This morning, I picked up my phone and braced myself to be met by a deep sigh or a stern voice on the receiving end. I was about to ask if I could have a medical appointment changed on Monday. Since living in the UK, my experience with attempting to shift any medical appointments, which have clearly been carved in stone and erected on Mount Sinai itself, has not gone down so well. It’s not that I’ve moved very many medical appointments, maybe 3-4 since living in the UK, but as soon as I’d start to form the words, “I’m so sorry, but…”, they’d say:
Fine. We’ll cancel it then. When would you like to re-book?
Okay, so the words may not paint the highly irritated response that I do get, but this sentiment can sum up the icy reply I’ve come to expect: It ain’t what you say, it’s how you say it. They’ve often come across as annoyed, irritated and rude.
This morning was different. It wasn’t my normal doctor’s office I was calling. I was ringing to change my orthodontic appointment and the receptionist, completely unfazed by request, was helpful…..polite even. I thought perhaps she hadn’t heard my request. I repeated, “I’m so sorry to do this.” She wasn’t cross. She wasn’t rude. I continued, anticipating that at any moment, she would unleash her systematic fury on me, “I really don’t want to mess you guys around.”
“Well, we can’t fit you in later on Monday because that is quite full and the following Monday he will be on annual leave for two weeks. What about seeing another orthodontist on that Monday and it is at 8.45am? How would you feel about that? Would you be okay with that?”
Baffled. Completely baffled.
I pause. “Um yeah. I don’t mind who I see. I’ll be up”
This was a new experience for me. Courteous and helpful customer service from a medical receptionist. Don’t get me wrong, I realize orthodontics doesn’t carry with it the burden of life and death – except when you potentially encounter a teenager who is particularly adverse to a brace. I’m sure there are other kind receptionists out there, but I have struggled to find you.
What’s funny is that The Duchess has been quite poorly and I decided to take her to see the GP today. (That isn’t funny at all. I have not been a mother, I have been a grizzly bear tamer for the last 24 hours.) I booked the appointment. I wasn’t even cancelling and even though I was clear that the appointment was for my one year old, the receptionist became annoyed when she tried to book it for me.
“It’s not for me. It’s for my daughter.”
“WHO’S it for?!”
“Is it urgent? We have nothing available today, but urgent appointments.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it was urgent. We’re not sure what’s wrong. We think it could be an ear infection.”
“I’ll put you in for an urgent appointment at 1pm.”
Grateful to see the GP before the weekend, but baffled for other reasons, I reply:
When I got to the surgery, The Duchess and I wasted time in the waiting room. I welcomed the fact that it was empty. If it had been heaving with groaning patients while, grinning, The Duchess did laps around the table, flinging magazines onto the floor, I think I would have had to double over and pretend that I was about to die. While she
sat looking pitiful in my lap threw a rotund hippo across the floor, I saw this hanging on the wall.
It seems I’m not the only one who feels that the relationship between the receptionists and patient is lacking. Either that or, Lord help me, they have the house wired.
Do you really think there is a good reason GP receptionists are so grumpy? I know I’m not the most pleasant of patients when I feel like a big pile of poo on the floor, but it doesn’t bless me to speak with someone who treats me like a big pile of poo on the floor either. So tell us, why the grumpy service?