How to Help Front Desk Staff Cultivate Patience

When you work at the front desk of a rheumatology practice, it’s easy to become impatient with people or lose your cool. From patients who are missing vital paperwork, to physicians who are running behind, to others who choose to take their anger and frustration out on the first person they see—a lot happens at the front desk, and the staff members who sit behind it often bear the brunt of it.

Losing your cool, however, will eventually cause you to lose your patients and possibly your job. Instead, it’s better to cultivate healthy habits and useful strategies that help you step back, breathe deep, and deal with whatever comes your way. If you or your staff members are having a rough week, the following tips should help cultivate patience and create a (mostly) serene environment.

Know the signs of impatience.

The first step to cultivating patience is recognizing the signs of impatience. These can include any of the following: shallow breathing, tense muscles, clenching of hands or jaw, irritability, and anxiety. If, during a conversation or altercation, you begin to feel any of these things, step away for a moment until the situation—and your physical symptoms—deescalate.

Recognize your triggers.

While there are many things we can’t control—the weather and other people immediately come to mind—there are some known triggers you can avoid. If you become anxious when you’ve had too much coffee, switch to decaf. If patients running late for appointments winds you up, build a better buffer into the schedule. Keep a list of moments when you feel like you’re losing your patience, and try to find patterns. Once you figure out what it is that makes you lose your cool, call in reinforcements.

Put yourself in their shoes.

When you spend all day working the front desk of a medical practice, it can be hard to remember that nearly everyone you deal with is there for a reason, and that most of those reasons aren’t exactly good. Perhaps a patient is acting rude because they’re afraid of an arthritis diagnosis. Maybe someone forgot paperwork because their new medication isn’t working out.  Perhaps an appointment is running over because a physician had to deliver bad news, and spent extra time consoling a patient. Any of these things could be true in any situation, and even if they aren’t—even if someone is just trying your patience for no good reason—imagining a kinder, more compassionate version of events doesn’t hurt anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact—it could help you achieve a zen-like patience that everyone benefits from.

We hope these tips help make your day more pleasant. For more tips about how to be the best employee at your practice, make sure to follow NORM on Facebook.

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
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