Dear Mrs. Brown,

Thank you for your input in our ‘Suggestion Box’. We understand your frustration and we apologize for the inconvenience. You mentioned that it’s impossible to ‘visit’ with your doctor anymore, you claimed, because everytime you call, the front office girls screened your calls. You claimed that you hardly ever pass the receptionist and always told that somebody will call you back. Are you sure about that, Mrs Brown? E-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e and a-l-w-a-y-s? Because we do have records when you called almost two months ago about your finger laceration when you were pruning your lilies, our medical receptionist put your call straight to the nurse to be helped right away. Or when you’re out of state, and you were having a bladder infection, our receptionist actually did try to connect you to the nurse and when nobody was back at the nurses station, she pulled your medical chart from the back room and brought it to the nurse.

After further bitching, you ended your letter with capital-lettered question ‘ARE THE RECEPTIONISTS SCREENING THE PHONE CALLS’?  Well of course! Do you really think the doctors would let the receptionists putting all phone calls from patients directly through to them? They’d fire those poor receptionists in a heartbeat. Unless you are returning their calls. Or, if you have ‘MD’ or ‘DO’ title behind your name. The receptionists know that those doctors would want to be connected right away, they’re very busy people, you know. No dilly dally. If no answer, the receptionists have to find the doctors. Get them out of the exam room, regardless whatever they’re doing.

So it’s not the receprionists’ fault that your calls were screened. They were told to do so. In fact, the receptionists were also not allowed to put calls through for the nurses. Just like the ER nurses were supposed to triage all calls, our receptionists are doing a similar task. We assure you, Mrs. Brown, it’s not to ‘piss you off’ like you thought they’re doing. They’re basically gathering enough information for the nurses. They need to make sure you are whoever you tell them you are. They are supposed to ask for name and date of birth, confirm your address and phone number, and update your heath insurance. Then, they need to ask for the reason you’re calling. Here, the receptionist is challenged to make a quick decission whether it’s OK to have you wait for a return call, or if you need to be put through to the nurse (mostly for chest pain, abdominal pain i.e. appendicitis, head injury, fractured bones, or any lacerations which might be to big or to deep).

You see, Mrs. Brown, there’s much more to it than ‘they are just answering phones, how hard is it to just put my call through?’ Because if they did [just to put your call through], this scenario would happen:

Receptionist A: “Hey Nurse B, I have Mrs. So-and-so on the phone asking for you.”
Nurse B: “So? What does she want?”
Receptionist A: “Dunno. She said she wants to talk to Dr. C’s nurse. That’s you, right?”
Nurse B: “I need her chart. D’uh. And take a better message!”

It’s just ain’t gonna fly, Mrs. Brown… Plus, let me tell you one more secret: not all the nurses are answering their phones, even if they’re just sitting there at their desk or happen to be nearby. When they’re busy yapping to each other, they tend to ignore the phones ringing furiously. The poor receptionist on the other line who has an upset patient who demanded to talk to the nurse right away -“Because I called four hours ago and haven’t heard a dang thing from you people!”- was totally dumbfounded because she could hear the nurse’s laugh from across the hallway but yet, not answering the freakin’ phone. Ahem, excuse me there for a moment, Mrs. Brown, I almost loose my manner.

All in all, we appreciate your letter. Thank you for spending your time and energy writing such a nasty one. Really got you goin’, didn’t it? Was your blood pressure up during the writing? And yes, we are going to continue telling the receptionists to screen phone calls.

The Management.

This is just fiction. Not really a normal reply. In fact, I’m not sure what the protocol is for the ‘big names’ to handle such matter. I sure wish they’d do it this way, though.  Sassy. Probably not good for business.