Your reception person plays a major and highly valued role in your clinic, so it is important to provide an effective training program.
The reception person fulfils a vital and specialist role within your medical practice, and unfortunately, all too often they receive little or no training to set them up for success in the execution of these critical tasks.
Often referred to as ‘the essential gatekeeper’, the ‘bridge between the patient and the doctor’, the ‘minister of first impressions’….. the list of comparisons goes on. With one major thread, this person is a truly valuable member of the team.
Progressive and successful practices acknowledge the reception person plays a major, highly valued role, interacting with patients, working closely with the doctors, setting the tone of the practice and, by design, generating the bulk of the practice income.
It goes without saying that training our reception staff is a critical concern in the life of our practices, yet remains a priority all too often overlooked due to time constraints or lack of time to devote to the project.
An analogy often used when describing your business and your team is “The Bus”. We all want to make sure we have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and a clear plan for where the bus is headed.
Having an untrained person on your reception team is as dangerous as allowing Sandra Bullock’s character in the movie ‘Speed’ to drive your bus: lots of screaming and shouting, no clear direction on what to do in a crisis and a load of very scared passengers on board, all without a Keanu Reeves character in sight to save the day!
Following these five simple rules will help you set up and maintain a successful relationship with your reception team and, best of all, reap the benefits for all parties.
1. Recruit for Attitude and Personality
The old adage ‘hire for attitude, train for skills and knowledge’ is never more true than in this situation. A positive ‘can do’ personality is everything and more in a reception role. Employers will often list qualities such as ‘attention to detail’, ‘can do’ attitude, ‘kind and caring nature’; however, thry’ll then gloss over these if they see a candidate with ‘on the job’ experience. To assess if candidates really do have these essential skills, you can carefully craft your advertisement to start the selection process from their first stroke of the keyboard.
Ask the reception applicants to ‘make you feel special’ by writing a specific cover letter, addressing it to you personally and then addressing the key criteria for the role. Then, if you get a random CV with no cover letter or a letter addressed ‘To Whom It May Concern’ you know you don’t have a candidate with attention to detail. Or if they send you a generic cover letter, they have shown you they don’t really care about making you feel special. How will they make your patients feel special?
Once the specially selected candidates have been identified for interview, you can continue the search for your ideal reception person by having specific questions ready that will further help to identify a positive, happy and ‘can do’ attitude towards life and others.
2. Have an On Boarding Plan
– and see it through! The On Boarding (Induction) process is a vital link to success and longevity in the role, yet all too often this is poorly conducted.
Taking the time to carefully plan what information the new employee needs, and in what order this information should be delivered, will have a resounding impact on the ongoing relationship for both parties.
Without going into elaborate detail in this article, a good On Boarding plan should include;
- Comprehensive employment contract – setting out hours of work, rosters and payment details including a visit to off-site or ancillary practices
- Meet the team session – discussion and supporting material about the practice history, values and culture
- Workplace health and safety – clearly defined expectations of performance.
It is important not to overwhelm the new employee with too much information delivered too soon. Remember that rst days and even rst weeks are a daunting time for the new employee; so take it easy and expect that they may not retain 100% of the information you provide them.
3. Skills and Knowledge Training
Once the new employee has shown signs they are settling in, it is time to set expectations regarding their acquisition of knowledge of your practice protocols, procedures and services.
When training, remember: Stress Levels Up = Retention Level Down.
Create a calm environment and ask the new employee to carry a notebook and jot down relevant points throughout the day. Although they will likely have a Practice Manual to refer to, having the notes in their own handwriting is the first step towards owning the new processes and information.
Set the reception person up for success by ensuring they have proper training on the systems they will use, especially the patient management system. It is well worth the expense to arrange external training to ensure they pick up all the relevant aspects of the systems and not just the basics or shortcuts that may have evolved over time.
Provide access to information about the procedures, services and retail products. Set aside time for reading during the work day; do not expect the new employee will go home (often exhausted) and read for a few hours.
And finally, set an expectation as to a reasonable timeframe for the employee to have retained this information, plus when and how you will be assessing knowledge and skills.
4. Provide and Ask for Regular Feedback
All too often I am told by my reception placements that they felt very unsure of their job security in the first six months. Although the practice principals had given me glowing reports of their efforts and performance, they had often failed to give this valuable feedback to the employee.
It is important to remember that you have taken the time to recruit this very special reception person for their warmth, personality and ‘can do’ attitude. You have chosen them because they are passionate about people and love communication.
So don’t forget to check back in with them on a regular basis and tell them you think they are terrific and reassure them that they are on the right path.
Remember the reception is at the coalface of your practice every day and both sees and hears a lot more than you about the everyday running of the practice. Set up regular times to meet with your reception person to gain valuable insights into your practice, patients and wider team.
This is a good opportunity to nd out if they have all the tools they need to do their job properly of if they need additional education or training.
Whether you see the reception person in your practice as the ‘bridge’, the ‘gatekeeper’. the ‘bus driver’ or the ‘director of first impressions’, the one thing we can all agree on is: the reception person is a vital component of a successful practice. Taking the time to recruit for specific people skills. and then induct and train for success. will have a dramatic impact on your Practice bottom line. AMP