As of 2019, there were 1,105,300 healthcare receptionists in the U.S. And according to recent data, this number is expected to grow 4 percent in the next eight years – as fast as the average for all occupations.
Today, on National Receptionists Day, we honor ALL the wonderful receptionists working hard out there, and we have a special place in our hearts for the ones at doctor’s offices, dental practices, and family eye care providers.
On a personal level, I have a very special place in my heart for doctor’s office receptionists, because my mother was one of them. She was actually more like the office manager in a small, one-doctor practice in the little town where she’s from. As a kid, I used to visit her at work occasionally, and I couldn’t believe how lucky Mom was, because she got to use an electric typewriter every single day!
From the very first time I ever visited my mom at this doctor’s office, I was impressed with her ability to multitask. She would instruct me to sit quietly at the typewriter, then she would answer the phone, let the doctor know which patient was coming in next, communicate with the nurse, and greet patients as they entered the waiting room.
As a little girl, I was surprised to see my mother in a professional light. She was well-dressed, organized, and phenomenal with the patients. She greeted them by name, asked about their families, congratulated them on recent weddings or graduations, and politely asked them to have a seat until the doctor was ready to see them.
How did she remember who everyone was, I wondered. How did she know the names of so many different people? How was she so friendly and welcoming, while answering the phone with the same professionalism and enthusiasm, and never missing a beat?
My mom truly loved her job. She loved serving patients, keeping the doctor’s schedule organized, and knowing “her office” was running smoothly. The patients loved her, too. They were always so happy to see her each time they came in. And when I was there, tapping away on that fancy electric typewriter, they’d say, “Oh my gosh, is this your daughter? She looks just like you!”
During a break, Mom would always take me across the hall to say hi to her friends who worked in the other doctors’ offices. Then, we would go to lunch at the hospital that was connected to the medical building, where even more people – X-ray techs, nurses, visitors – would stop and say hello to my mom.
Visiting Mom at work was certainly one of the highlights of my childhood.
Eventually, that doctor retired and Mom went on to become the office manager at a busy surgical practice. There, she not only managed a team, but she was also in charge of scheduling bariatric procedures for several surgeons.
This bariatric office happened to be at the university hospital adjacent to where I was attending college. So, every week or two, I’d get to stop by and meet mom for lunch. And if it was snowing or really cold outside, she’d escort me through the “secret” underground tunnels that connected the practice to the hospital. Even though I was now 18 or 19 years old, I still thought it was fun to walk through the tunnels where only medical professionals were allowed, and arrive on the street at our favorite pizza place.
Back then, I had no idea the amount of organization, people skills, and intellectual coordination it took to work as a receptionist or an office manager at a doctor’s office. I realize now, my mom was so well-loved by the patients and doctors alike, because she took care of everything behind the scenes, so the practice ran like a fine-tuned instrument.
It’s kind of amazing to think about, because when Mom first started in the medical profession, all she had were her shorthand note-taking skills and an electric typewriter. It wasn’t until much later in her career that she had access to patient scheduling software and electronic medical records.
But, when it comes to working as a healthcare receptionist, beyond being organized and using technology to make your life easier, it’s equally important to provide a great patient experience. Greeting patients by name and making them feel comfortable – especially when they’ve just arrived for a root canal or another procedure that makes them feel anxious – can make all the difference for that individual’s experience.
So, take a moment to thank your receptionist today! Let them know how much you appreciate their positive attitude, their ability to keep your schedule full, and to make patients feel welcomed while they wait.
My mom is retired now, but I’m going to remind her how important her role was, and what a difference she made in the lives of so many people.
Looking for ways to create a great patient experience at your practice? Download this free guide to: