Facebook Support Group For Receptionists / Administrators

Working for any areas of the healthcare industry can be extremely rewarding, exhausting and at times very frustrating. Hitting targets, keeping to budgets and following procedures and protocols on an ongoing basis while ensuring that your patients get the best possible service at all times can be often very stressful.

Often Managers, Receptionists and Administrators (and of course other healthcare professionals) can feel isolated and feel under pressure and at times also feel very unappreciated.

A Practice area that I worked at used to hold monthly Practice Managers Meetings. This would entail the Managers from all the local practices meeting up to support each other, share good practice and discuss any new policies and protocols that had come through from their local Health Authority. This group was invaluable to most of the managers. They didn’t feel alone, they always had some to share their worries and concerns with – and also to share with the others something that they had found that had worked well at their own Practice. We all had the same goal – to ensure that patient care came first and the best way to go forward with this.

This group worked extremely well. Although they only meet once a month the support didn’t stop there – they were always there to support each other via telephone and emails throughout the month. I as a manager used to enjoy these meetings and always found them to be very informative indeed.

From that I used to organise a quarterly receptionists meeting inviting one receptionist along from each practice in the area. We would discuss all issues around reception and it was amazing at what we could learn from each other. We would often recommend good training programmes that we had been on.

One Receptionist once said the good thing about the meetings was that she could take the good ideas away with her and leave the not so good ones behind. I had to agree – if every meeting one Receptionist took away one good idea away with her then the meeting was worth holding.

Sadly I am not involved in either group now. But I have found my blog to be supportive to many receptionists/Managers and it got me thinking………………………………..

I have decided not only to have my blog but to open a Facebook Page for all Receptionists/Administrators to come on and share their experiences. To ask advice on certain issues and just to chat about their roles and share good practice. Perhaps discuss and comment any of the blog that I have written on my blog.

My blog is read all around the world and it would be lovely to hear from everyone across the globe on their experiences working within the healthcare industry.

Is this something you might be interested in joining – if so please click onto FRIEND US ON FACEBOOK and this will take you to my page – I have a “Doctors Receptionist” link on the left hand side in “pages”

Hopefully we can support and share good practice.

Dealing with Difficult / Angry / Aggresive Patients.

Difficult patients can often come in a wide variety. For some patients that         are being unhappy can  be:

  • Picky people                                                              
  • Know it all
  • Constant complainers
  • They will not listen to reason.

We have all come across someone who fits the above – and will continue to do so – but it is how we handle them that is the most important thing and even more important how we learn from it too.

But perhaps the most difficult for everyone is the angry patient. This is someone who feels that he or she has been wronged, and is upset and emotional about it.

These patients will often complain, they are angry – usually about something that you or the surgery did (or did not do!).

What are the answers to handling difficult patients? There is not right and wrong way. Each patient / situation is different and will be dealt with in various ways by staff. It is how you handle the complaint that could make all the difference.

Dealing with difficult patients may not only benefit you (honestly) it will benefit the surgery as well; Being confident  at handling difficult patients is an asset to the practice and a credit to you if done well.  It will help with your confidence when dealing with the next difficult patient.


  • Aggressive behaviour is competitive with an aim to win. Therefore someone usually has to lose.
  • This is usually achieved by putting others down or over-riding others feelings, wishes, or rights.
  • The aggressive person cannot see another person’s point of view.
  • Often the aggressive character responds with an outright attack. The aggressive person can resort to verbal or even physical abuse.
  • All this will leave behind a trial of hurt, anger or humiliated feeling.

Words and phrases often connected with aggression

  • Loud
  • Forceful
  • Out to “win”
  • Puts others down
  • Attacks when threatened
  • Verbal and physical
  • Arrogant
  • Unreasonable
  • Threatening
  • Overbearing
  • Inconsiderate
  • Abusive

Aggressive people make others feel

  • Defensive
  • Humiliated
  • Resentful
  • Revengeful
  • Aggressive
  • Upset
  • Afraid
  • Withdrawn
  • Hurt
  • Passive
  • Insecure

Dealing with difficult and aggressive patients will happen – but I am happy to say not as often as you probably think it will.

Be prepared to deal with each situation – if you feel you are not handling the situation very well or feel threatened ask someone else to step in and help.

But most important learn from each experience and take it forward in helping the next difficult situation.


If a patient is angry, never get angry back. It will only turn an unpleasant incident into something bigger. This then could turn to an official complaint.

Do not try logical argument on a patient in a temper. It will only add fuel to the fire.

Do not grovel, and do not let angry patients draw you into accepting their assumption that the practice is generally inefficient because of their single unhappy experience.

The way to deal with an angry customer is to apologise for the specific inconvenience only, and to take immediate action to put it right.

An angry patient in front of you means that you still have an opportunity to put it right. If the patient storms out of the surgery (or slams down the phone) make a note of it, if they made a complaint later on you may need to have evidence of this. (see blog The Incident Report Form http://wp.me/p1zPRQ-6o  )

If you can sort out the problem contact the patient and let them know that you have sorted it out. You often will find by this time they have completely calmed down.


Try not to get personally upset by the rudeness of an offensive patient. And do not fuel their abuse by making “value judgments” just stick to the facts.

Do not be deliberately causal or icily superior to show an offensive patient what you think of them.

The way to deal with the offensive patient is to keep cool, keep your professional detachment, stay polite and keep offering possible solutions in strictly factual terms.

Learn to ignore rudeness. Remember that the offensive patient is offensive to anyone that would have dealt with them. Your job is not to make them “nice” you simply have to supply them with what they came in for.

the point is that you do not have to make an angry person into  person – that is  impossible. All you have to do is get them to go away with whatever it was they came in to get – within reason.


Sometimes you do everything right, and that is still not enough for some people. You have put the right techniques into action, but the patient still remains difficult. In this instance you should bear in mind that:

  • Difficult patients are usually difficult for a reason.
  • Patients that are feeling, ill, scared or anxious are more likely to be difficult – and may remain difficult until their problem is resolved. This can often be a relative or carer of a patient.

Anxious patients can become childlike and have “tantrums”. Treating them like a child will encourage them to act like a child, whilst treating them like a responsible adult will encourage them to act rationally.

An example could be:

I understand your problem and I assure you I am trying everything to help you. Please take a seat and I will let you know as soon as I have any information”

This will be much more calming and effective than saying:

“I am doing all I can here. You will have to take a seat and wait your turn”

If people remain angry, it is often because they think that they are not being listened to.


  • Make an effort to look as if you are interested. Put your listening skills into action.
  • Particularly difficult patients may be “playing” to others around them. Perhaps take them into another room where they do not have the audience to “play” to.
  • You will gain the sympathy of other patients when dealing with a difficult patient.
  • Often other patients will try to help by arguing with or commenting on the behaviour of the difficult patient.
  • Whilst this might feel like a welcome help, remember that it is easy for the difficult person to feel even more threatened and aggressive.
  • If you have a very aggressive patient make sure that you have a barrier between you such as a desk.

If you feel that you are out of your depth ask the patient to take a seat and call on a senior member of staff.

Complete an incident form on any such occasion.

And remember if you carry out the above – more often than not the patient will calm down and apologise for the actions.

People who are unhappy with your service will tell ELEVEN other people and people that are happy will only tell FOUR. So make sure your patients leave happy!

How do you thank you staff at Christmas?

How do you or your Practice thank your staff? Do you tell them on a regular basis or keep it to once a year at Christmas?

In my experience you will get far more from people if they are shown thanks and appreciation and it doesn’t have to cost very much either.

Here is how I used to say “thank you” to my staff.

Daily Basis

  • When I was leaving the surgery of an evening I would always take time to go into Reception, ask if everything was ok before leaving and as I left always say “thank you for all your help today”.
  • If I needed to go to one of the other surgeries to see one of the Doctors or the Surgery Team Leader I would always make a point of showing my face in Reception – I always wanted to be approachable and let the Receptionists know that I was always there for them. Again when I left to go back to my own office I would always thank everyone as I left.
  • At the end of any Team Meetings I would always thank everyone for coming .

One off Basis

  • When someone did something that stood out and was beyond their job description I would speak to the Practice Manager and she was in agreement we would get the Staff Partner to say “thank you” in the form of a letter. This letter could then be put on their CV and used in their next appraisals (when again it could be brought up).  This was not something that I did very often – so when a member of staff did receive a letter it was obvious that they had been praised for their good work. If the incident was appropriate and with the permission of the Receptionist receiving the letter I would use the incident in the next staff training.
  • If a Receptionist was having a baby or getting married I would organise a baby shower and the Receptionists would get together over lunchtime and have a good laugh. This was great for team work as they would organise the lunch, the presents and work together on making sure it was a great shower.
  • If an older Receptionist became a grandmother I would always send them a congratulations card.
  • If a member of staff was off on long-term sick I would always send them a get well card and tell them how much they were being missed.

Yearly Basis

  • My Practice Manage would send each surgery a Christmas card – I would send one to each individual member of staff thanking them for all their hard work throughout the year. To me this was very important to let each member of staff know how much I appreciated their hard work that year.
  • I would also get a personal present for each of the Surgery Team Leaders at Christmas – just a small token but again to thank them for all their efforts over the year, and let’s face it I could not have done my job as well as I did without their support and hard work.
  • The Practice would give the staff a Christmas Party – usually in the form of a Dinner Dance – this really can keep moral going – and everyone was always on a high for a few days after – staff very much appreciated the Practice doing this for them.
  • The Practice would also give the staff gift vouchers every Christmas – again this was extremely kind of the Partners to do this and again the staff always really appreciated this.

So, it does not have to cost a fortune to say “thank you” but it can be worth its weight in gold.

How do you thank you staff?


Patients With Special Needs (Patients Special Needs Board)

How do you keep staff informed about patients that perhaps need special attention?

What do I mean by “special attention”? Well this could come in many forms but for me as a manager I felt that certain patients needed to be at times “highlighted” to the rest of the staff.

Who would these patients be?

I know a lot of people think that Receptionists ask too many questions – that they are “nosy” or perhaps a barrier to seeing the Doctor – but believe me this is not the case – Receptionists ask these questions on behalf of the Doctors and Nurses and try their very best to ensure than anyone that needs to see the Doctor sooner rather than later does – if everyone was give this priority then the system would be in quite a mess. Then where would that leave the people who are possible at risk and do need urgent medical attention.

For me it was important that these people did not slip through the system without being given any necessary follows ups that were needed.  These people at times needed urgent appointments, urgent prescriptions or just access to the doctors without having to go through the many questions that sometimes a Receptionist has to ask.

Most of your staff will be dealing with these patient and will know of such cases – but what about the staff that work part-time – or those that have been on holiday for 2 weeks – it is amazing what kind of changes can go on in a surgery in this short space of time.

How many times I have seen a Receptionist that has been away ask a patient how their husband/wife/mum/dad are only to be told that they had died. It will happen – but there are ways that you can keep staff updated these issues.

What sort of things would these patients or their families phoning or coming into the surgery about?

An urgent prescription might need to be generated for a terminally ill patient. This could be done almost immediately instead of the usual 48 hours.

An urgent Doctors Visit might be needed for a terminally ill patient.  The visit would be logged without question. And then when the Doctor does his visits he could prioritise this patient if needed.

A patient might need an appointment that day due to a bereavement, or a miscarriage. The patient might be too upset to discuss with the Receptionist and might need to be seen immediately.

A relative of a patient that has recently died might need to see a Doctor. They would not want to wait a few days for this – does your surgery have a policy on patients that have recently been bereaved.

Often if the Doctor is aware that a patient has died he or she will often phone the relatives of the patient – this can be very comforting at this very sad time.

All of the above would mean the patient would need to be dealt with quickly, without fuss or questions and with compassion.

To have their call / query dealt with efficiently without question will no doubly help they already stressful situation.

I decided in creating a “message board” a “specials needs board” or  “patient board” it could be called whatever you like but at the end of the day this is how it worked.

In reception we had a wipe clean board. We used a wipe clean board simply because it was easy to use and update quickly. This would have three sections headed with:

  • Terminally Ill
  • Ante Natal
  • R.I.P. (recently deceased)

At the start of any entry the date that the entry was made should be dated.  This is a way of knowing when the message was written.


Any patients that were terminally ill either in hospital in a Nursing home or at home their name would be entered onto the board and the place that they were at.


If we had an expectant mum that was having a difficult pregnancy, had recently had a miscarriage or a still-born their name would be entered onto the board.


Any patient that had died their name and date that they died would be entered onto the board.

Beside each of their names we would have the patients Date of Birth. This is important to identify the correct patient.

The board would be kept in the Reception Area – but most important not in view to anyone other than staff. This is most important – remember patient confidentiality.

This board would be seen on a daily basis by all staff in the surgery. District Nurses used to come in each morning and have a look to see if any of their patients had died over night.  The health visitors would also check the board on a daily basis. The midwife would look before she started her clinic and the doctors would look before their started their morning and afternoon sessions.

By having the board in Reception it is there for all staff to see – and the good thing about this board is you don’t even think you are looking at it – but when you answer the telephone and one of the names on the board is mentioned you immediately are drawn to the board – the board is almost subliminal you see it without realising it.

You will need to ensure that the board is kept up to-date. You could allocate this job to one Receptionist.

The terminally ill will need to be there until they sadly die and then go onto the R.I.P. (This also highlights those terminally ill that have died)

Your surgery will have to agree on how long you keep the Ante Natal information on there – at our surgery we kept it up there for a month after the entry.

R.I.P – again you will need to agree how long you want to keep the information on there – again we kept it up there for one month.

Try this board system – it really does work and those patients that need special care can get it without having to go through lots of questions to get what they want.

Here is an example of how the board might look.

Terminally Ill

  • Mrs Jessie Jones    DOB 30.03.29   (ca breast)
  • Mr John Smith       DOB 25.06.57  (heart disease)

 Ante Natal

  • Annie White           DOB 26.09.80   (miscarriage)
  • Joan Brown            DOB 25.08.86   (stillborn)

 R.I.P. (recently deceased)

  • Mr Alex Swords       DOB  06.04.75   (died at home)
  • Mrs Susan Bird        DOB 12.12.45    (died in St Marys Nursing home)

You can of course make the board up in any way you think will fit in with your Surgery. But I must stress how important it is that this information is not seen by anyone other than staff.


Managers Training: The Other Side of the Desk

When managing staff it is always good to give them feedback. Yearly appraisals are a good opportunity for this but why leave it once a year?

Here is a little exercise I used to carry out on my Reception staff.

Sit in your Reception area at the busiest time of day. Observe what is happening in your Reception area – see how the receptionist deal with patients how they cope with the busiest time of day and how they copes with the pressure that the busy time can bring.

Put yourself in the place of a patient – see it from their eyes and ask yourself how do they see our Surgery?

Have a note-book with you and take notes – but the most important part of the exercise is not only to pick up on any negative issues but also highlight the positive issues too.

What should you be looking for:

  1.  Is patient confidentiality being broken? Can people in the waiting room hear conversations from the Reception Desk? Patient confidentiality it vital in any Practice – and more so at the front desk.
    People in the waiting room can often hear conversations at the front desk. Make
    sure you staff use as little personal information as possible. Make sure that
    all your staff has the appropriate training on Patient Confidentiality. (see
    blog on A Quick Confidentiality Checklist. http://t.co/S3E94mU8)
  2.  How does the Receptionist interact with the patients? Do they have good eye contact? Are they polite and always helpful? It is easy to be short with patients when you have a queue of people at the front desk. Training in dealing with such times is vital – train your staff in dealing with such times –
    how to move patients on quickly without being rude or appearing that they are
    not caring. A smile and a thank you go a long way.
  3. How does the Receptionist answer the phone? Is it answered quickly enough? Does the Receptionist deal with the call efficiently? Always make sure that your staff answers the phone with good morning/good afternoon – the name of the surgery and their own name. Staff than give their name takes ownership of the call more than those that do not give their name. Again, if they are in ear shot of the waiting room it is important that they remember Patient Confidentiality.
  4. What are the other staff doing whilst the busy time is happening – are they helping out?  Often in Surgeries you have Receptionists at the front desk and others doing other things such as admin, typing, prescriptions – have you got a contingency plan for such busy times – if someone is busy on the front desk or on the phone do you have someone who can come and help out for short periods of time.
  5. Can you hear conversations between Receptionists behind the desk? When the quieter times come Receptionists often will have a little chat – but they should be made aware to be careful on what they are chatting about – I had an incident where 3 Receptionists were discussing a TV programme that was on the night before. They were discussing the programme about Breast Cancer and about a lady having terminal Cancer – they talked in-depth about the programme – talking about people who had lost relative/friends to the horrible illness. What there were not aware of was a patient was sitting listening to them in the waiting room that had just recently been diagnosed with Breast Cancer – she found the conversation very upsetting. Whilst I was doing
    this exercise I also heard Receptionists discussing an issue that could have
    upset a patient in the waiting room.
  6. Is the Reception area being kept clean and tidy? It is important to
    keep your reception area clean and tidy. Not just for a good impression but for
    Health and Safety reasons too – magazines, children’s toys left lying around on
    the floor is dangerous – someone could easily slip and fall.
  7. Are the patients kept waiting for long periods of time (often a problem in surgeries) This unfortunately happens in every surgery. Observe how your patients feel about it – and how your Receptionists deal with the patients if they come back to the desk to complain/enquire about their appointment running late. Do you have a policy on Doctors/Nurses running late?Do you have a surgery policy about Doctors/Nurses running late?

After you have done your observation bring them to your next staff meeting.

I always find the best way to approach this is to tell your staff that it was not an exercise to “catch them out” but an exercise to find if and where improvements can be made.

Always start with the positive notes you have:

  •  How well you thought the receptionist dealt with a certain patient/incident.
  • How good their telephone manner is.
  • How lovely and tidy the reception areas looks.
  • How pleased you were to see others helping each other at the
    busiest time.
  • How good they are with dealing with confidentiality.


If there are any (and I am sure there will be) go onto the negative things that you found – discuss them and ask your team to give their opinion. Ask if there is a better way it can be dealt with. Include them in any decision-making. Include them in your findings.

Staff do not like change so I always used to say – we can change it, try it and if it does not work we can look at it again.  This always used to work.

Make minutes of the meeting – ensure that you record any changes that are going to be made and ensure that everyone has a copy – including those that were unable to attend the meeting.

Turn those negative into positives.

Receptionists Training/Patient Confidentality – Taking Responsibility

Everyone working within the Health Care Sector is bound by patient confidentiality.

Every member of staff should be expected to sign a confidentiality statement when they first start working for you. Confidentiality is vital when you are working with information regarding a patient.

You must only ever disclose patient information in the patient’s best interests.

How many people do you think has access to patient information?

here are a list of some of those healthcare professionals:




HCA (Health Care Assistants)


Ambulance Technician

Other Healthcare Professionals (ie physiotherapists, dietitians, counsellors etc)

Out of Hours Personal



Administrative staff

NHS Managers

Cleaners  (They might see or hear patient information when carrying out their jobs. )

If you are working in a Surgery do you get visitors/workmen to sign a confidentiality statement when they come into your Practice?

There is every possibility that they will see or hear something regarding a patient.  If the
cleaner or workmen live close to your Practice they very well might know the patient.

A good tip for that is to have a confidentiality statement attached  to your visitor’s book – and when a visitor or workman comes into your building ask them to sign the visitor’s book after they had read the confidentiality statement and have agreed to it.

Every visitor to your Practice should be signing a visitor’s book not only to agree to your confidentiality statement but as a record that they are in the building – this can also be used for your Health and Safety Policy. In the event of a fire you have a record of what visitors are in the building.

But the most important thing is making sure that all your staff are aware of confidentiality and the importance of it and if the confidentiality is broken the consequences that it could bring to your Practice.

Confidentiality Training is vital for all new staff.

New Receptionists Training (1)

I will be sharing some of the training that I did with Receptionists whilst working within the NHS.

My aim was to train staff in all areas of customer care. You might think that some of it is very basic and perhaps a bit too obvious. But believe me – there is nothing I took for granted.

A lot of the time I employed Receptionist that were returning to work after several years being a full-time mum, some had never worked in an office environment before and other had never worked on a Reception desk before.

Some of them did not know how to answer a telephone and deal with the call  in a professional manner.

What I did see was the potential in these people, they were keen to work, were very loyal and extremely good at customer care. So my duty to them was to ensure that they were supported in every way and this included training to help them in their roles.

I believe that fully trained staff are confident staff. And confident staff are usually very good at their jobs.

We take it for granted that when the Doctors Receptionist answers the phone she knows what she is doing, the patient puts their trust in that person answering the phone.

The same when a patient comes to the desk, again the trust is put in the Receptionist to guide them to the appropriate healthcare personal. This can only be done with training. And everyone has to start somewhere.

I have seen it all too often, new Receptionists are left to a more senior Receptionist to train them – it works well most of the time, but there are areas that perhaps a mentor does not want to do.

I had senior Receptionists coming to me saying that the new Receptionist might not have been very good on the telephone, although they dealt with the call it could have been handled more efficiently. But they didn’t feel it their place to tell the new Receptionist how to answer the telephone, what to say, how to dress and how to speak to people at the Reception Desk. And I had to agree –they were busy enough doing their own tasks, busy enough having to show a new person the ropes, so I decided that every new receptionist would have “New Receptionist Training”.

We all have to start somewhere and where better with the appropriate training that is needed for the job!

My blog will share will you the contents of the training – but the best part of the training was the two-way participation – each section was analysed, discussed and if appropriate sometimes changed. I was always will to listen to new ideas and ways of improving our service to our customers and staff.

It was my experience from working on the Front Desk that set me up through my Career – so what better way is to “listen” to others – many changes, procedures and policies were put into place listening to the staff that work so very hard on the Front Desk.


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