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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.