just a dog after all. I went to bed that night and my dreams were crowded with sad, hollow eyed old men, and whimpering, abandoned dogs starving in tiny locked kitchens. I went to work the next day with my heart in my mouth and my brain frayed.

It had been sorted. Social Services had arranged for the dog to be collected and taken to a kennels. Mr Small was still in hospital. As I knew he would be. Christmas, for him, had been abruptly cancelled.

My lovely family Christmas came and went. We staggered into January with all the winter ills which seem to blow in with the cold winter winds, and all the challenges of a new computer system to grapple with. And in the midst of this someone said – “Oh – that old man with the dog has died.”

Do we ever get used to this sort of thing? I remembered his haunted face – the far too large suit – the wasted eyes. His anxiety for his only real friend – his little dog.

The end of the story was that the sister with whom he never spent Christmas took the dog in. I hope she cherished her and loved her. At least she didn’t stay in the kennels, though she must have wondered, as dogs do, why she never saw her beloved master again.

As Receptionists we should never underestimate the breadth or the strangeness of our role at times. We have to react to so many different scenarios. We are expected to turn on a sixpence – shrug and move on to the next thing – not get involved – blah blah blah.

One man and his dog. Both went to my heart. And if ever the day comes when that doesn’t happen, I will look for another job. It costs to care – but I believe it is what our job is all about.

The Importance of Patient Communication


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Finding out the reason for an unhappy patient or customer is key to putting the problem right – or at least trying to put it right. Ignoring it will not make it go away, and it won’t help good relations in the future.

Often the main reason for a unhappy person is down to lack of communication and this can often lead to outbursts of anger, frustration, arguments and a possible complaint. Whilst you are not there to take abuse, you have to have a listening ear, an open mind, and an apology if you feel that it is appropriate.

What you have to remember that people attending surgeries or clinics are often unwell, in pain, anxious, or suffering with mental issues or they may be relatives or friends of the patients concerned about their wellbeing.

Its how you deal with a complaint that will determine how far it might go.

A good example of a breakdown in communications happened to a friend of mine the other day.

My friend had to go to our local hospital for an epidural injection. She received an appointment for 11.00 am – She telephoned and asked if she could have an earlier appointment. She explained that a friend who would be taking and collecting her had another appointment early that afternoon. She explained to the clerk that she had 2 previous 8.00 appointments and she had been seen and out by 11.00. The clerk was very helpful and said she would send out another appointment, which she did. It was for 08.00 – perfect.

We arrived at 07.55 to get her booked in. We went into the admissions department to find that there were about 40 other people sitting there already, and more following in behind us. There were people standing in the corridor, as there were no more seats.

The bookings clerk came to the door and shouted *who’s next* – there seemed to be no order at all. I noted who we had walked in behind and I closely kept an eye on them and my friend followed in after they had been seen. Tempers were rising in the waiting area, and I am sure blood pressure taking a rise too. The system was in a total mess.

No apology from the clerk when my friend went in about the long wait. The clerk knew people were not happy and did all she could to avoid any eye contact. She never took her eye off the computer all the time it took to book my friend in.

We went along to the ward and a nurse took all the necessary details. She asked my friend to get ready, as she was due to go down for the injection fairly quickly. We both laughed and said that we probably would have time for a coffee afterwards before my next appointment.

My friend sat and waited, the curtains were around the bed so all we could do was sit and listen, we heard other people being booked in, and going down for their procedures – I realised that there were more than one doctor on so didn’t think too much of it.

We sat and waited a bit more, people were coming back up, getting ready and going home, there were more people arriving. A nurse came in and spoke to one patient telling them that there were two people in front of them and they would be 3rd to go down. Perhaps my friend was the first or second patient – apparently not – we were still sitting there when that patent went down. She came in and told another patient they were next to go down.

It got to 11.00 and my friend was very conscious of the time. I tried to reassure here that I could wait a bit longer, but she went out to find someone to ask what was happening. She met a nurse who I can only say was not very helpful at all.

My friend explained about me having another appointment, the nurse said that we should have come prepared to wait, this was a day ward and my friend should have expected to be there for some time.

My friend explained that she had spoken to the clerk on the telephone when booking the appointment and she didn’t mention anything about the possibility she might be there for the day and there was nothing to indicate that on her appointment letter when she received it.

My friend explained about her previous 2 visits and that she had 8.00 appointments on both those days and both times she had been seen and out by 11.00.

The nurse said that she must have been *lucky* those times.

The nurse went on to say that if she were seen fairly soon that she would be done and out within half an hour – but then went on to say – of course you still could be here for a good while yet.

Never once did the nurse offer to go and see where on the list she might be. She really did not want to be bothered. She really was not any help at all.

So, my friend worried about me getting to my next appointment told the nurse that she was sorry but she could not wait any longer – the nurse just said “well that’s entirely up to you”

My friend came back, got dressed and we left. She was extremely upset, and angry at the way the situation had been handled. I felt bad that I could not have waited any longer with her.

She is a pretty laid back woman, but of course this could have been someone that might not have that accepted the situation so lightly and of course could have caused a unpleasant situation.

What could have been done to make this situation better?

  1. When my friend phoned to rearrange her 11.00 appointment to an earlier one she explained why this was. The clerk taking the call should have explained there and then that she could not expect to be out by 11.00. If she had been told this she had a choice, she could have :
  2. made the appointment on another date, or
  3. asked someone else to take and collect her, someone that didn’t have a problem with staying all day.

 

  1. The admissions clerk never once apologised for the delay when booking her in. She was asked to be there for 8.00 which she was and was kept waiting an hour standing in a corridor when no chair – a simple “sorry to keep you waiting” would have been simple thing to say but very effective. Often by doing this it defuses the situation, it is very hard to be angry at someone that is being helpful and pleasant.

 

  1. The clerk was working on her own trying to book people in; perhaps she should have been given extra help at this busy time. Was this being fair to her – expecting her to deal with such a great volume of people? And of course having to deal with angry patients.
  2. People were starting off their admission to hospital getting uptight, angry and the possibility of their blood pressure being high. Not fair to put that extra pressure on a patient.

 

  1. Why wasn’t my friend kept informed of when she was going to be seen, especially when we could hear other patients being told when they were going down. Was one nurse dealing with patients differently to another? Were doctor’s lists being dealt with differently to others? If so that simply isn’t good enough. Everyone deserved to be treated the same.

 

  1. The nurse could have been a bit more understanding; instead of trying to help my friend she was completely defensive every time my friend tried to say something. Had the nurse taken the time to go and find out where on the list my friend was (and if she was next or the one after she would have stayed) but it was clear to my friend the nurse was not going to do that.

I feel that this whole situation from start to finish resulted in a lack of communication and could have been handled so much better at various stages from the booking, admission and the appointment.

 

What do you think?

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© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Receptionist Training: The Correct Image


THE CORRECT IMAGE

  • It is important to look good
  • To have confidence and build on it
  • To have a professional attitude and how to develop it.
  • Abiding by your companies policies and guidelines.
  • To work as part of a team.

THE RECEPTION AREA

  • First impressions at the desk and on the telephone are vital.
  • Organisational tips – paperwork, files and desks – are they tidy?
  • How does the reception area look from the other side – how do you think the patient/customer sees it? Does it look tidy.
  • Ensure that ALL patient information is not on view. (confidentiality)
  • Always appear to be calm (even if you feel you are not!!!!)
  • Make your reception area safe make sure there are no handbags left lying around for someone to trip over – look out for other items left lying around (boxes cables etc).
  • Are there toys left on the reception/waiting area floor, magazines for someone to slip on.
  • A good Receptionist will always take pride in her reception area.

COMMUNICATION AND PEOPLE SKILLS

  • Always use clear communication.
  • Learn the art of asking the right questions.
  • What you say and how you say it.
  •  Words that work.
  • How to avoid being misunderstood.
  • Ask the patient/customer if they are happy with what you have just told them.
  • The “smile” factor.
  • Having a positive approach

DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS AND SITUATIONS

  • Know how to handle a difficult situation.
  • Feel confident in what/who you are dealing with.
  • Identify the problem. Get to the right solution.
  • Anticipating problems before they happen.
  • Defusing a situation
  • Remember everyone is different
  • Lack of listening can prove to be damaging.
  • Use eye contact whenever possible.
  • Be alert! at ALL times
  • Know your practice policy if someone wants to make a complaint. Make sure you know where the complaints forms are kept.

KNOW HOW TO AVOID THOSE TRAPS

  • How to deal with the busiest times of day ie first thing / lunchtime
  • Rota staff to accommodate your busiest times.
  • Ensure you have backup when staff are on holidays or sick.
  • Ensure that there is always someone allocated to answering the telephone
  • Ensure that there is always someone on the front desk
  • Ensure that ALL staff has appropriate training
  • Ensure that you have policies/procedure if your computer system should go down.

and REMEMBER:

A good Service is only whatever the patient/customer thinks it is.

Receptionist Training: The Correct Image


 

THE CORRECT IMAGE

  • It is important to look good
  • To have confidence and build on it
  • To have a professional attitude and how to develop it.
  • Abiding by your companies policies and guidelines.
  • To work as part of a team.

THE RECEPTION AREA

  • First impressions at the desk and on the telephone are vital.
  • Organisational tips – paperwork, files and desks – are they tidy?
  • How does the reception area look from the other side – how do you think the patient/customer sees it? Does it look tidy.
  • Ensure that ALL patient information is not on view. (confidentiality)
  • Always appear to be calm (even if you feel you are not!!!!)
  • Make your reception area safe make sure there are no handbags left lying around for someone to trip over – look out for other items left lying around (boxes cables etc).
  • Are there toys left on the reception/waiting area floor, magazines for someone to slip on.
  • A good Receptionist will always take pride in her reception area.

COMMUNICATION AND PEOPLE SKILLS

  • Always use clear communication.
  • Learn the art of asking the right questions.
  • What you say and how you say it.
  •  Words that work.
  • How to avoid being misunderstood.
  • Ask the patient/customer if they are happy with what you have just told them.
  • The “smile” factor.
  • Having a positive approach

DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS AND SITUATIONS

  • Know how to handle a difficult situation.
  • Feel confident in what/who you are dealing with.
  • Identify the problem. Get to the right solution.
  • Anticipating problems before they happen.
  • Defusing a situation
  • Remember everyone is different
  • Lack of listening can prove to be damaging.
  • Use eye contact whenever possible.
  • Be alert! at ALL times
  • Know your practice policy if someone wants to make a complaint. Make sure you know where the complaints forms are kept.

KNOW HOW TO AVOID THOSE TRAPS

  • How to deal with the busiest times of day ie first thing / lunchtime
  • Rota staff to accommodate your busiest times.
  • Ensure you have backup when staff are on holidays or sick.
  • Ensure that there is always someone allocated to answering the telephone
  • Ensure that there is always someone on the front desk
  • Ensure that ALL staff has appropriate training
  • Ensure that you have policies/procedure if your computer system should go down.

and REMEMBER:

A good Service is only whatever the patient/customer thinks it is.