On first glance it might seem that a GP practice’s receptionist is no different to a receptionist working in the hospitality or corporate industry environment. However while there are no specific ‘practice receptionist’ courses, there are some key skills and qualifications that you could look for in any applicant.
Despite detailing the list, it is important to take these as a starting point or guidance when recruiting for this particular role. You might often find one or more of these requirements present within shortlisted candidates, but a lack of others. In some instances it might be more suitable to the practice if the candidate demonstrates a willingness to develop in the role and essentially ticks other proverbial boxes, whilst fitting in with the overall organisational culture of the practice.
1 ‘People’ skills
As the practice receptionists are on the frontline, the successful candidate will need to have strong people skills that equip them to deal with difficult situations, namely dealing with demanding patients who require medical attention and managing the expectations of the GPs, practice managers and clinical staff at the same time.
It is also desirable for practice receptionists to have strong communication skills as they not only liaise with members of the public, but other staff. Immense patience as a character trait will also be immensely valuable in this role.
A course such as the ABE (Association of Business Executives) Level 3 Award in the Principles of People Skills in Business (QCF) will help learners understand why people skills are vital to an organisation’s success and will help understanding communicating effectively with people.
2 Good telephone manner
With a phone call often acting as the first means of contact for many patients, telephone skills will prepare a practice receptionist to efficiently handle enquiries and appointment requests in a timely manner. Customer service experience, time-management skills and the ability to multitask between incoming calls, face-to-face patient enquiries and daily administrative tasks is a must. There are a number of training bodies that offer customer service and telephone skills workshops up to advanced level. There is also a Level 2 NVQ in Front Office offered by colleges as an in-house course.
3 Typing and IT experience
Additional skills desirable for applicants of a receptionist’s role include
-typing qualifications and/or training
-familiarity with computers extending to the use of Word and Excel
– internet browsing skills that would be useful when using any medical computer system.
Courses that offer qualifications to OCR Text Production Level 1 or 2 are suitable for beginners or people wishing to advance their touch typing skills. An OCR Audio Transcription Level 2 qualification is suitable for typists or word processor operatives who wish to learn audio typing to OCR (RSA) Level 2.
Other options include The Chartered Institute for IT’s (formerly the British Computer Society) e-type course, a recognised touch-typing qualification and the only one that appears on the Qualifications and Curriculum Framework.
4 Good admin management
The British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA) run a number of courses covering health administration and medical terminology. Their City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Medical Administration is specifically designed for people working (or wanting to work) as administration assistants, ward clerks, receptionists, or records clerks.
The Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR) also run courses in medical terminology and medical administration, such as their Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Medical Administration.
Basic educational qualifications such as GCSEs etc would be useful for anyone wanting to undertake this.
5 Awareness of confidentiality and data protection issues
This is an extremely important area of proficiency for a receptionist to have but if the candidate doesn’t have direct experience of working in an environment that exercises confidentiality as standard, an awareness of the importance of this area with a willingness to learn will suffice. Similar to telephone skills, there are a number of training organisations that offer courses in understanding the important of data protection.
Ruth Long is the general manager at First Practice Management