Working as a Medical Secretary – Including an interview

A Medical Secretary/Receptionist is a specialist role and therefore, for the majority of roles, you would be required to have an additional set of skills relating to this sector. As you would be handling correspondence and phone calls about a range of different medical conditions/matters, it would be hugely advantageous for you to have a good knowledge of things like medical terminology and a knowledge of the various medical disciplines.

One of the main attributes you will need to work as a Medical Secretary is discretion, as you will be handling highly confidential patient records and the privacy of the patient is of paramount importance. You will also need an extremely high level of interpersonal skills to be able to deal confidently and sensitively with patients when required Consultant and GP’s employers will generally look for someone with a good level of education and will prefer those applying for a Medical Secretary position to hold either good level of Computer Skills and/or specific Medical Secretary Training

What can you earn working as a Medical Secretary?

As always, salaries are very much dependent on experience and which region of the country you live in and the type of organisation you work for, hence the large range given, but, as a guide, you could earn anywhere in the region of 20-35k. This salary will generally increase with experience.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing a Medical Secretary and it was interesting to hear her views on the role! She works as a temp which means she has worked across many different Practices, mainly in General Practice.

What is a typical day for you?

“As any medical secretary will say, there is no such thing as a ’typical’ day. I think that’s what I love most about the job as there is never a dull moment and each role is varied. Yes, there can be ‘slow’ days but it’s not often the case and I’ve learnt never to plan my day in advance as it never pans out. I know what tasks I have to have accomplished each day and I methodically work my way through until completed, which occasionally means staying back or getting in early to enable peace and quiet to concentrate on the task to hand.

What are the biggest challenges?

Some of the more challenging tasks involved in a typical day are when the phone is ringing incessantly and you are trying to deal with them when a number of patients appear at the desk looking for your attention and the Doctor sends you a message which requires an attention. It can be a bit overwhelming and this is a time when you need to use your multi-tasking skills.

What do you enjoy most?

It always gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction once I’ve completed the tasks successfully as so often it is difficult to start and finish a task in this really busy environment. Answering the telephone is a huge part of what I do, as well as responding to emails, often from consultants, Pharmacists, patients and family members. Answering queries from distressed patients or family members can also be challenging but, if unsure, I take the contact details, speak to my colleagues and then call them back.

As I’ve temped at several different placements, the first thing I do in a new post is ask how the phone is answered, writing it down along with the phone and fax numbers and then sticking that to the phone or computer for the duration of my placement. It saves a lot of confusion and embarrassment.

Top tips

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if uncertain of anything. It’s better to ask for help and get it right, even if it entails spending more time than you think it should to perform the task or you think you’ll look daft. The ability to multi-task is essential. I have a notebook I take to each job where I take down notes on how to do the job, the essential tasks and any tricks the secretary I’m covering uses to help make things run more smoothly as that’s what I’m there for.

I always leave a handover for the secretary I’m covering for to keep them up to date on what I’ve done and any queries there have been during the course of cover. This makes it easier for their return and I’ve found it is appreciated.

What’s the best part of your job?

Helping patients and helping the secretary that I am covering for enjoy their holiday by ensuring that when they return from holiday there isn’t a mess and a whole pile of work for them to return to, causing a lot of unnecessary stress and them wishing they’d never been away (I know this from personal experience), and lastly feeling like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

Would you like a permanent role in the Medical Sector?

Sometimes I think yes and that it would be nice to take full ownership of a role in a Practice but I also love the variety of being a temp. When the right opportunity comes along, I would definitely consider a permanent role.”