The GP Receptionist – Friend or Foe??

We sometimes hear about GP surgeries with fierce, fire-breathing receptionists and phone lines that are constantly engaged but what really goes on behind the reception desk?

Lets have a look; Martina who has been a GP Receptionist for over 15 years, has had minimal formal training and possibly gets paid less than she deserves, but her value to the doctors, nurses, patients and general smooth running of the practice is immeasurable.

Martina has been working at her Practice for so long that she seems to have a personal relationship with almost every one of the patients. She knows that Mrs Walsh never makes a fuss so if she requests a home visit she really needs one. She also knows not to book in Mr Jacobs, who is a heroin addict, with the locum doctor on a Friday afternoon as he will try to pull a fast one and get extra diazepam for the weekend. She knows that Mrs McGrath needs to be booked in to a downstairs room as she can’t manage the stairs and that when Mr O Neill books in for a blood test he needs a double appointment and a cup of sweet tea ready as he is prone to fainting dramatically at the mere sight of a needle.

She has an amazing way of placating a full waiting room of fuming patients when Doctors are running an hour late and she knows when to give the Doctor an urgent call if someone looks really poorly and needs to be squeezed into an already full surgery. Admittedly she can also occasionally fulfil the stereotype of the fierce dragon receptionist barring the path to seeing the doctor, but from a GP’s point of view, she is sometimes the only line of defence against a constant barrage of demands that without her careful triaging would mean the GP would never get to go home.

GP surgeries are privately run businesses working within the HSE, where Doctors make their own decisions about how to run their Practices. On the rare occasions that the front desk and phones are quiet, receptionists are sorting the post, scanning letters, processing claims, processing repeat prescription requests along with the many other daily administration tasks.

Some surgeries are in the privileged position of being able to employ a Practice Manager to manage staff, deal with complaints, pay the bills and make the business end of general Practice run more efficiently. However, in many cases, the receptionist shares this extra workload with the GP’s who are already under-resourced and overworked.

Frontline Staff like Martina are vital members of any General Practice Team and need structured supports and training to meet the increasing demands of working in this unique role. For further information on Staff training courses for both new and experienced Practice Staff, click on the link below.

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