Thoughts #58: A Work Related Rant


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.

How to deal with those pesky patients.
How to deal with those pesky patients.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts #58: A Work Related Rant”

  1. I feel like health care professionals who deal with patients on an everyday basis get the brunt of people’s frustrations. No one likes to be sick or see a loved one get sick and so they become defensive and take their displeasure out on those who are around them who they feel can solve their problem. Even if they person has no control over the outcome. I work in healthcare so I see it everyday.

    I’m surprised though that it is the receptionists who “turn people away”. I figured it would be issues with the doctor/nurse that would. That’s what deters me from going to a certain place. I’ve dealt with some not so great receptionists in the past but I don’t feel like it has a negative impact on my care–that would be the person I’m seeing. I suppose though receptionists are the front line staff and the employees patients see most often so they must (wrongfully) correlate bad care to the receptionist…

    1. Yep, they absolutely do. And when they see the doctor they’re all sweetness and sunshine like there was no problem. I have had so many people moan at me in the past because the doctor is running late, yet when the doctor comes out and apologies, they’re all ‘Oh it’s no problem!’. It’s a respect thing, and medical receptionist is waaaaay down at the bottom of the hierarchy.

  2. I work in a library, but a lot of your post applies to what I do on a daily basis too. I get that when it comes to a medical situation (in a doctor’s surgery) or pretty much anything to do with benefits (in a library), people are worried and on edge, but shouting at the staff is not going to get you what you want any faster. The doctor’s surgery I attend is COVERED in notices reminding people not to verbally abuse the receptionists, which I find appalling. As much as people are passionate about the NHS, it’s weird that people aren’t angry that there aren’t more GPs, rather than being angry at receptionists for ‘limiting’ access. UGH. Working with the public is the worst.

    1. Yes, there are cases where I can understand it, but also cases where I really can’t. And that’s horrendous! I’ve given up on working with the public, I refuse to apply for any kind of customer service job ever again because I just can’t stand people 😛

  3. Ugh I’m so sorry about your experience Rinn! Honestly, this is WHY I refuse to work in retail or customer service, or basically anywhere where I have to talk to people that act this way (luckily I am on a path away from that). I really think people need to REMEMBER that receptionists like you are human, and that you have a life just like everyone else. If there’s no appointments available, then there aren’t any. There’s nothing you can do about it.

    I hope it gets better from here, but since this is people we’re talking about, I can’t imagine it being any other way 😦 STAY STRONG!

    1. Yep, after I left my visitor services job at a big museum in February, I decided I would NEVER work in any kind of customer service ever again. People got SO stroppy there too – a place they CHOSE to be and didn’t have to pay anything to enter! But then I agreed to help out at the surgery as they were so short staffed, but luckily only had to put up with it for about a month.

      My new job will be way better, much less contact with general public. But this is why I want my museum career – so I can work with inanimate objects and not people! 😉

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