What You Need to Become a Medical Receptionist


A medical receptionist is an essential part of any successful healthcare office. Providers look to their receptionists to embody the personality of the practice. The receptionist must create a pleasant, assuring, and welcoming atmosphere, as the first point of contact patients have with the healthcare team.

It takes a special person to be a medical receptionist. In addition to the many administrative skills required, the receptionist must be able to jump from task to task, maintain a firm but gentle approach with patients and their families, and be able to interact with all who cone through the office. In addition to the doctors, nurses, PAs and staff, he or she must greet and deal with pharmaceutical reps, office supply and other delivery personnel, and many of the vendors who conduct business with the doctors and their offices.

A medical receptionist is the one who keeps everyone on task in the office, handles the day-to-day business at hand, listens with compassion when a patient calls the office, and bears the brunt of the disgruntled staff and patients with the utmost professionalism and care. In short, the medical receptionist is the center of the healthcare practice.

Having What it Takes

Given all that the medical receptionist must accomplish in a day, you may wonder what’s involved in learning to become a medical receptionist. While he or she must possess the skills of any good office administrator, the medical receptionist is also called upon to have a full understanding of medical terminology, knowledge of medical office software, coding, insurance, ethics and be somewhat familiar with common procedures of that practice in which he or she works.

Most medical receptionists gain their training, and any required certification, through trade schools, community colleges and technical vocation centers. With a high school diploma, or its equivalent, you can enter into an education program that will qualify you as a medical receptionist. There are a wide variety of opportunities to study weather online or in the classroom, and you can usually be ready to work in a medical office in less than 2 years-sooner in some programs.

Necessary Skills of the Medical Receptionist

As the first point of contact for both patients and visitors, a medical receptionist must be able to interact with all kinds of personality types, and often, under dire circumstances-they don’t feel well, they’re afraid, or their loved one is ill. While compassion is necessary, you must also be able to stand firm in the office rules and guidelines. People will tend to get forceful if they aren’t getting anywhere-they want an appointment asap and the doctor is booked for the next six weeks, they are taking their prescribed meds but not feeling any better, they want to change, cancel or reschedule their appointment for this afternoon. You need to be able to stand you ground.

A highly regarded medical receptionist must also possess excellent communication skills and a flair for customer service. He or she needs to maintain a warm, welcoming and compassionate demeanor, even in the face of an angry patient or member of their family. Stress can run very high in a medical environment and holding it together with the utmost professionalism is essential to the success of the practice in general.
Attention to detail is crucial when working in a medical environment and as a medical receptionist this is key. Organizational skills are also a must-have for medical receptionists. You will be called upon to deal with a high level of activity, demands from patients and staff, adherence to rules and regulations governing patient privacy, all while performing your administrative duties. You can’t risk anything falling through the cracks.

Today’s medical offices are highly technologically advanced and a medical receptionist needs to be computer savvy, with an understanding of specific medical technology and terminology. While most individuals these days are fluent in technology, to some it can seem like a separate language altogether. If you have no interest in computer technology, you may want to reconsider your career path, as this is a huge part of the medical receptionist’s job.

Further Your Career

As you become more adept at medical administration, office procedures, and working with patients, you will likely be moved into a supervisory position. Successfully honing your administrative skills in a medical office shows grace under pressure and will prepare you for an administrative position in just about any other field.

You may decide to branch out and earn a business degree which will enable you to pursue a position in healthcare management, or even hospital management. Some medical receptionists discover they are suited more to hands on patient care and may opt to further their career by obtaining a degree in nursing or as a certified nursing assistant.
Whatever you may decide, a career as a medical receptionist is rewarding and fulfilling in it’s own right. You are able to provide compassion and understanding, while reaping the satisfaction of managing a vital and important aspect of a healthcare facility or office. It’s a career you will enjoy, providing you have what it takes.
Photo credit: austinevan via VisualHunt / CC BY

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