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Are GP Receptionists Really Such ‘Dragons’?
It seems GP Receptionists are still labelled as ‘dragons’ and perceived by patients as grumpy ‘gatekeepers’ with a penchant to be unpleasant and unhelpful. There have been a number of studies over the last few years to understand why GP Receptionists come across in this way and what their role actually involves.
I know that GP Receptionists’ reputation as grouchy and obstructive is unfair, they have a very difficult job prioritising patients with minimal time, information and often insufficient training. In some cases they are thrust onto the frontline, facing patients with increasing expectations and demands and the thanks they receive when they do a good job are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Faced with more patients than there are available appointments, stressed out GP’s, IT problems and the constant ring of the telephone is it any wonder that even the most patient, tolerant and sympathetic individual would find this daily challenge difficult to ignore.
It’s an emotionally demanding job.
Maybe I’ve been lucky that the majority of GP Receptionists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with have been caring, compassionate and helpful, or maybe it’s because we recognise the importance and challenges of their role and understand that they need to be supported too. It’s an emotionally demanding job and the daily task of dealing with unwell and unhappy patients must surely take its toll on even the most resilient personality. It’s important that staff are able to get some relief from the pressured environment of the reception desk and have a supportive team behind them when they’ve faced a particularly difficult situation. Dealing with seriously ill patients, death and bereaved families is sometimes a regular occurrence, particularly in larger Practices.
Information, training and support is vital.
It’s important that sufficient information, training and support is in place for all of our frontline staff to enable them to deal with the various daily challenges. Regular team meetings, appraisals and opportunities to take time out when the going gets tough are vital for staff to feel reassured that they do their job well and continue to be motivated to provide a good service. Robust protocols and policies must be in place to provide this supportive environment including; management of stress, management of violence and aggression at work, effective communication, and supporting workers. Line managers should be adequately trained to identify potential issues where staff may become stressed at work and offer necessary support.
The one thing that patients want from GP Receptionists is to access their GP. This is determined by sufficient capacity to meet demand but customer service training does not create appointments and a smile does not deceive patients. Interestingly GP Receptionists may think that the GPs they work for are grumpy dragons too!
Alison Lowerson – QCS Expert GP Practice Manager Contributor