Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Calling All Receptionists

Where is it written that a medical receptionist cannot, under any circumstances, be friendly, helpful and approachable? It seems to me that every receptionist I meet lately is cross with the world and determined to make my day even harder than it already is. Whatever happened to becoming a receptionist because you're a 'people person'?
Case in point: the other day, the kind of icy January day that most of us would like to just skip, I found myself towing an 85-year old with a bad back and buckling legs, to a medical clinic. The clinic is located at a busy intersection where an elderly person taking the time to slowly and carefully unfold herself out of a car, is apparently cause for getting honked at. Same to you, buddy!!
From the car to the front door of the building was slow going because of the icy sidewalks. We managed to reach the three steps leading to the first set of heavy glass doors and then discovered that there are five more steps to climb followed by another heavy door, but no ramp or automatic door opener to make entry easier. Healthy people rushed by as we shuffled slowly down a long corridor leading to....a third heavy glass door!
Once inside the clinic we were greeted by a huge sign saying WAIT YOUR TURN and a receptionist who looked as though she might bark if anyone spoke to her. My heart sank at the sight. She eventually deigned to look up at us and mechanically take the information necessary to open a file. This was perhaps done efficiently, but without any warmth or compassion. Her interest in the person she was processing, was zero.
We were eventually sent by a doctor to have a CAT scan in another part of the building. The receptionist there was somewhat more pleasant. She actually greeted us as we entered her department but her smile soon turned sour when told that she had inverted the name of my unwell lady on her file folder. "Well what is her correct name?" she demanded of me, shooting daggers over her half moon glasses. When I repeated that the name was inverted she slammed the folder on the desk and said something that rhymes with fit. Thus I was made to understand that she was  displeased at having to print out a new name label. Whatever happened to giving service with a smile, walking an extra mile for an elderly person, or just plain caring about doing your job to the best of your ability?
Back upstairs to the first receptionist so we could get the scan results from the waiting doctor. The morning receptionist had by then been replaced by another. Again, no smile, no greeting, not even a direct gaze into my eyes. Just a bad perm with an attitude to match. "I will call you when I am ready for you," she said to the person in front of us who had dared approach her desk rather than wait by the sign. After hours of waiting and being patient I would have enjoyed a friendly face. Luckily, the doctor peered out from behind the receptionist and waved us in so I was able to skip the whole explanation of who we were and why we were there. The guy in front of us wasn't as lucky. When I last looked, he was still standing at attention, hoping for a miracle.
This is no way to treat elderly people. With reduced mobility it is often very difficult for them to travel from point A to point B. A friendly face at the end of such gargantuan efforts makes a huge difference to their morale. They are often nervous about the possible outcome of medical intervention. A caring smile would go such a long way to easing such anxiety.

1 comment:

  1. I have on several occasions ranted (somewhat less gracefully) about this exact thing (especially medical receptionists) to anyone who would listen.. Having been a receptionist myself, I still don't understand it. Hilarious and lamentably accurate story.