Why does the receptionist need to know what is wrong with me?

Written by a receptionist at SHS;

This quote recently appeared on my Facebook feed: “It takes seven years to train a doctor and 2 minutes for the receptionist to think she’s one as well”.   I think this highlights the popular misconception that receptionists are either nosey or intentionally obstructive (and are always female!).  In fact, receptionists are trained to triage.  Triage is the process which is used in many areas of health provision to enable the prioritising of sick or injured people for treatment according to the seriousness of the condition or injury.  Using triaging ensures that the highly sought- after timeslots available are used effectively to provide the best service for the patient.


The Students’ Health Service is staffed not only by General Practitioners (GPs) but also by nurses and clinical pharmacists, who can see patients and provide a prescription where necessary.  Some nurses and pharmacists also have particular areas of clinical interest (e.g. dealing with patients with asthma and diabetes, offering contraception advice, providing advice and vaccinations for overseas travel etc.).  When patients call for an appointment the receptionist will ask what the general nature of the illness is in order to ensure that the patient is seen as quickly as possible, by the practitioner that can best deal with their illness or query.  The receptionist will always respect the right of the patient to decline to give details of their illness.


Please don’t feel offended if the receptionist asks for the reason for your appointment request.

You can be assured that the staff in the Students’ Health Service will deal with any requests for appointments in the most appropriate manner possible for both the patient and the practice, and that any information you give us about your illness is shared only with your practitioner.