PayScale: How did you get started as a receptionist in the medical field?
My position as a receptionist began out of necessity. Before pursuing this position I worked for a company that was not concerned with educational attributes and the schedule was sporadic. I needed a flexible job to help pay my school tuition that would not interfere with my school schedule. Also, I wanted to be able to utilize the skills I was learning in school and incorporate that into everyday life. In addition to that I needed a consistent schedule with set hours. The company needed to understand that my education took priority. Motivation to pursue this type of position came from my own personal assessment. I wanted the experience of being in an office setting and interacting with different types of people. Sitting behind a computer is my ideal, but I knew it was important to have the soft skills as well. In this position I am able to put on several different hats and complete a variety of personal goals throughout the day. To me this sets me apart from others in my position, because I am able to adapt to different situations. This position gives me the security I need to be part of a team environment and work on my own as well.
PayScale: What do you enjoy most about your receptionist job?
I love my job for many reasons, but the one that I hold most dear is the time when I helped out a resident's family member. There was a young girl around 17 years of age, who had a daughter about three years old. Every time they would come to visit they would stop to talk to me for awhile. One day the family was discussing how they were going to shave or cut the little girls hair, because it was not manageable. The facility has a beauty salon and so I asked the family and facility for permission to style the little girl’s hair. Once I had the approvals, I went out and purchased product and supplies for her hair. The next time the little girl game in for a visit, I told her I was going on break and we were going to the beauty salon. She was so excited and sang through washing, drying and styling. When we emerged from the salon her hair had two ponytails on each side. However, the smile on her face was the best part of the experience. The girl was so happy she started skipping through the halls and everyone thought she looked adorable. I gave all the supplies to the family and explained how to maintain her hair. Shortly after, I was nominated for employee of the month by a colleague of mine who heard about the day of beauty. Although I was not expecting any acknowledgment for helping someone out, it reminded me that one person can make a difference.
PayScale: What are some challenges you have faced as a medical receptionist?
One of the biggest challenges is pleasing everyone that comes in contact with you. Understanding my responsibilities and the mission of the company helps in keeping focused on my priorities. I am an intricate part of the company and the first face everyone meets. The luxury of having a bad day does not apply in this role. The requirement of multi-tasking with a “can-do-attitude” is more than just a statement. I find that it is helpful to imagine I am the person in front of me needing assistance. By taking me out the equation and putting the other person first I can service them better. This is a customer focused position, which does require an attention to detail and the ability to manage several responsibilities at once. At any given time you will be asked to stop what you’re doing and assist a person in need. Working in a medical facility, I am constantly interacting with medical staff and patients. Discretion is of the utmost importance, along with a calm demeanor in the presence of an emergency. Fielding messages from a multiple phone system can be trying, especially when the caller is not clear in their needs. Being able to deliver a message, but still remain cognizant enough not to give out unnecessary information is a must. There is also a level of confidentiality that must be adhered to for the safety of the patients and staff. Interruptions tend to happen quite a bit, but maintaining calm and listening to what is being requested helps. This type of work can be monotonous, but having a positive outlook and diligently working can alleviate this feeling. There is also some down time and opportunity to find your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The number one aspect is being able to effectively communicate and anticipate the needs of others
PayScale: Any advice for those interested in receptionist jobs?
The position of receptionist is usually entry-level and sometimes experience is required. For this reason it is highly sought after by those wanting to enter the workforce and applicants are plentiful. Make yourself stand out with skills you already have. If you’re a student, focus on the skills you’re learning in school and obtain a letter of recommendation from your educator. For those of you that have been away from work and are just getting back, volunteering is another way to get your foot in the door. Try to network and make connections with persons inside the company. Sometimes you can get an informational interview, which might lead to this position or another opportunity. Attention to detail and the ability to juggle multiple tasks is the core foundation to this role. You must have a positive attitude and carry yourself in a professional manner. Most employers are willing to work with a person who has drive and determination along with a great outlook on obstacles that might come their way. Whatever you do, always be pleasant and have a positive attitude. The advice I wish I had before starting this position is network within your company. Look at the other departments in the company and see if they are of interest to you. Then find out what it takes to work in those roles. Treat the experience as a career day without the actual event. As the gatekeeper I saw myself as managing the front and performing my position as requested. Entry-level jobs are portals to other exciting opportunities, especially if you intend to stay. Also, ask for challenging work if you want more. Not only will it benefit you, but also your employer and they will view you as an asset.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy moments from your job as a medical receptionist?
The most interesting thing that happened while doing this type of work was going on a field trip and getting lost. Life lessons were learned that day and great friendships were formed. After my shift ended I went to help out with the activities department. Like I said before, it’s always good to check out other departments. This day the activities department was taking residents on a leisure drive through a neighboring town and needed a few extra people to help. Everything seemed to be going very well, until the weather changed and it began to rain and then hail. We pulled over for awhile, waiting for the weather to clear up some. After the clearing we decided to take an alternate route, which turned into the scenic route. I suppose it’s just a nice way to say that we were lost. We pulled over again, opting to pass out sandwiches and hot chocolate as we reviewed the map and pondered our next steps. One of the residents started to talk about their experience of camping in the woods. Another talked about fishing with their family as a child and how life was when they were young. Time quickly elapsed and we were so engrossed with telling stories, we didn’t notice forty minutes had passed. We talked a little longer and laughed about the experience. Eventually we figured the map out and headed back towards the facility. This trip was amazing to me because I had the chance to get to know a wonderful group of people. Being lost gave me the opportunity to share the past in the present. This moment reminds me that work is what you make it and it can be fun. It also taught me that Global Positioning System (GPS) is a great invention and never leave home without it.
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