Training Medical Receptionists

Medical Receptionists often start new positions with either no previous work history in healthcare or their training and understanding of receptionist work is based on another industry or medical specialty.  Most offices have various methods of training, there is no one size fits all when it comes to healthcare front desk responsibilities.

Some organizations have standard training procedures that include videos and training manuals that must be reviewed prior to the hands-on training.  This may include basic customer service, information regarding billing, and most importantly the electronic medical record or practice management system they will be required to use.

Starting a new position can be quite intimidating regardless of your level of experience.  Having a reliable training program or process usually helps individuals get to a level of independence the job requires.  Most often managers will spend time with new hires initially.  The manager or supervisor will assist the employee with access to any programs or online resources they need.  They provide contacts, reference materials, expectations, and complete the onboarding process.  They may even conduct the first steps of training to be sure the employee understands the expectations of the job.

While managers will jump in to get their new hires ready, they often do not have the time to spend 2 weeks training an employee.  In fact, you will find that colleagues tend to train those who will be doing the same job they do.  The benefits of this include experienced front desk staff training new front desk staff.  Those who are doing the job daily can provide more insight than even a manager can in some instances.  Management wants employees to have the best opportunity to succeed and that doesn’t mean they have to be the one to conduct their training.  Leaning on their seasoned professional staff members is a sign of leadership and understanding.  They also show trust in the current staff to bring new employees up to speed.

Some recommendations during training would be to always leave space for questions.  Allow the new staff member to make the calls, enter information into the system, take messages and conduct scheduling.  You can coach them through it but don’t wait 5 days before you allow someone to get their hands dirty.  You can show someone the same thing repeatedly, but it most often sticks when they can complete the action themselves.  How will you know how someone will communicate with patients if you don’t allow them to do just that.  It is much easier to implement corrections during a probationary or training period than it is once they are fully integrated into your practice or healthcare organization.

During training we generally focus on the daily routine that needs to take place.  We often forget that these new hires also need to be able to stay organized.  Making sure new Medical Receptionists stay organized requires that they have everything they need for their job at their desk.  It may be as simple as providing them with a desk organizer or an ergonomic chair.  It might mean they need binders or folders to keep documents and forms arranged and accessible.  You also must make sure they have access to printers and fax.

If there are policies that directly pertain to front desk staff such as “no food at the desk” or “no cell phone use during work hours” they need to be made aware of that during training. Another good idea to implement when training is to never assume.  Never assume what the person knows.  Show them and explain everything you can, ask them if they understand.  This will often help them with asking questions about what they have been taught.  You will eventually realize what they need more help on and where they feel confident.  Even if your employer or organization has a well-structured or robust training program, there is one last thing I would suggest as part of your onboarding.  Survey the new hire after 30-60 days.  Inquire about how effective they feel the training was and find out if they felt prepared once they were on their own.  This will help for when you must train another new employee and also let you know where the new hire may need some additional guidance.

If you, your office, or front desk staff is struggling with customer service and communication consider the Medical Receptionist Success Training course.


Communication, Tension, and Difficult Situations at the Front Desk

Have you ever walked into work excited to start the day and then within 15 minutes you feel completely defeated? Healthcare settings can be some of the most fulfilling yet most challenging places to work.  Your duties and tasks may be your own, but you often rely on others to do their job for you to effectively do yours, thus the term “team effort”.  Perhaps you are constantly waiting for orders to be entered so you can schedule an appointment.  Maybe the appointment times are not long enough, and you encounter an overcrowded waiting room daily. Sometimes every call you answer requires a ton of time, which keeps you from helping those who have signed in.  Patients are upset or not feeling well, and they are taking it out on you. These are all common to medical practices, not the best part of your career in healthcare but a part you can’t always avoid.

How do you handle these stressful times? Do you just keep moving, and addressing one issue at a time? Do you get upset to the point where you can no longer hide your dissatisfaction in the presence of patients/clients? Perhaps you start cutting corners to save time? Maybe you just check out mentally and complete your shift in such a robotic manner that nobody dares speak to you?

We must always approach our work life with an open mind, and a solution-based approach.  If your first thought when faced with a problem is “how can I resolve this?”. “What can I do to make this better?” Or “What way can I impact this scenario positively?” Then you are on the right track.  Avoid initial responses that may add fuel to an already difficult situation.  For instance, the patient may not always be right but that doesn’t mean it is your job to prove how wrong they may be.  You do not have to tell someone why they are wrong or incorrect all the time.  You can just provide the information that will resolve the situation.  It may counteract the patient or client’s original thought, but you did it without adding hostility.  People know when they are wrong, some will retract a statement or even apologize.  However, others may just continue to do be combative, rude, or attempt to prove their point of view.  The direction of the conversations at the front desk are up to you.  You could change the direction and the outcome.  Your responsibility is to make sure the patient has what they need, is provided accurate information, and receives stellar customer service while visiting your facility.

What if the issue of the day does not concern patients at all, but behind the desk there is some unavoidable tension.  On top of that, perhaps it has nothing to do with you! Now what, how can you be the problem solver among your colleagues?  You probably won’t be.  Although, if you remain neutral, proceed as usual, you will not add to whatever conflict has taken place.  If you keep your mood even and your actions professional your energy alone can improve the situation.  Others may find themselves feeling disappointed in a coworker or having had a professional disagreement.  If you do not instigate or seek out information about the situation it will generally resolve itself faster.  When more people get involved in a matter it is equivalent to adding fuel to the fire.

Whether you have struggles with your patients or your coworkers there are always ways to keep the conversation from getting out of control.

  • Keep lines of communication open, listen instead of preparing your response in your head
  • Don’t add to an already hostile environment
  • Don’t feel like you must get involved in every issue, do not become a part of it
  • Be positive and professional in your engagement with patients’ and coworkers
  • Alert management if you witness anything becoming out of control
  • Take a deep breath before you respond during any heated conversation that may arise at work
  • Remember “You are the bridge” and your role in your organization is valuable. Customer service is #1 and it starts with you.

A bad moment or experience does not have to equal a bad day.  You have the strength and power to move past it and change your mood and future interactions.  You are also allowed to get frustrated and overwhelmed at times, it happens.  Recognize when your work environment is affecting you negatively and do your best to change or take the right actions to improve it.  Immediately.  Medical settings can be some of the most stressful but at the same time some of the most rewarding in terms of communication, problem solving, cohesiveness, accountability, and teamwork driven results for patients.  Always remember why you entered the field of healthcare; it will help during the tougher times.

Visit and join our community on FacebookThe Medical Receptionist Handbook to Success is available on Amazon.  

Nurses Week, Collaboration, and Teamwork

Today ends National Nurses Week 2018.  While Medical Receptionists are the bridge of communication, nurses are the bridge to direct patient care.  Nurses have roles in almost any healthcare setting you can think of.  Direct patient care, clinical management, case management, directors, and even utilization management just to name a few.  Nurses provide required clinical support to medical doctors by executing care plans, reviewing and managing patient care needs and test results.

My mom is a nurse, a damn good nurse! I remember growing up and her colleagues telling me how great my mom was to work with, I saw her letters of acknowledgment from patients and accolades from managers and department heads.  As a child I spent a lot of time with my mom and her nurse friends.  They were some of the most dedicated women and men you could meet.  They cared about their patients, they often worked long hours to get he job done right and were proud of their career choice.

Having also worked along side some awesome nurses I found as a Medical Receptionist your relationship with the nursing staff of your organization is vital.  Having open communication with the nurses is important and allows you to be a better connection between the clinical staff and patients.  Nurses are often the first person you reach out to for a clinical questions or an in office emergency.  Collaboration between the front desk and the nursing staff can be the difference between a well oiled machine and a broke down train.  When departments work together for the greater good of the organization you will see positive results in your organization externally through the patients and internally.

Teamwork in full effect includes everyone in the organization.  When you don’t work closely with other departments there can sometimes be a distance that can cause friction, assumptions, and tension.  There are ways to bridge the gap between clinical and clerical staff, between billing departments and front desk, or even between physicians and front desk.  Knowing who you need to refer to in any given situation is key.  When you do need to go to those that you may not normally communicate with, come prepared.  Introduce yourself if you don’t know the department member.  This is not always an issue in smaller practices but within larger groups or practices that use temporary staff or have employees who work in multiple offices you run into the issue of not getting to know everyone.

The more prepared your are when approaching another colleague about a patient matter and vice versa the smoother interactions will be.  Patient needs will be met.  Many offices will notify staff of a new employee and their role prior to start.  If this doesn’t happen perhaps you can request a short meeting to discuss how your role and their role work together.  That is a way to honor continuity of care and prepare the other employee in what to expect in the position as it refers to the front desk.  Your feedback is important to your employer and management. You bare witness to the on-goings of your office, you know when things are working and when they need to be changed.  Always use proper communication channels to make requests and share ideas.  Medical Receptionists and Nurses working together can move mountains in some cases.  Keep up the fantastic job and encourage teamwork within your practice.

Fun Facts

  • There are over 4 million nurses in the United States.
  • There are over 576,000 Medical Receptionists/Medical Secretaries
  • Florence Nightingale- Nightingale founded the first secular nursing school in the world at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. It is still there today, training nurses for work as RNs and midwives and happens to be the number one nursing school in London.


Medical Receptionist Handbook to Success is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.