How to Become a Medical Receptionist
A medical receptionist is an integral part of a high functioning healthcare team. Doctors, nurses, and other medical and administrative staff members rely on the medical receptionist to create a friendly, welcoming and well-organized front office for patients and to facilitate their flow through the facility.
The daily rhythm of work as a medical receptionist can be summed up in one word—busy! These professionals traditionally perform their duties from a prominently located desk, where they can easily interact with patients, staff, pharmaceutical reps, vendors and others. They are responsible for maintaining a calm and efficient environment for fielding phone calls, answering patient questions, scheduling new and follow-up appointments, registering new patients and updating records.
A medical receptionist is the touchstone for both the staff and patients of a healthcare practice. These professionals are charged with expertly coordinating the day-to-day activities of doctors, nurses and patients to ensure a focus on compassionate care delivered on time.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010), most medical receptionists are employed by doctors’ offices (including dentists), hospitals and long-term care facilities, although some work for outpatient facilities and community clinics. While most positions follow a typical Monday through Friday workday schedule, some may be required to work evenings, nights, weekends, or holidays, particularly when employed by hospitals and other 24-hour care facilities.
An entry-level medical receptionist is required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. In some instances, employers may provide or require more formal training to meet their hiring criteria. Additional training may include classes in medical terminology, medical software, medical office procedures, coding, medical ethics, and others, which are available through a wide range of educators, both online and in the classroom. There is a growing trend in many healthcare settings to cross-train medical assistants as medical receptionists, combining office tasks with patient care duties.
Most medical receptionists will learn how to perform their duties by working with an experienced member of the office staff during their first few weeks on the job. During this period, they will receive training specific to their employer’s policies and important institutional procedures, particularly those dealing with patient health information (PHI) and patient confidentiality.
Licensing and/or Certification
There are no licensure or certification requirements to work as a medical receptionist; however, those who also serve as medical assistants may be licensed by a number of certifying bodies, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants and the National Center for Competency Testing. This level of certification may require the medical assistant/medical receptionist to complete continuing education units (CEUs) and scheduled examinations to maintain licensure.
Necessary Skills and Qualities
The medical receptionist is usually the first representative of a medical office encountered by patients and visitors, whether on the phone, online or in person. These professionals must have experience interacting with a wide range of personality types in both pleasant and difficult circumstances.
Because they work so closely with the public, they must have a warm, welcoming demeanor, along with excellent customer service and communication skills. The medical receptionist must serve patients with poise and compassion, as they represent the entire practice every time they interact with a patient.
Additionally, they need to be highly organized and detail oriented to ensure that daily administrative tasks don’t fall through the cracks. It is imperative that the medical receptionist is able to handle a high level of stress and activity while managing fast-paced office duties. Finally, with technology becoming more and more prevalent in physicians’ office, employers often seek out medical receptionists who are computer savvy and familiar with software used in healthcare settings.
Opportunities for Advancement
Medical receptionists are commonly moved into supervisory positions as they become more skilled in office procedures and patient care. Advancement can also depend on the career path and education they choose to pursue while in their current jobs. For example, a medical receptionist who has augmented his or her education with medical-related courses, obtaining a degree and/or license may open doors to positions such as medical secretary or administrative assistant. These jobs generally include greater levels of responsibility such as formulating reports, organizing conferences or helping physicians with complex documentation.
Obtaining a business degree can help a medical receptionist advance to high-level administrative positions, such as medical practice manager or healthcare executive. Still others may lean toward more patient care and pursue other branches of clinical healthcare as a medical assistant or nurse.
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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010), medical receptionists’ salaries range from about $18,000 to $37,000 a year, with a median wage of approximately $25,000—with physicians’ and dentists’ offices paying slightly above that mean. Cross-trained medical receptionists typically earn more, depending on their experience and where they work.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that over one million receptionists were working in the US in 2010—and most of these were medical receptionists. Given the projected rate of expansion for healthcare and related industries, medical receptionists can expect a job growth rate of 24% through 2020.
In line with these statistics, most jobs are expected to be in medical offices, dental offices and community healthcare facilities for aging Americans. While technology will continue to pervade the medical practice, it is not expected that the need for medical receptionists will decrease, as their greatest asset is the ability to serve patients with dignity and respect.