If a doctor’s time is gold, then receptionists are the dragons that guard it. This makes phone calls to doctors’ offices tricky. I realise doctors are busy people, and I’m glad that they have a team of people to make sure they’re not overworked or overbooked, that they have time carved out for lunch or a cup of coffee. But it means that dealing with a receptionist is an art form. It requires patience and understanding, but also firmness and a good handle on how the system works. “No, I’m sorry, that appointment is not soon enough. My husband has been marked by the doctor as a category one patient – he needs an urgent appointment”.
If you’re lucky, when you call you get a receptionist with medical training, perhaps one who knows the names of relevant medications, and is able to identify side effects that need the doctor’s urgent attention (e.g. ridiculously low blood pressure numbers). If you’re unlucky you get a bad-mannered or frustratingly clueless one. The other day I had two in a row.
Me: Hi, I’m ringing to check on the status of the referral the doctor was going to write for my husband?
Receptionist: What’s your husband’s name?
Receptionist: Okay…let me see…yes, we have that referral here.
Me: Excellent, is that the updated referral?
Receptionist: I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about that…
Me: Can you check for me?
Receptionist: Sure…I’ll just pop you on hold
* 5 minutes of listening to: Your call is very important to us…please wait *
Receptionist: Hello…who is this?
Me: This is Sarah
Receptionist: And what are you ringing about today?
Me: My husband’s referral. It’s quite urgent.
Receptionist: Right. And what was your husband’s name?
Receptionist: Okay, let me see if we have that referral here…
Me: You’ve already checked that. You were going to see if it was the updated one…
Receptionist: Oh! That’s right! Did I put you on hold? Sorry, I forgot all about you. Never mind, I can see that we have a referral here for David.
Me: No, my husband’s name is Daniel. Not David.
Receptionist: Well that’s confusing. This referral clearly says “David” on it.
Me: David is the doctor’s name.
Receptionist: Oh! Right. Well, do you happen to have David’s birthdate?
Me: David is the DOCTOR! No, I do not know the doctor’s birthday.
Receptionist: Oh. Oh! Well, do you know Daniel’s birthdate?
Me: Yes, it’s ******
Receptionist: Okay, thanks for that. Wait a minute, is your husband David?
Me: DAVID IS THE DOCTOR!!!
Receptionist: That’s right! And your husband’s name is Daniel. Well, we do have a referral here for him.
Me: Yes, but it is the updated one?!
Receptionist: Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about that. Let me get
one of the other receptionists for you…
A quick chat to a different receptionist showed me it wasn’t the updated referral, but thankfully she dealt with that and then sent it off for me.
Right, next phone call…
Me: Hi, the doctor asked me to ring and update him on how I’m going with this new medication.
Receptionist: And your name is?
Receptionist: Eh? What’s that?
*sigh* This is going to be another long phone call…
How do you go with phone calls to doctors’ offices? I think you get better at it with practice – and I’ve had a lot of practice. A friend of mine calls my phone style “take no prisoners”. I tell her I learned from the best. My Mum is always happy to patiently wait for an appointment when it’s not urgent. But if it is urgent, although she’s never rude, she’s firm and won’t be brushed off.
Got any funny stories about your dealings with the dragons?