The care work of general practice receptionistsPat 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: email@example.com
Journal of Primary Health Care 8(2) 122-129 https://doi.org/10.1071/HC15059
Published: 30 June 2016
This is an open access article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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
References Jesmin S, Thind A, Sarma S. Does team-based primary health care improve patients’ perception of outcomes? Evidence from the 2007–08 Canadian Survey of Experiences with Primary Health. Health Policy 2012; 105 71–83.
| Does team-based primary health care improve patients’ perception of outcomes? Evidence from the 2007–08 Canadian Survey of Experiences with Primary Health.CrossRef | 22321527PubMed |
 Browne AJ, Smye VL, Rodney P, . et al. Access to primary care from the perspective of aboriginal patients at an urban emergency department. Qual Health Res 2011; 21 333–48.
| Access to primary care from the perspective of aboriginal patients at an urban emergency department.CrossRef | 21075979PubMed |
 Ludeke M, Puni R, Cook L. , et al. Access to general practice for Pacific peoples: A place for cultural competency. J Prim Health Care 2012; 4 123–30.
| 22675696PubMed |
 Neuwelt P. Community participation in primary care: what does it mean ‘in practice’? J Prim Health Care 2012; 4 30–8.
| 22377547PubMed |
 Strathmann C, Hay M. “I’m Paying Your Salary Here!”: Social inequality, consumerism, and the politics of space in medical clinics. Hum Organ 2008; 67 49–60.
| “I’m Paying Your Salary Here!”: Social inequality, consumerism, and the politics of space in medical clinics.CrossRef |
 Arber S, Sawyer L. The role of the receptionist in general practice: A dragon behind the desk? Soc Sci Med 1985; 20 911–21.
| The role of the receptionist in general practice: A dragon behind the desk?CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaL2M3ksVOlug%3D%3D&md5=eb0bf4e58795fe7cf2971702ee5f801cCAS | 4012367PubMed |
 Hewitt H, McCloughan L, McKinstry B. Front desk talk: discourse analysis of receptionist–patient interaction. Br J Gen Pract 2009; 59 e260–6.
| Front desk talk: discourse analysis of receptionist–patient interaction.CrossRef | 22751251PubMed |
 Offredy M. Access to primary care: decision making by GP receptionists. Br J Community Nurs 2002; 7 480–5.
| Access to primary care: decision making by GP receptionists.CrossRef | 12362145PubMed |
 Patterson E, Del Mar C, Najman J. Medical receptionists in general practice: Who needs a nurse? Int J Nurs Pract 2000; 6 229–36.
| Medical receptionists in general practice: Who needs a nurse?CrossRef |
 Arroll N. Invisible Clinicians: the role of the receptionist in general practice. Master of Public Health thesis, The University of Auckland; 2011.
 Patterson E, Forrester K, Price K, Hegney D. Risk reduction in general practice and the role of the receptionist. J Law Med 2005; 12 340–7.
| 15754555PubMed |
 Alazri M, Heywood P, Leese B. How do receptionists view continuity of care and access in general practice? Eur J Gen Pract 2007; 13 75–82.
| How do receptionists view continuity of care and access in general practice?CrossRef | 17534743PubMed |
 Gallagher M, Pearson P, Drinkwater C, Guy J. Managing patient demand: a qualitative study of appointment making in general practice. Br J Gen Pract 2001; 51 280–5.
| 1:STN:280:DC%2BD3Mvgs12nsQ%3D%3D&md5=013cdfeab3d6bbe82df47ba968e3c380CAS | 11458480PubMed |
 Hammond J, Gravenhorst K, Funnell E. , et al. Slaying the dragon myth: an ethnographic study of receptionists in UK general practice. Br J Gen Pract 2013; e177–84.
| Slaying the dragon myth: an ethnographic study of receptionists in UK general practice.CrossRef | 23561784PubMed |
 Baum F. The New Public Health. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2002.
 Cresswell J. Philosophical assumptions and interpretive frameworks. Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: Sage Publications; 2013: 15–41.
 Braun V, Clarke V. Thematic analysis. In: Cooper H, editor. APA Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology: Vol 2 Research Designs. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association; 2012. p. 57–71.
 Corbin J, Strauss A. Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage Publications; 2014.
 Kitzinger J. Qualitative Research: Introducing Focus Groups. BMJ 1995; 311 299–302.
| Qualitative Research: Introducing Focus Groups.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaK2MzlvFOrug%3D%3D&md5=2177553058d6f2eaf05663df57bd946cCAS | 7633241PubMed |
 Neuwelt PM, Kearns RA, Browne AJ. The place of receptionists in access to primary care: Challenges in the space between community and consultation. Soc Sci Med 2015; 133 287–95.
| The place of receptionists in access to primary care: Challenges in the space between community and consultation.CrossRef | 25455478PubMed |
 Tarrant C, Windridge K, Boulton M. , et al. “He treats you as a person not just like a number” – How important is personal care in general practice? BMJ 2003; 326 1310
| “He treats you as a person not just like a number” – How important is personal care in general practice?CrossRef | 12805168PubMed |
 Thomson P, Ellison L, Byrom T, Bulman D. Invisible labour: home-school relations and the front office. Gend Educ 2007; 19 141–58.
| Invisible labour: home-school relations and the front office.CrossRef |