The Sunshine Patient



Working on the front desk as a Receptionist you deal with thousands of patients over the years. But there are those few patients that will always stay in your mind for different reasons. If I think back to the many lovely patients I use to deal with one that automatically springs to mind is Andrew (I have changed his name for this story).

Let me tell you about Andrew and how he used to lighten up my day when he came into the surgery. He was like a ray of sunshine.

Andrew used to come in on a fairly regular basis with his Dad. Andrew was 25 years old and had Downs Syndrome.

It was just Andrew and his Dad – on getting to know them more I found out that sadly Andrew’s mum had died in their house due to Carbon monoxide poisoning. Andrew and his dad were extremely lucky to pull through – but it was so obvious how they missed their wife and mum.

When I first started dealing with Andrew and his Dad on the front desk it was always his dad that made the appointments, did the talking and insisted on going into see the doctor with Andrew.

The doctor that Andrew (and his dad) used to see on a regular basis was concerned that Andrew was not being allowed to be more independent and do more for himself – but the Doctor also identified that this was mainly down to Andrew’s dad not wanting to “let go”. Andrew was all he had in the world. But at the same time it was not fair to Andrew he was being held back.

After some months getting to know Andrew and his Dad Andrew started to really come out of himself and would chat away at the front desk to me he would joke and laugh with me. I always got a great big beam from him when he came into Reception.

Andrew would happily tell me about his day – what they had done that morning and what there were going to do that afternoon. I always looked forward to his visits and the stories he had to tell.

Then Andrew starting to hold the conversation more every time he came in. Andrew even started to book his next appointment by himself and actually started going in to see the doctor on his own. I seen Andrew grow with such confidence. The doctor that Andrew was seeing was extremely supportive and understood Andrews needs so well.

When Andrew was in with the doctor one morning his dad was chatting to me at the desk. He opened up to his fears about Andrew, and confessed that he actually felt that he was holding Andrew back, but Andrew was all he had.  He confessed that he had even put a block on Andrew attending a day centre as he didn’t want to let go. I felt so sorry for his dad and for Andrew too. His main fear was that Andrew would die and he would be left with no one. The love he had for Andrew was amazing but he was holding him back.

Andrew continued to flourish and he even got a bit bold at times – in a nice way. The cheeky chap even tried to chap me up for his dad once and asked if I would go to their house for fish and chips that Friday night – it was all in good fun and he understood that I couldn’t go as I had to get home to my two girls.

Andrew’s confidence continued to grow, with the help of the GP his dad finally agreed that Andrew could go to a day centre – Andrew just loved it there. His eyes would sparkle when he told me about his days there and the friends that he had made.

But his dad’s fears of loosing Andrew never went away.

Life continued in the surgery and Andrew and his Dad’s visit became less frequent. Andrew was becoming much more independent and loved his days at the centre.

Then one Monday morning I was checking through the out of hours reports and to my horror seen that there had been a death at their address – Andrew’s dad had died of a massive heart attack.

I never got to see Andrew again – and never knew what happened to him, but one thing for sure I know that wherever he went he would have brightened up their days just like he had done to mine whenever he came into the surgery.

I would like to think that the independence that Andrew gained over the years would have given him some strength to get through the loss of his Dad.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

The Walk In Patient

I had been working at the surgery for a couple of years. I got to know many of the patients and formed quite a bond with a lot of them.

We had our regular patients that came  in on a weekly basis they would come in for all sorts of things. Perhaps to have their blood pressure checked with the Practice Nurse, or have follow-up appointments with the Doctors, or perhaps mums to be popping in to see the midwife for their anti natal appointments. Or just to drop off and pick up their prescriptions.

For whatever reason you couldn’t help getting to know them and their families. The biggest thing for me was the bond that was built up – the unspoken trust that was there between the Receptionist and the Patient. That is what I liked about the surgery work – was getting to know your patients.

Working for the out of hours was different – very rarely did you see the same patient – although it did happen sometimes.

So, one Monday afternoon around 1.00 a gentleman came into the surgery – he came to the desk and asked if he could see a Doctor straight away. I explained that the Doctors were out doing their visits – he asked if he could see a Doctor that afternoon – I checked the appointment diary – and I suspected before looking the surgery was full. I looked and I was right. I told the gentleman the surgery was full – and before I had the chance to ask him if it was urgent (as I suspected it might have been) he replied – “that’s fine – sorry to have troubled you – I will try again tomorrow” He turned to walk away.

Alarm bells rang straight away. Why might you ask – well that the difference of “knowing” your patients – let me explain.

  1.  I did not recognise this patient. OK that’s not enough to ring alarm bells. But I knew he was not a regular to the surgery – so I had to ask myself what brought him in today?
  2. If the patient had been a regular patient he would have known that we did not have a surgery at that time of day and there would be a great possibility the doctors would be doing their visits.
  3. Regular patients would have known that a Monday was near on impossible to get a “walk in” appointment, so therefore if it had have been important/urgent he would have said. Appointments were always given if it was urgent. So it was either not urgent – or he didn’t know the system.

As he turned away I seen that this man certainly did not look too good I called and asked him his name.

He gave me his name I asked him to wait and I went and got his notes. He notes very paper-thin – again alarm bells started ringing – why? Because this was a man who hardly came to the Doctors – so why was he here now?

Being a Doctors Receptionist you have to ask patients on a regular basis what their problem is – this is not to be nosey but to ensure that the patient is seen by the correct healthcare professional. It’s amazing how many people will ask to see the Doctor when in fact they can be seen by the nurse, the midwife or the Health Visitor. It is vital to keep appointments for the doctor for those that need to see the Doctor.

So I asked the patient what the problem was – and if it was urgent then I would have ensured that he was put into surgery that afternoon.

He then turned to me and said that he had been experiencing chest pains all that morning.

I had to act quickly – without distressing the patients in any way.

By luck the duty Doctor had just arrived back from his visits. I went to him and explained about the patient with chest pains. He saw him straight away.

Within minutes the doctor had called 999 – the man was having a heart attack.

Being a Doctors Receptionist is a very responsible job. The pay is not great – and the work is never-ending. But there is such a great deal of satisfaction that you can get in many areas. I will be sharing more stories about my experiences throughout my blog.

The patient mentioned in this blog was in hospital for a week, made a good recovery and was back to normal again soon after.

I am so glad that I recognised the “signs” and asked him what the problem was.

So next time the Receptionist asks you what the problem is …………………… is for your benefit – not theirs.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved