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.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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Patient Confidentiality – When Someone Claims To Be The Patient


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We have all been shocked by the sad news of the nurse Jacintha Saldanha in London who sadly took her life after a hoax call.

Many Receptionists and Nurses have no doubt thought of the sad incident and run through their mind how they would have dealt with such a call. I know I have.

We all know the importance of patient confidentiality – it is vital that patient information is protected and only shared with those on a need to know basis.

But, many of you reading this will think back to an incident whereby it has been difficult to deal with such a call – but it is how you deal with it that is the most important – and more importantly is how you have the knowledge and ability to deal with such calls. This comes with experience, training and support from the organisation that you work with.

Did Jacintha have that support and training? I am not here to judge or comment on the incident but I can share with you how as a receptionist a call that I dealt with. When I become a manager I took this experience on with me and used it in the training of all new receptionists.

The story I am about to tell is similar in as much as the caller was pretending to be someone they were not and trying to obtain patient information from the surgery.

True Story:

One morning I was on took a call. The caller asked if her daughters’ pregnancy results had come back. I explained that due to patient confidentiality I was unable to give her the results as she was not the patient.  She was not very happy about this – she insisted that her daughter had asked her to call; she explained that her daughter was in college and couldn’t phone.

I suggested to the caller that she ask her daughter to call in her lunch break – or perhaps when she finished college as we were open until 7.00 pm. She was having none of it – she had every excuse to why her daughter couldnt phone the surgery herself. She then started getting aggressive  – I again said that I was unable to give her any information regarding her daughter.

She gave some more abuse and hung up.

Five minutes later I answered the telephone again – the same woman this time claiming she WAS the patient. (I suspect she thought she would have got another receptionist answering the phone the second time but she got me again)

I asked this caller if in fact it was the same person that I had spoken to only five minutes ago – she denied that she had phoned before  and insisted she was the patient and asked for her results again. 

So…………….as a receptionist what would you have done in this situation?

I had to think quickly – this caller was claiming she was the patient – I had my doubts that she was the patient.  Had another receptionist have taken the call she would have presumed that she was the patient and may have given out the results.

So I asked the caller her DOB which she was able to tell me (after all if I was correct she was the mother of the patient)

I asked the caller to confirm when she had brought the test in – this time she couldn’t answer my question – she tried to say that she wasn’t too sure but thought it was about 3/4 days previous. (Checking the patients’ records she in fact had brought the test in 2 days previous)

I kept the call going in a professional way and said I could not find a record of the results (although they were there in front of me) and asked if I could have her mobile telephone number and I would call her back once I had called the hospital for the results.

Guess what – she couldn’t give me “her” number. While we all usually know our own mobile telephone numbers we don’t usually know others off the top of our heads.

The caller again started to get aggressive and insisted that she would phone me back when I had spoken to the hospital. At this point I agreed that she would call me back in 20 minutes and gave her my name. I doubted that she was going to do this.

She never did call back.

I put an entry into the receptionists’ message book of the incident to warn them in case this woman called back again.

So, what if something similar were to happen a few questions that you could ask are:

  • Confirm date of birth
  • When did the patient last come into the surgery?
  • What Doctor/Nurse did they see?
  • What time was their appointment?
  • Tell them you will call them back – if they are not the patient they usually are unable to give you their number off the top of their head.

If you are speaking to the patient I am sure they would only be too pleased that you are taking patient confidentiality seriously and will not mind answering any of your questions.

And most important if you are in ANY doubts do not give out any information – ask the caller their telephone number and tell them you will get back to them. When you finish the call speak to your team leader or manager and seek advice.

As a manager I would always tell my team as long as they took every possible step towards maintaining patient confidentiality and in the event that patient confidentiality was broken I would support them 100%.

Receptionists Training / The Incident Report Form


INCIDENT REPORT FORM

Following on from my previous blog:  Dealing with a Complaint. http://wp.me/p1zPRQ-6g

I would recommend any complaint that you receive no matter how small that you record it in some way.
Complaints often have a habit of coming back at you weeks down the line and can often leave you unable to give an accurate account of the incident.  A complaints form is completed  by the person making the complaint  i.e the customer/patient. The Incident Report Form is completed by a member of your staff to give an accurate account of what happened.

When I was a manager I devised a form to go with each “incident” that might have occurred in the Surgery. The form would be completed by the member of staff that was involved in the initial incident.

I use the word “Incident” as this form was not just used for people who wanted to make a complaint – we used to have appropriate “complaints forms” that customers/patients could complete themselves.  The incident form was purely for staff – and an incident could cover so many things – but the idea behind it was to bring awareness that something had happened – and needed to be discussed and at times a procedure put in place for it not to happen again. Sometimes, not often an “incident” could turn into a “complaint”

It was difficult at first to get staff to complete these forms – they seen it as “another job that had to be done”.  But far from it this form was to give an accurate account of what happened at the time of the incident, and to have it logged in case it was needed at a future date.  Staff soon got to realise that these forms indeed gave them the change to document the incident as it happened – as sometimes when a complaint was made the “story” could be completely different.

The form itself was very easy to complete – this is basically how it looked

INCIDENT REPORT FORM                        (Form number)

Incident Date………………………………      Incident Time……………………………………..

Place of Incident…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Name of Person/Persons Involved in Incident………………………………………………..

Contact Details of Person involved in Incident………………………………………………..

Brief Summary of Incident……………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Signed ……………………………………………………….   Print Name…………………………………..

Position………………………………………………………  Dated…………………………………………….

It was important to record the date and the time of the incident, and also the place of the incident, i.e. Reception Area, Doctors Surgery, Car Park etc. Contact details were also very important – telephone numbers were always the best contact and then address. I found it was always helpful to speak to someone first and then to follow-up the conversation/solution with a letter.  I always found this a good way of defusing what could sometimes be a difficult situation.

As a Manager getting a “complaint” from a customer is sometime the first you will get to know of the incident. They might sometime complain about the attitude of a staff  member or want to complain about one of the Doctors or someone else in the healthcare team. All I had was the customer’s side of the story. I would then go down and speak to the member of staff involved in the incident and this could often lead to anger or resentment because they felt that they (the staff member) they were being “blamed” for the incident when in fact the story was not entirely correct. Trying to deal with any angry member
of staff is not good – they feel that you are accusing them of the incident when in fact all you are trying to do is get a clear picture of the incident.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE FORM WHEN IT HAS BEEN COMPLETED

It is important to have the form as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. If necessary give the staff member time out from their work station to complete the form. It is important to get the details down while the incident if fresh in their minds. Also get them to include in the form if there were other member of staff that could witness the incident.

I sometimes found it easier if the staff member sat beside me and I typed out the incident as they recalled it.

You need to log the incident. Keep a file for the Incident Reports.  Number each incident form. This way you can keep a record of each form.

You need to decide if the incident is a complaint or just an incident. If it is a complaint you need to contact the person concerned and discuss the complaint with them and deal with it appropriately.  With an Incident you need to decide if you need to contact anyone or just to record it and discuss at the next staff meeting.

Record every time you deal with the form i.e when you spoke to the member of staff concerned.

If the “Incident” has involved a member of your team i.e Receptionist/Administrator then you need to discuss the form at the next staff meeting.

Go through the form – discuss with staff what could have been done differently – if at all, and if necessary a different policy or procedure can be put into place.

If the “Incident” involves a Doctor at the practice then the Practice Manager needs to address this with the appropriate Doctors.

WHAT BENEFITS DID THE FORM GIVE?

After a while the Receptionist actually seen this as a great support – it gave them a change to give their side to an incident that may have occurred in Reception. Often not coming to anything, but on occasions it actually supported them and showed that they acted correctly in the incident.

By discussing the “Incident Reports” in staff meetings gave opportunity to learn and go forward and for new Receptionists it was a good training of how to deal with “Incidents” at the front desk.

But what did come from it was that we started using the form for “nicer incidents” that might have occurred in the Surgery. A patient to the surgery might have given a nice complement, or a visitor might have made a comment that could improve the surgery or the service that we gave  – the girls would often write out a form for discussion t the next meeting – that certainly gave everyone a boost to have a “nice incident” read out.

WHAT DID I GET OUT OF IT?

As a Manager I felt it was a way that I was involved in incidents that had occurred in the Reception Area.

I felt the form gave tremendous support to the Receptionist Staff.

It was a way of ensuring that the same incidents were not occurring over and over again.

They were very useful to use as examples in staff training.

And

The best of all several months after starting the forms in the surgery I had a Receptionist come to my office and thank me for introducing the form. She said that she had been at the Surgery for 5 years and have never felt “supported” in some of the incidents that had occurred in Reception – and now the form was being used that she and the other Receptionists now felt that they had an opportunity to give over their side of the story.

For me it certainly was a Job worth doing.

Receptionists Training / The Incident Report Form


INCIDENT REPORT FORM

Following on from my previous blog:  Dealing with a Complaint. http://wp.me/p1zPRQ-6g

I would recommend any complaint that you receive no matter how small that you record it in some way.
Complaints often have a habit of coming back at you weeks down the line and can often leave you unable to give an accurate account of the incident.  A complaints form is completed  by the person making the complaint  i.e the customer/patient. The Incident Report Form is completed by a member of your staff to give an accurate account of what happened.

When I was a manager I devised a form to go with each “incident” that might have occurred in the Surgery. The form would be completed by the member of staff that was involved in the initial incident.

I use the word “Incident” as this form was not just used for people who wanted to make a complaint – we used to have appropriate “complaints forms” that customers/patients could complete themselves.  The incident form was purely for staff – and an incident could cover so many things – but the idea behind it was to bring awareness that something had happened – and needed to be discussed and at times a procedure put in place for it not to happen again. Sometimes, not often an “incident” could turn into a “complaint”

It was difficult at first to get staff to complete these forms – they seen it as “another job that had to be done”.  But far from it this form was to give an accurate account of what happened at the time of the incident, and to have it logged in case it was needed at a future date.  Staff soon got to realise that these forms indeed gave them the change to document the incident as it happened – as sometimes when a complaint was made the “story” could be completely different.

The form itself was very easy to complete – this is basically how it looked

INCIDENT REPORT FORM                        (Form number)

Incident Date………………………………      Incident Time……………………………………..

Place of Incident…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Name of Person/Persons Involved in Incident………………………………………………..

Contact Details of Person involved in Incident………………………………………………..

Brief Summary of Incident……………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Signed ……………………………………………………….   Print Name…………………………………..

Position………………………………………………………  Dated…………………………………………….

It was important to record the date and the time of the incident, and also the place of the incident, i.e. Reception Area, Doctors Surgery, Car Park etc. Contact details were also very important – telephone numbers were always the best contact and then address. I found it was always helpful to speak to someone first and then to follow-up the conversation/solution with a letter.  I always found this a good way of defusing what could sometimes be a difficult situation.

As a Manager getting a “complaint” from a customer is sometime the first you will get to know of the incident. They might sometime complain about the attitude of a staff  member or want to complain about one of the Doctors or someone else in the healthcare team. All I had was the customer’s side of the story. I would then go down and speak to the member of staff involved in the incident and this could often lead to anger or resentment because they felt that they (the staff member) they were being “blamed” for the incident when in fact the story was not entirely correct. Trying to deal with any angry member
of staff is not good – they feel that you are accusing them of the incident when in fact all you are trying to do is get a clear picture of the incident.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE FORM WHEN IT HAS BEEN COMPLETED

It is important to have the form as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. If necessary give the staff member time out from their work station to complete the form. It is important to get the details down while the incident if fresh in their minds. Also get them to include in the form if there were other member of staff that could witness the incident.

I sometimes found it easier if the staff member sat beside me and I typed out the incident as they recalled it.

You need to log the incident. Keep a file for the Incident Reports.  Number each incident form. This way you can keep a record of each form.

You need to decide if the incident is a complaint or just an incident. If it is a complaint you need to contact the person concerned and discuss the complaint with them and deal with it appropriately.  With an Incident you need to decide if you need to contact anyone or just to record it and discuss at the next staff meeting.

Record every time you deal with the form i.e when you spoke to the member of staff concerned.

If the “Incident” has involved a member of your team i.e Receptionist/Administrator then you need to discuss the form at the next staff meeting.

Go through the form – discuss with staff what could have been done differently – if at all, and if necessary a different policy or procedure can be put into place.

If the “Incident” involves a Doctor at the practice then the Practice Manager needs to address this with the appropriate Doctors.

WHAT BENEFITS DID THE FORM GIVE?

After a while the Receptionist actually seen this as a great support – it gave them a change to give their side to an incident that may have occurred in Reception. Often not coming to anything, but on occasions it actually supported them and showed that they acted correctly in the incident.

By discussing the “Incident Reports” in staff meetings gave opportunity to learn and go forward and for new Receptionists it was a good training of how to deal with “Incidents” at the front desk.

But what did come from it was that we started using the form for “nicer incidents” that might have occurred in the Surgery. A patient to the surgery might have given a nice complement, or a visitor might have made a comment that could improve the surgery or the service that we gave  – the girls would often write out a form for discussion t the next meeting – that certainly gave everyone a boost to have a “nice incident” read out.

WHAT DID I GET OUT OF IT?

As a Manager I felt it was a way that I was involved in incidents that had occurred in the Reception Area.

I felt the form gave tremendous support to the Receptionist Staff.

It was a way of ensuring that the same incidents were not occurring over and over again.

They were very useful to use as examples in staff training.

And

The best of all several months after starting the forms in the surgery I had a Receptionist come to my office and thank me for introducing the form. She said that she had been at the Surgery for 5 years and have never felt “supported” in some of the incidents that had occurred in Reception – and now the form was being used that she and the other Receptionists now felt that they had an opportunity to give over their side of the story.

For me it certainly was a Job worth doing.