Your admin team is the beating heart of your practice. From receptionists on the front line who are your communication hub and first point of contact with patients, through to medical secretaries who work hard behind the scenes to ensure practice admin is accurate and complete. It’s therefore imperative that they have all the skills they need, and that those skills are kept up-to-date and added to.
Training of practice admin staff is a complex matter. What skills do your staff need? Do you need to train them in-house or outside? How do you know if your chosen course is suitable? And how can you ensure everybody receives a fair investment in them?
The first thing to consider is mandatory training and what’s required of staff. This is a topic that we’ve looked at previously on Practice Index – a blog can be found here – but what additional training should practices consider?
A handy Practice Index Forum thread discussed the topic recently and a number of training topics came up, including:
- Medical terminology
- Note/minute taking
- Conflict resolution
- Social prescribing signposting
- Language courses
- Violence and aggression
As one forum contributor said, roles are so wide and varied these days that there will always be a course that you think your staff should be attending. So that means training should be allocated according to what skills are needed the most – and which can bring other benefits to the practice. For example, could a shorthand course save time, which could be spent dealing with other tasks?
Appraisals are a good way to get a better understanding of the training needs of your staff. Do they feel that they have gaps in their skills? Are they struggling with certain tasks? Have they any ideas regarding others and gaps in the wider workforce? Outside of appraisals, try to ensure there’s a way of staff speaking up when they feel they could benefit from training.
In-house or external training?
Once you’ve worked out what training is beneficial, the next question to answer is whether you need to go for in-house or external training – and it appears there’s no right or wrong answer here.
One practice manager told us: “There are benefits to both options and I think general training on topics we can all benefit from should take place in-house. Customer service or violence and aggression training are good examples – they can be used as team-building exercises allowing everybody to let off steam about certain memorable patients. Otherwise, when it comes to more specialised training, it’s probably best delivered externally.”
On that latter point, a comment left on the forum adds: “Sending people out for training can boost morale,” while another comment added: “Developing ‘specialists’ within the team is really good for making staff feel indispensable – and getting the respect of colleagues.”
Another excellent point made by a practice manager revolves around working with other practices on training.
“Receptionist and admin team members coming together from different practices on half-day training afternoons is beneficial as they network, share ideas and become motivated purely by hearing that other practices are experiencing similar situations and resolving them in different ways. Excellent customer care is a good example as it covers a lot of areas. Dealing with difficult patients and situations, handling complaints, introduction to supervision, equality and diversity, chaperone training and introduction to social prescribing are all very topics for all to hear different perspectives on the topics and put them into action on return to the practice.”
Choosing a trainer
There are plenty of specialists offering training – and plenty of more general providers covering the less specific topics (don’t rule these providers out – there’s loads practices can learn from outside primary care), so choosing the right provider can be tricky. Even Practice Index provides practice staff and specific receptionist training courses – click here for more information.
So, ask your fellow practice managers at events or via online forums, read reviews and ask for verified testimonials. And don’t forget that by working with other practices you can spread the cost.
Finally, don’t overlook specialist training, often offered free of charge, to help practice staff improve how they deal with certain illnesses. One example is Cancer Research UK’s Talk Cancer initiative, a training programme to help those working in relevant jobs to feel confident talking to people about ways to reduce the risk of cancer, spotting cancer early and screening.
Training is a hugely important yet diverse topic for all practices. The training provided and how it’s delivered is all down to what works best for each individual practice and your staff – so consider what’s needed and go for it!
What training would you recommend for you? Have you any tips that you would like to share? Start the conversation by commenting below in the Practice Index forum here.