Receptionists Fight Back #DailyMail


The Daily Mail Newspaper run a story last week sharing patient stories about rude and unhelpful Doctors Receptionists are and how patients couldn’t get appointments. Any Doctors Receptionist will tell you how difficult their job can be. Lack of appointments, demanding patients wanting prescriptions without waiting the required 48 hours and often working short-handed due to staff holidays or sickness.

Along with making appointments and dealing with prescriptions, patient enquiries, requests from the doctors and hospital requests they are often dealing with a death of a patient, sometimes a child that they might have dealt closely with on a daily basis. A bereavement of a patent does have a big impact on the Reception team.  They also deal with terminally ill patients ensuring that their needs are et.It can indeed be a very tough job.

In response to the article some of the Receptionists have given their “side” and tell how often they take abuse from the patients. This does happen as I have witnessed it myself and have had many receptionists sharing horror stories with me about the way they have been treated.

Every Receptionist deserves the appropriate training when it comes to dealing with some of these issues.

Here are some of the issues Receptionists are faced with on a daily basis. Follow the link below

https://t.co/k6epks2WLU

 

Speaking to Receptionists on the importance of Training


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Would you employ a Doctor or Nurse at your Practice that didn’t have any qualifications? No – so why did I even ask such a stupid question? Of course you wouldn’t. You go for the best candidate there is don’t you?

What is the first thing you look for on a CV? Previous experience, qualifications/training and the availability they can offer.

When you employ a Practice Nurse or another member to the healthcare team they are usually offered ongoing training. This will benefit the Practice, more clinics can be run, and therefore a better service offered to the patients.

So, why should a Receptionist be any different? They are part of the team, they are there to give a good service to the patients, and to support the Doctors, Nurses and the Practice Management Team and to achieve that they need the appropriate training to do this.

A good majority of General Practice Receptionists are woman, over 40 years of age and on average half have been in the job for more than five years. Four-fifths work part-time.

Comments from Receptionists are they have chosen the job because it dovetails with the rest of their lives.

What they get from their job is satisfaction from helping patients, meeting people, having a good relationship with colleagues and doing varied work.

Sources of stress include difficult patients, work pressures often down to shortage of staff, problems finding appointments to give to patients, and feeling caught between the doctors and the patients demands (piggy in the middle effect)

Dealing with difficult situations at the front desk, or over the phone is often highlighted in training courses, and often Receptionists feel unsupported when dealing with these incidents.

Many had a sense of teamwork with colleagues, but many did not perceive the whole practice as a team. Many felt the doctors failed to appreciate the pressure and complexity of their work.

A receptionist’s work is very complex, demanding and intense often involving a high level of commitment to patients, colleagues and the practice.

Speaking to Receptionists at various training sessions always bring different responses on how they feel supported by their Practice especially when it comes to training.

They vary from hardly any support at all, and having to learn whilst doing the job, to others that have support and training on a regular basis.

A role as a medical Receptionist is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. I have seen Receptionists lasting as short as a day to perhaps a week before saying “this isn’t the “nice little job I thought it was going to be’

A Receptionist that lasts is there because of their love for the job. If they do not feel supported they will leave, and move on to a Practice whereby they will be supported and appreciated. Don’t be that Practice that loses all your good staff.

I asked a group of Receptionists what did they think is most important when it comes to training for the role of a Doctors Receptionist – their replies included:

Quality time to get used to the job and the rest of the team”

Shadowing and taking notes, one to one time somewhere quite and more so when it comes to getting to grips with the computer system”

“Training on confidentiality – understanding what can and cannot be said”

“I must admit I was frustrated at being  “thrown in at the deep end” approach. There has to be an element of this because of the nature of the role, but some protected time is needed”

“Reception training is an investment and saves time (and often tears) in the long run”

Learning to deal with difficult situations at the front desk – I was faced with a bereavement at the front desk recently and didn’t know how to handle it”

“Being able to ask questions that get fully answered”

I asked, “What training their Practice had for their Receptionists” and the replies included”

“I was told at my interview that an induction programme would be put in place for me when I started, and it never happened – although the intentions were there. There simply was never the right time”

“The two receptionists asked to train me on the job felt resentful and that they had been “landed with me which made me feel awful”

“Other staff members were often reluctant to explain things in fear I might ask more questions, they clearly felt under pressure”

“The office Manager was immensely encouraging to me and I learnt so much from her. She proved very canny at sensing when I was struggling and would step in with down to earth words and support”

“I had to cancel a couple of training courses due to staff shortages which meant I was needed in Reception – and to date I haven’t had the chance to re-do them”

“My Team Leader and Practice Manager are wonderful and support us Receptionist with ongoing training”

A new Receptionist needs time to pick up a wide range of skills and variables associated with this underestimated role. People learn in different ways and often at different speeds. Some are ace at IT and pick up the computer system in no time, but perhaps struggle with terminology. Some get flustered easily and find it difficult dealing with difficult situations; others are able to cope with the pressure that patients (and often doctors) throw their way on what can sometimes be an hourly basis.

The role of the Receptionist is endless. You never get to the point and are able to say “there I know it all now” every day brings something new.

I asked Receptionists how their felt that training has benefited them and their replies were”

“Good training can be enjoyable, fun and such a benefit to the Receptionist, the patients and the Practice”

“Patients deserve to have staff that are confident and comfortable in their role”

Patients will leave satisfied, and hopefully reassured’

“I enjoy training – I feel I have the space to ask questions and enjoy meeting others in similar roles”

“Doctors, nurses, Practice Management will be supported by the reception team and therefore be able to work more effectively themselves.

“Jobs are completed and not just “left” because the Receptionist is unsure about completing a task, be it a letter, phone call or a query at the front desk.

“Team members work more efficiently when everyone understands their role, and the role of others around them”

It is so important that a new Receptionist is given time, and more time if needed. Investment in staff right from the start is so important.

Take some time to find out the needs of your Practice and also the needs of the Receptionist.

You’re Receptionist are the ambassadors of your Practice and deserve to be supported in the role.

Infection Control in Reception


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Infection control starts the minute someone walks through the front door of your organisation.

It is important that sufficient information, training and support is put in place for all Receptionists and frontline staff to help them deal with the various daily challenges involving infection control.

Staff need to be reassured that the job that they are doing is done well and that they continue to be supported and motivated to provide a good service to your patients.

Staff should be adequately trained to deal with infection control and this training should include cleaners and all Reception staff.

Training

Infection control training should take place on a regular basis for all staff. Do you include cleaners in your training? Some practices have outside agencies; if so, do they hold a copy of your Infection Control Policy?

Does your organisation have a designated person for Infection Control? Is all your staff aware of whom this is?

Do you have a report policy in place for identifying any risks of infection control – Reception should be included in this policy and know whom they should report to.

The Infection Control lead person should carry out the following:

  • Help to motivate colleagues to improve good practice
  • Improve local implementation of infection control policies
  • Ensure that infection control audits are undertaken
  • Assist in the training of colleagues
  • Help identify any Infection Control issues within your organisation and work to resolve these.
  • Act as a role model within your organisation.
  • Ensure that Infection Control protocols are reviewed and updated on a regular basis – or delegate to an appropriate person.

Hand Washing Procedures – Public and Staff Areas

Wash hand basins with suitable taps, liquid soap dispensers, alcohol rubs, paper towels and waste bins are essential items for all clinical care areas.

Whilst it is normally the responsibility of the cleaner to ensure that all of these areas are kept well stocked, some things might run out during the day. Therefore it is important that staff are made aware that these might need to be replenished throughout the day.

I have lost count of the number of times I recently have gone into hospitals and surgeries finding empty alcohol rubs, and toilets without toilet tissue or paper hand towels. It simply is not good enough.

Staff Immunisation Protection

Your Reception staff will be dealing with many Infection Control issues on a daily basis.

They will be receiving samples at the desk from patients. They will be dealing with patients that could possible come into your organisation with an infectious rash and could be asked to help with spillage. It therefore is important to include them in protection against Hepatitis B.

You should also offer your staff annual influenza immunisation.

Any immunisations given to your staff should be recorded. I would recommend that you record those that declined to have any immunisations.

Handling Specimens

Samples should come in a sealed container. I have had experience where many samples have come in all different shape and forms including:

  • A faeces sample in a child’s bucket
  • A faeces sample inside a plastic sandwich bag.
  • A urine sample inside a Tupperware container – the patient in fact asked when we had tested the urine could she have the container back as it was one of her “best containers”
  • A urine sample inside an empty perfume bottle.

These of course are not acceptable, for one it is not acceptable to expect the Receptionist (or nurse) to deal with this, and of course it is not in a sterile container.

Each and every sample should include all the necessary information about the patient, failing to do so could result in the labs refusing to carry out the necessary tests, resulting in the patient having to do the test again and possibly delaying any treatment that may be required.

All blood or potentially infected matter such as urine or faeces for lab testing should be treated as high risk and the necessary precautions taken.

The Reception Area

At the end of each day the Reception area should be left tidy. Often cleaners are instructed not to move paperwork or other items and work around them. Untidy desks therefore do not get cleaned as well as a clear desk.

Ensure that there are disposable gloves available in Reception for the receiving of samples from patients.

Any spillage in reception should be dealt with immediately and reported to the appropriate person.

Magazines and books should be replaced on a regular basis.

Toys made available for children should also be cleaned on a regular basis.

Public telephones should be wiped at regular intervals.

There should be a designated room for patients that might present themselves with a possible infectious disease i.e. chicken pox, measles etc. It is also important to inform the Doctor or Nurse that the patient is in the designated room, as often there is no tannoy facility to call patients in and often they could be missed.

Ensure that there are sick bowls available in Reception as this will be the first place the patient will come to if feeling unwell.

Ensure there are bins available in the waiting room, especially important for the disposal of used tissues, and possible a sign asking patient to place their used tissues in them.

Receptionist play a big part in Infection Control, more than we might sometime realise and its vital that they get it right, and also get the support that they require to do their job well.

Ensure that new staff have Infection Control as part of their induction training, and the necessary protocols are put in place for the Reception Area.

Talk to your Receptionists in a team meeting, often they will identify an area that may not been covered with a protocol. They are the experts in their area – RECEPTION.

 

 

Patient Access – Appointments


imagesCAUP3U1D“Improving patient access” is all something that we hear about on a daily basis. It constantly being discussed at all levels, Partner meetings, Reception Team Meetings and Multidisciplinary Meetings. There is no one working within the NHS who is not aware of this.

As Managers we all strive to make patient access the best we possibly can. Often systems are changed to try to accommodate patients, yet still we hear people complaining that they are unable to access appointments for days at a time.

Not having appointments can often cause frustration not only from the patients, but from the Receptionist Team too, they often feel that are unable to do their jobs and often having to deal with difficult situations because some patients can become aggressive.

I decided to be proactive and look at the amount of DNA’s we had at the surgeries I managed. We had over 30,000 patients and I was shocked when I realised just how many hours were being wasted on a daily / weekly / monthly basis by patients for whatever reason not attending their appointments.

Patients are often the cause of the lack of appointments. It is not acceptable to just “not turn up”.

But what can we do to improve DNA’s? What does your surgery do to try and keep on top the wasted appointments?

Some surgeries (and hospitals) display in the waiting room the number of DNA’s each month, and this can be pretty horrifying when you see just how many appointments are wasted in this way. But of course the people who did not turn up for their appointment do not see these statistics.

Some hospitals will send out a text message a few days before an appointment, thus giving the opportunity to cancel if the appointment is no longer needed (also a good reminder if the patient has forgotten) This system will only be helpful for those with mobile phones, perhaps not so good for some of the elderly that may not use mobiles.

Some hospitals are now sending out reminder letters a week before the appointment, again helpful when the initial appointment might have been made some months before.

Adding something to a Surgery website is another way to encourage patients to cancel unwanted appointments, you could also display the DNA’s for the previous month.

Practice Newsletters is also another way of encouraging people to cancel rather than just not turning up.

We did a trail at one of our surgeries. When a patient DNA their appointment a letter was sent to them pointing out that they missed their last appointment, and the practice would appreciate if they could not attend a future appointment could they please phoned and cancel the appointment. The letter would go on to explain the amount of DNA’s the surgery was experiencing and that patients were having problems booking appointments.

Another surgery I know of has a system in place, that they feel works extremely well and have been getting positive feedback from patients and the Receptionists. They have over 25,000 patients, and have their fair share of DNA’s. They found the amount of DNA’s they were experiencing each day was getting increasingly frustrating for the staff. The Reception Team Leader started getting the Reception Team on the late shift to phone the patients who had DNA that day to ask the reason why they had not attended their appointment. They make the call as friendly as possible; the call is not made with “all guns blazing” or “pointing a finger” at the patient for not attending. The Receptionist simply asks the patient did they realise they missed an appointment today, and would they require another appointment. They found that most patients were extremely sorry for missing their appointments, and some genuinely did forget, but more important it made the patients aware that the Surgery was monitoring the appointments. Since starting this system they have found that their DNA has fallen.

The most important thing when doing this is when a patient cancels an appointment that IT IS CANCELLED. Often for whatever reason if appointment stays on the screen, despite the patient cancelling the appointment it could result in a letter or a phones call going to the patient.

This unfortunately happened at our surgery, a patient was sent a letter when she had in fact cancelled her appointment, and understandably was quite upset when she received a letter. If this system was to work it is essential that every single Receptionist understand the importance of cancelling appointments on the screen – in not doing so could result in the surgery receiving a complaint.

By highlighting the amount of DNA’s in these ways it lets your patients know that you are monitoring your appointments system – especially for those patients that just have not “bothered” to cancel their appointment.

It could also flag up that patients are perhaps cancelling, but for whatever reason they are not being cancelled on the system – which could indicate a training need.

Are appointments being booked too far in advance (i.e 6 monthly BP checks, diabetics checks etc) if so how can you best deal with this? Could you use the texting system to remind patients a few days before their appointment?

I am always in favour of giving out appointment cards especially to the elderly. Always remember to put the day as well as the date on the card along with the time.

Monitoring DNA’s will flag up those that repeatedly fail to attend.

Always approach patients about DNA’s in a positive way. Explain that the Surgery is trying to look as the amount of DNA’s and at ways of decreasing these and feedback on why they DNA would help with the exercise.

Explain if patients cancel their unwanted appointments then this will free up more for other patients – which could be them.

And when a patient does take the time to call the surgery to cancel an appointment, the Receptionist should always thank them for taking the time to do so.

Patients have to be made aware that by not cancelling their appointments it just adds more pressure to the already busy system.

Story of Four People


This is a story about four people

 

EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY AND NOBODY

There was an important job to be done and EVERYBODY was asked to do it.

ANYBODY could have done it, but NOBODY did it.

SOMEBODY got angry about that because it was EVERYBODY’S job.

EVERYBODY thought ANYBODY could do it but NOBODY realised that EVERYBODY wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY when actually NOBODY asked ANYBODY.

 

Good Clear Communication Starts With Each of Us!

The Primary goal of communication is to increase listening and understanding.