I’ve wanted to write this work related post/rant for a couple of weeks now, but I wasn’t too sure about it. However, this BBC news article about how ‘receptionists put people off seeing the doctor’ has pushed me over the edge.
Two years ago, when I was working full-time in order to save enough money for my Master’s degree, I worked as a medical receptionist in a busy GP surgery in my home town. Since I moved back to my home town from Oxford at the end of August, I’ve been helping out there, both in reception and with some admin work, as they’ve been rather short-staffed, until today. And all of the following has happened in just those 4 short weeks, so imagine what it’s like when that is your full time job:
- I have been shouted at more times that I can count
- I have been sworn at at least once a day
- I have been screamed at
- I have had the phone slammed down on me countless times
- I have been told that it will be my fault if someone dies because they couldn’t see the doctor immediately, on numerous occasions
- I have been asked ‘what I would do’ if someone died because I couldn’t offer them an appointment there and then
- I have been treated like a piece of dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoe, every single day, multiple times a day
And through all of this, I have to react with professionalism. I have to stay calm, even when someone is screaming at me. I have to be respectful, even if the person on the end of the phone is being incredibly rude. I have to ignore the guilt-trippers, rude comments and everything else. Even when I want to scream back, swear, or slam the phone down myself, I do nothing but remain professional and try my utmost to help. As does every (or nearly every, I’m sure) medical receptionist out there. I try and do the best I can, offer the best solutions – but I can only offer what is available. Yet every single day, medical receptionists go out of their way to help someone, whether it’s seeing if a patient can be squeezed in to see a GP or nurse that day, process a prescription on the spot, and deal with other last minute matters.
We are lucky in the UK to have a free health care system. But of course this does not come without its drawbacks: it can be hard to get a GP appointment. I understand that. I’ve experienced it myself. But screaming and shouting at the person at the end of the phone or at the front desk is not going to help. They can’t just magic up another appointment for you. We can’t force the doctors to add even MORE hours to their already ridiculous schedules. Just because a GP isn’t seeing patients doesn’t mean they aren’t working.
Oh, and receptionists normally have to ask about the problem. It is for the GP’s benefit – not theirs. The GP wants to know what they’ll be dealing with, the nurse needs to know what procedure they’ll be doing next so they can prepare for it. This article has made me so, so angry, and incredibly glad that I no longer do this thankless job on a permanent basis, because I just can’t deal with the Great (ha!) British public anymore.