An ode to the receptionist

I once had a conversation with a member of staff who told me that she was ‘just a receptionist’. Anyone who has considered the patient journey will realise that this statement is untrue. There is no ‘just’. There are important people involved with the patient’s experience from the start, and usually the receptionist is the first person encountered.

The initial patient interaction moulds the journey. The first few words, the tone of voice and the attitude of the person making the booking will flavour the way the patient experiences the service. This is the same in the National Health Service as a private clinic. In this sense, there is no one more important at that moment than the receptionist. They can affect the relationship between patient and caregiver before the parties have even met.

Consider two types of conversation: pleasant, welcoming and efficient versus abrupt, cold and monosyllabic. It is clear which will be more therapeutic. In my view, the therapy begins with the first few words uttered on the phone or over the counter.

Treatment and interventions used in the clinic room are not in isolation to the administration of the patient journey. Priming is a feature of any experience, in other words, both conscious and subconscious stimuli will affect the way our body systems are working via our feelings and emotions. A word or any other sensory input that influences our thinking will drive our physiological responses. Dependent upon these responses and the mode of the body systems, in particular the nervous, immune, endocrine and autonomic, will impact upon the therapy applied.

When a patient enters the clinic room, we must and should wish to ensure that the person feels as comfortable as possible, thinking about our greeting, manners, posturing as much as the temperature and lighting within the treatment area. This may require a few moments if a patient is anxious or irritated, the latter perhaps by a wait or difficulty finding a car parking space. In fact, we often don’t know what thoughts and feelings the patient is bringing with them and we should work hard to shed any judgements that we hold. The mindful approach to therapy is one way of achieving a non-judgemental environment.

At every opportunity we should be thinking about how we can gain the most leverage to create the conditions for change and recovery for the patient. There are a vast number of variables, however if we can conceptualise the patient journey from start to finish and consider all those involved and the significance of their input, we will be going about our business in the best and wisest way. This is especially the case in the therapeutic setting but actually the same for any service provider.

Since that conversation and studying the patient journey it has always been my belief that there is no ‘just a receptionist’ or anyone else who works in the clinic or hospital, but rather a group of people all adding their input in different ways to create an environment that nourishes, encourages and points the patient in the direction of change for wellbeing.

For further information about seminars and training for staff on the patient or client journey, please contact us on 07932 689081

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