Disability Awareness #Receptionists Training


Staff training is important not only for the Receptionist but for the patient too. Trained staff are confident staff and therefore can often handle difficult situations in the Reception area.

When we talk about staff training we automatically think of

       Telephone Skills

       Patient Confidentiality

       Dealing with Difficult Situations

       Reception Etiquette

But how many Practices offer Disability Awareness Training for their Reception staff?

The attitudes of staff are crucial in ensuring that the needs of disabled people are met.

There are many types of disabilities, and can affect a person’s:

  •        Vision
  •        Movement
  •        Thinking
  •        Remembering
  •        Learning
  •        Communicating
  •        Hearing
  •        Mental Health
  •        Social Relationships

Are you staff prepared if a wheelchair user needs assistance or if a patient has a visual impairment and needs help? It is important that Receptionists understand the needs of your patients that have a disability. And of course there are the hidden disabilities that we need to be made aware of too.

Disability Awareness Training will help your staff:

  •        Understand the barriers faced by people with disabilities
  •        To help identify when accessibility is important
  •        Explore their own attitude towards disability and accessibility
  •        Define the medical and social model of disability
  •        Identify barriers people with disabilities face and how to remove those barriers
  •        Develop an awareness within the team
  •        Be aware and be able to use appropriate language and body language in relation to a person with a disability
  •        Feel more confident in their role

Disabilities can include

  •        Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  •        Autism
  •        Brain Injury
  •        Hearing Loss and Deafness
  •        Intellectual Disability
  •        Learning Disability
  •        Memory Loss
  •        Mental Illness
  •        Physical Disability
  •        Speech and Language Disorders
  •        Vision Loss and Blindness

and not forgetting

Temporary Disabilities, which can include:

  •        Sporting injuries
  •        People with broken bones
  •        People recovering from an operation
  •        Pregnant Woman
  •        People with Severe back pain
  •        People with young children / pushchairs (in the event of an emergency they may require assistance)

These people and people with permanent disabilities are important when it comes to evacuating the building in the case of an emergency. Are you staff trained in emergency evacuation and assisting people with a disability in such an event?

When someone speaks of a disabled person do you automatically think ………….Wheelchair? Actually wheelchair users only account for 6% of that figure. There are so many disabilities that we cannot actually see. Some disabilities you can see and some you can’t.

The Hidden Disability

Whilst it is very easy identify someone in a wheelchair, be it a guide dog or walking aid, or someone who has aids in their ears, it is the hidden disability that can often go unnoticed.

People today still have problems with reading and writing; I came across this several times when I was working in Reception. 99% of the patients would not own up to this, it was simple observation on my part that identify this and in turn I was able to help the patient without too much of a fuss drawn to them.

It is important when patients object to filling out forms at the front desk that you do not “insist” it simply might be that they cannot read or write.

Often the excuses they use when asked to complete a form is “oh I have left my glasses at home” or I am in a hurry can I take it away and bring it back later” and even “I am not sure of the information I will need to go home and find this out and bring it back later” to which some will but many will not return the forms. People that have problems reading and writing do feel intimidated if the Receptionist insists as they quite often have to “own up” to their disability often causing embarrassment to them and the Receptionist.

Knowing the signs the Receptionist will be able to deal with the situation in such a way that the patient is unaware of the Receptionists suspicions. Offering to help fill out the form in a quiet area is often met with such a relief from the patient. They are more than happy to let the Receptionist help. Again, if the Receptionist suspects that the patient might have problems with reading and writing she can offer to help the patient in the future. Trust is built up between the patient and the Receptionist and quite often the patient will confide in the Receptionist of their disability.

It is important that staff have an understanding of different disabilities, and how best to help them.

Often speakers from different Disability organisations will only be too happy to come into your organisation and speak to staff, highlighting areas that will benefit the patients and the Receptionists.

Sending staff on external training courses is also an option, you could send one member of staff and they could come back and train other Receptionists, or you could send different staff to different courses therefore getting a mix of knowledge in the Reception area. All of which will greatly benefit the patients and the Receptionists.

Disabled people go to school, work, form relationships, do their washing, eat, get angry, pay taxes, laugh, try, have prejudices, vote, plan and dream like anyone else.

Whilst the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them, do not label them.

Treat them as individuals.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Walk in my shoes – would you treat me any differently.

A moving short clip from you tube from Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

Any one of us could be one of the people in this film. We have and will be patients and loved ones at some point in our lives. Treat people with the respect they deserve.


To often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest art of caring all of which have the potential to turn a life around. 

Leo Buscaglia (1924 – 1998) 




The Swans. Calm on the Top – paddling like mad on the bottom


I was invited to carry out some Reception training yesterday. It was for a private healthcare provider that accommodates in and out patients. It was a big organisation and I must say it was a stunning place to be in.It was 5* and one of the nicest healthcare buildings that I have been in. The grounds were beautiful and the facilities just top notch.

As soon as I walked through the door the atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone smiling, extremely friendly and their customer service was excellent. The residents and their families looked relaxed and extremely happy.There was a buzz around the building.

I had rung on several occasions prior to the training to speak to the HR Manager and every single time the Receptionists telephone manner was excellent.

I began to ask myself why was I here. Their Reception skills appeared to be perfect.

I did two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to attend.

It soon began to emerge that at times some of the Receptionist were like swans, swimming calmly on the top yet paddling like mad and not getting very far on the bottom.

The reasons slowly started emerging throughout out the session.

The Reception is covered from early to late evening 24/7 with security over night. Each Receptionist works on their own in Reception and each shift is very different. Although they work in Reception on their own there is constant support if needed.

This was the first time that the Receptionists had actually come together for training. The weekend Receptionists coming together with the morning, afternoon and evening receptionists and the night security was there too.

They never have any team meetings. Never have the opportunity to talk together as a team or to discuss reception issues or to put ideas forward, to be together as a team instead of working as an individual.

During the training it was obvious that each shift is worked very different. Each of the shifts had their own daily tasks to do. The morning shift busy with telephones, suppliers, and doctors’ visits and staff queries.

The afternoon shift is busy with administration, post and staff winding down for the day. Both morning and afternoon shift have visitors coming and going. Funeral directors calling, and the usual numerous telephone queries that they have to deal with.

The evening shift is busy with the mainly visitors coming and going throughout along with taxi’s turning up to collect people. The evening shift also had administration duties to do.

The weekend staff hardly ever see their colleagues that work during the week. Their main duties are looking after the vast amount of visitors that come and go all weekend.

Some of the Receptionists admitted they felt incompetent when they had to cover another shift. They often didn’t know what was expected of them, and admitted they often made mistakes due to the shift doing such different tasks. Some admitted that this could actually put them off helping out on another shift.

As any Receptionist will tell you. Reception is not just about greeting people and answering the telephone…………….It is so much more.

We discussed the benefits of having protocols and many agreed that they would really feel more confident if they had some sort of guidance there to help them if they become stuck. Lets face it — it is pretty embarrassing when a funeral director calls for paperwork and the receptionist has no idea what to do as she usually works weekends.

The Receptionists all agreed that it is something that they would like to do, understanding that it would be their responsibility to do a protocol for each of their jobs on their shift. They agreed they would be the best people to write the protocol.

They full understood that it wouldn’t be something that they would do overnight, it would take time to build up the protocols, but all agreed it would be worth it in the end, and from that they all felt that they would be more confident to cover other people’s shifts, and in the event that they come across something that they were not sure about that there would be a protocol to follow.

Each shift would have a file with their protocols in.

The training was fun, they were a lovely group of people and their customer skills are fantastic. They are lucky to work in such a beautiful building for a company that appear to be lovely to work for. Every single one of the Receptionist  said that they loved their job and that really did shine through, but they felt that they would love to have the opportunity of knowing what tasks were expected of them if they worked another shift.

But a bit more support in the way of a team meeting every so often, and perhaps more in house training, or as we discussed protocols to help them understand what goes on in the other shifts would certainly go a long way to giving them more confidence, and in turn wanting to help out when a session needs covering.

Working in and managing Reception staff in GP surgeries I could identify with what the Receptionists were telling me, each shift is different, and have many different tasks that needed to be carried out.

Not having the correct training or adequate information could prevent staff not wanting to cover other shift, which could result in staff shortages on shifts, or difficulty getting someone to do a shift.

Residents, Visitors, Staff all see the Receptionist as one person – the person that is there to carry out a task asked of them, some not aware that perhaps they do not know what to do.

It is the employers responsibility to ensure  that the staff are all shown or have the information available to do these tasks asked of them.

Fully trained staff are confident staff  resulting in less mistakes and in turn are happier in their role .

Protocols do not have to be complicated — simply written out. Here is an example on how you could start off your protocols 


(Sample Procedure)

Procedure / Protocol


Incoming Post

  • Post will arrive approximately 9.00 every day.
  • All post is opened by the Receptionist – except the following

–  Letter marked private and confidential

–  Letters marked for addressee only

–  Letter from Bank   – all to go to Pat in Account.

  • Each letter is date stamped — the date stamp is kept in the 3rd draw under the desk.
  • When all the letters are date stamped the letters should go into the appropriate pigeonholes
  • Follow protocol for “Post for staff on holiday”
  • Any post that has to be signed for please inform the member of staff immediately that it has arrived.


Hand delivered post

  • Follow procedures as above.


Outgoing Post

  • All staff are aware that the post has to be in Reception no later than 4.30
  • As the post comes through to Reception throughout the day frank with the necessary postage — taking care when difference postage amounts is required.
  • Try not to leave all the post to the end of the day as you could be busy doing something else and the postman will then be kept waiting.
  • Put the post in the basket on the back shelf behind the Reception desk.
  • The postman usually calls into Reception at 5.00 to collect the post.


Post needing to go to the Post Office

  • Any post that needs to go to the Post Office such as a registered letter/package will need to be done before the end of day.
  • If you are going to the post office ensure that Reception is covered or if not covered ensure that you let someone know you are going and the desk will be left unmanned for a short time.


Procedure/Protocol written on…………………………               updated on……………………

Prepared by……………………………………………….                      Position……………………….

Approved by ………………………………………………                    Position………………………..


The most important thing to remember when having protocols in Reception is that they are kept updated as and when the task changes. Not doing this could be worse than having nothing in writing. Perhaps you could review the protocols every so often and discuss at team meetings.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

When Love Shines Through #LivingWithDementia




I recently had a meeting at a local private Healthcare Centre that specialises in care for the elderly. They also have a unique purpose-built centre for patients suffering with dementia.

The building was beautiful and the staff every bit as nice. I was there to discuss Receptionists Training for their staff. I sat in the comfort of the impressive lounge with lovely coffee shop attached whilst I waited on my appointment.

Staff interacted with the patient whilst they all sat and had their mid morning coffee. There was a great buzz around the building. There was lots of laughter and chatting taking place.

Whilst I sat watching everyone going about their daily routine my eyes fixed on a man walking through the door with whom I took to be his mother. He gently led her by her arm walking at her pace and brought her over to a sofa close to where I was sitting but far enough away that I didn’t feel I was intruding.

She didn’t utter a word; she had a blank look on her face almost like she was in a world of her own. He sat her down with great care talking to her all the time. She never once spoke back or looked as if she had heard anything he was saying.

He went over the counter and ordered 2 coffees. He came back, put the sugar and milk into her cup chatting to her all the time.

I didn’t want to stare but the love that this man had for this frail elderly woman shone through, in his gentle words he spoke and the way he attended to her with such care.

She still said nothing; she just sat there glazing out of the big window in front of her.

The man got out an ipad and started flicking through photographs. Every single picture he spoke to her, sharing with her the people who were in the pictures. She continued to sit with the blank look on her face.

Then as he turned to the next picture she smiled, turned to him and looked him straight in the eyes and for a very brief moment the love she had for him shone through.

It brought a lump to my throat.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Changing Times

I was chatting to a friend the other day and we were reminiscing about the “old days” and what our memories were as a child and how things have changed especially in our line of work over the years.

Mine was visiting my doctor as a child and just how things have changes so much over the years.

As a child I remember going into this great big house, (as a child I would have described this as a mansion) which was the Doctors Surgery, and where she lived. I can still remember so many details of that house, the grounds the house stood on, the big sweeping driveway that you drove in one way and out the other, the ivy climbing the walls and the great big red door to the main house – I always wondered what was beyond that door (this was the main entrance to the big house)

The Surgery entrance was at the side of the house, a smaller less obvious door and was black in colour. We would walk through the door and straight into the small waiting room – the receptionist sat in the same room behind a desk with one cabinet that held the notes.

Just one Doctor and one Receptionist, not even a nurse.

No fax machines, no computers, no scanners just a desk, a telephone with one line and one filing cabinet.

I used to think the receptionist was a nurse as she wore a white  coat. Confidentiality was unheard of as the receptionist discussed ailments with the patients and many personal details given at the desk for all to hear. Everyone would hang on to her every word as she spoke to patients on the telephone – often speaking names, addresses and ailments – no confidentiality at all – yet it seems to be accepted.

No radio or telly playing the background, no toys for the children to play with just a room with chairs and the reception desk.

I remember later on in years I went into that same reception area and as I approached the desk the receptionist looked up, beamed and said congratulations on your pregnancy – the room was full of people, and people in there that I knew but the worse for me was I wasn’t actually pregnant, she had in fact got me mixed up with another patient. It never entered my head to complain, to me a mistake was made and she was truly sorry when she realised her mistake. I wonder how that would have been handled these days?

We would then get called through to see the Doctor – as a child I was always in awe of her – she was old (or old to me as a child) but the one thing that enticed me into her room was the great big jar of jelly babies that sat proudly on her desk – if I was good I would always get a jelly baby before we left her room. I remember once actually getting 2 – I cannot remember if this was by mistake or if I had been particularly good.

The room was grand, it had big French doors opening onto a big garden, which would be wide open in the summer and in the winter months she would have a big open fire blazing away, not a fire guard in sight and her much-loved sheep dog would be lying in front of it. No Health and Safety issues back in those days.

There were no disabled access for patients in wheelchairs or any aids for people with special needs.

Training for patient care was basic yet then sufficient. Training for general practice was in its infancy.

Years rolled on and practices expanded and the new receptionist fared only slightly better. Often “sitting with Mavis” was accepted, the only method of training new staff. “Mavis” would tell the new receptionist what to do, showed her how to do it, and after a couple of weeks left her to discover the rest for herself.

The title of Practice Manager was practically unknown; staff were expected to learn fast, no doubt acquiring good habits as well as bad. The knowledge and skills for the role as the receptionist were picked up by trial and error, and some very inappropriate attitudes were acquired along the way.

Over the years the importance of general practice within the health service increased in leaps and bounds.

Practices grew in numbers; multi disciplinary teams worked under the same roof, the Practice Managers became an extremely important part of the Practice. Larger Practices would have a whole management team run what now has gone from a one-doctor practice into a Practice that could have many doctors’ nurses and numerous other healthcare professionals working together with one aim – Patient Care.

Patient care, confidentiality and health and safety became a vital part of our working day.

However, sadly, until recently, the methods of training Receptionists within some organisations have failed to keep pace.

It is now generally accepted that quality of care and job satisfaction go hand in hand. Staff need to know not only what they are doing but also why they are doing it – “sitting with Mavis” is just not acceptable anymore.

Receptionists must understand their role and how their individual job contributes to the care of the patients and the smooth running of the whole practice.

Receptionists need not only to be trained but also to continue their education and personal development in order to keep up to date with an “ever changing role.”

Training Reception Staff

  • Initial assessment should be part of the selection process before employment.
  • What knowledge and skills does the applicant have as a result of past experience?
  • Is the applicant flexible to fit in with the team?
  • Are the applicants knowledge and skills appropriate, and, if not, can they be modified by training and experience?

Training Programmes

Planning Receptionist training must take account information about the following:

  • What the Practice believes that their Receptionists need in order to improve performances and satisfaction in their daily work.
  • What new skills and knowledge the Receptionist needs to gain in order to cope with change.
  • What the Receptionists themselves feels they need/would like to learn in order to expand their skills.

Has your Practice moved with the times? Do you support your Receptionists with training?


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

The Importance of Receptionists Training

imagesCAFXOIRQLast week I held a training course for new Receptionists.

I am very passionate about staff training. As a previous manager I felt that I owed it to staff to give them the appropriate training when starting as a new receptionist, secretary or administrator and to also provide longer service members of staff with more advanced training.

After all you would not hire a mechanic or a chief if they had not had the appropriate training – so why should a Receptionist be any different, after all they are the ambassadors of your surgery and therefore you want them to get it right.

It never ceases to amaze how new Receptionists (and fairly often a longer servicing member of staff) know so little about their role – especially the little things that could make their role so much better, and in turn run a more efficient Reception area and how it could be better for your surgery and therefore giving first class Customer Care to your patients and customers.

It always gives me enormous pleasure to be able to share with the group my experiences; how I gained my knowledge I was sharing with them and tips on how to make their role so much more. How they can become a Receptionist that any Practice would be proud of to have on their team.

What do I base my training on? Simply from experience – I too once sat in their seat, not knowing some of the things that I am now sharing with them. I embraced my role back then with enthusiasm and was hungry to learn more. By doing this I was always first to volunteer to go on another training course, taking on my NVQ and achieving so much more. This all came about from enjoying the courses, learning from the courses wanting to learn even more and putting all of these things into practice. I am forever grateful that my practice believed in me. I hope to pass on that enthusiasm  that on to others.

From a receptionists I worked my way up to a surgery supervisor, and then on to a Manager with another practice. Every single step on that ladder was built on the knowledge that I had learnt the qualifications that I got and the experience that I had gained. You too might have a Receptionist that has that hunger to learn and climb the ladder – can you think of one at your practice? Or are they there but not had the right training for them or you to see the potential they might have.

You might ask yourself why you should give them training. There will be costs involved. Staff will be away their posts to attend courses and perhaps extra costs to cover their hours while they are away.

Investing in staff training is vital. If you cannot afford to send all of your staff on training course why not bring the trainer into your surgery – or better still train one person up in your surgery to then train the others.

What are the benefits of staff training?

  • Staff will value you as an employer by supporting them in this way.
  • Staff will have more confidence in dealing with issues that might arise at Reception.
  • Their job will have more meaning; it will be more rewarding and satisfying.
  • Their job will become more interesting – the more they learn the more they understand
  • They will be valued by your patients and customers as they will be able to offer a first class service.
  • They will enjoy testing and improving on their skills – and hopefully want to learn more.

What are the training needs of Reception Staff?

  • Receptionist Training (aimed at new Receptionists)
  • Patient Confidentiality
  • Telephone Techniques
  • Dealing with difficult patients
  • Basic Health and Safety
  • Disability Awareness
  • Team Leader training (ideal for those that are being promoted within)


Invest in your staff – well trained staff are confident staff

Receptionist Training: Safely Evacuating People With A Disability

Evacuation procedures should always consider the possibility that someone may need assistance during a fire evacuation and you should be aware for the eventuality.

In the event of a Fire Evacuation please be aware that there may be less abled people in the building, these may be patients, visitors or staff.

As a Receptionist it will be your duty to ensure that the Reception Area is cleared in the event of a Fire Alarm going off.

Patients that are in with the Doctor or Nurse will be the responsibility of who they are
seeing. They should escort them from their rooms and to the Fire Evacuation Meeting Point.

When planning to assist disabled persons from the building both permanent and
temporary disabilities should be considered.

Permanent Disabilities can include:

  •  Persons in wheelchairs
  • Persons that are Visually Impaired
  • Persons that have Impaired Hearing
  • Some Learning Disabilities
  • Elderly persons with walking aids
  • Elderly persons that may need assistance
  • People with arthritis or other disabilities that can lead to poor mobility.

Temporary Disabilities can include:                             

  • People with sporting injuries
  • People with broken bones (in a cast)
  • People recovering from an operation
  • Pregnant Women
  • People with serve back pain

Or other temporary disabilities

  • People with young children / pushchairs.

Some people may have a disability that is not obvious; this could cause a delay in patients evacuating the  building.


Evacuation may not be necessary or advisable.

If persons with disabilities cannot be transported from the building without using
a lift, assist persons with disabilities to a safe place, this could be in a room behind a Fire Door. Never used a lift when a Fire Alarm has been activated. If this procedure has taken place make sure that the Fire Officer is aware and knows exactly where they are. This usually applies if the disabled person is on the first floor or more.

If immediate evacuation is necessary (the fire is taking hold rapidly) be aware of
the following considerations:


Wheelchairs have many moving parts; some are not designed to withstand stress or lifting. You may need to remove the chair batteries to lessen the weight. Life support
equipment may be attached. In a life-threatening emergency it may be necessary to remove an individual from their wheelchair.

Lifting a person with minimal ability to move may be dangerous. If necessary, two or
three individuals may carry non-ambulatory persons from the building. Wheelchairs should not be used to descend stairwells, if at all possible. Non-ambulatory persons may have respiratory complications. Remove them from smoke or fumes immediately and determine their needs and preferences.

Ways of being removed from the wheelchair

Whether to extend or move extremities when lifting because of pain, catheter leg bags, braces, etc.

Whether to carry forward or backward on a flight of stairs

Whether a seat cushion or pad should be brought along if the wheelchair is being left behind

In lieu of a wheelchair, does the  person prefer a stretcher, chair with cushion/aid, or car seat?

Remember not to block stairwells or exits with Wheelchairs

Is paramedic assistance necessary – if so you may need to request an ambulance as well as the Fire Brigade?



Most visually impaired persons will be familiar with their immediate surroundings.
In an emergency situation:

Describe the nature of the emergency and offer to act as the “sighted guide” –  offer your elbow and escort him/her to a safe place.

As  you walk, describe where you are and advise of any obstacles. Reassure them at all times.

When you have reached safety, orient the person as to where you are and ask if  further assistance is needed. Again reassure them and confirm that they are safe.


Because persons with impaired hearing may not perceive emergency alarms, an alternative
warning technique is required. Two methods of warning:

1.  Write a note describing the emergency and escort them to the nearest evacuation

2.  Turn the light switch off and on to gain their attention. Then indicate through
gestures what is happening and what to do.


Some patients with learning disabilities are often with Carers and they will be able to guide
them to safety. If the Carer has more than one Patient you might need to help them evacuate the building.

We cannot always know if someone has a learning disability as they cope extremely
well with day-to-day situations. But in the event of an emergency it could lead to panic or stress for the patient.

Some people with learning disabilities may come to your organisation on their own, and normally deal with day-to-day issues extremely well. But in the event of an emergency this may cause them to panic – If you see someone who seems to be getting stressed go over  and help them to the Emergency Exit.

Reassure them as much as you can. When they are safely out of the building ask someone to stand with them until it is safe to go back into the building again.


Elderly persons can often get confused; they are slower in their reactions and can
often have medical problems that are not obvious. If you see elderly people in
the reception area guide them towards the Emergency Exit.

Although it is important to get them out of the building as quickly as possibly you will
need to understand they are not going to act as quickly as you.


Pregnant WomanIf a woman is near the end of her pregnancy this could slow her down. She may also have other small children including a buggy with her, so if you identify this please make sure that someone assists her.

 Small Children – Some people may have more than one child with them and often a buggy, it is important that you direct them to the exit. In the event of a lot of people trying to evacuate through one exit it might be necessary to ask them to leave the buggy behind and help them get the small children out safely.

It is important to keep the children calm and not to frighten them in any way.

Sports Injuries – There might be patients in the waiting room with sports injuries; this may include patients that have broken legs, arms, back problems sprains or someone with a walking stick. It may be necessary to assist them from the building.

Generally  Unwell Patients – Patients that are generally unwell might find it difficult in an emergency with all patients if you see someone who is having some difficulties please ask them if they need assistance.

 Don’t be alarmed by the above; these are many Scenarios but hopefully won’t all be in the waiting room all at the same time!!!

Has your workplace got a policy in place for safely evacuating people safely from the building?

Have you got enough signs around your building for an Evacuation Meeting Point”?

Does your organisation have regular Fire Training? Would you know what to do in the event of an Evacuation?