Journal of Primary Health Care Journal of Primary Health Care Society
Journal of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

The care work of general practice receptionists

Pat M. Neuwelt 1 3 , Robin A. Kearns 2 , Isobel R. Cairns 1

1 Health Systems, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

2 School of Environment, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

3 Correspondence to: Pat M Neuwelt, Health Systems, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. Email: p.neuwelt@auckland.ac.nz

Journal of Primary Health Care 8(2) 122-129 https://doi.org/10.1071/HC15059
Published: 30 June 2016

Journal Compilation © Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners 2016.
This is an open access article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: The care work of general practice receptionists has received limited research attention, despite receptionists position at the beginning of patients’ journeys in many health care systems. We examine receptionists’ perceptions of their work and the opportunities and constraints they experience in caring for patients while providing administrative support to practices.

METHODS: Data were collected in focus group interviews with 32 receptionists from urban and rural general practices in the Auckland and Northland regions of New Zealand. We employed tools from inductive thematic analysis and Straussian grounded theory in interpreting the data.

FINDINGS: We found that the way receptionists identified with a caring role strongly challenged the pejorative view of them in public discourse. Receptionists provide care in two key ways: for the practice and for patients. The juggling they do between the demands of the practice and of patients creates considerable work tensions that are often invisible to other staff members.

CONCLUSION: Receptionists have a critical role as the first step in the patient care pathway, bridging health care system and community. For general practice to be patient-centred and improve accessibility for the most vulnerable, the care work of receptionists must be considered core.

KEYWORDS: Receptionists; general practice; care; New Zealand


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