A day in the life of an emergency department receptionist

The emergency department is an extremely fast-paced environment the Emergency Care (ECC) receptionist plays a key role.

Accident and Emergency (A and E) is an extremely fast-paced environment and the reception team plays a key role in the running of the department. Rebecca Barley is an Emergency Care Centre (ECC) receptionist at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust. She has shared an insight into her day-to-day role in the busy emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth (QE) Hospital.

How long have you worked for Gateshead Health?

I have worked within Gateshead Health since the start of 2023. I have worked in a variety of NHS trusts within the North East, however I feel Gateshead Health is the most welcoming. Given the size of the hospital compared to others I have worked in, Gateshead Health is a smaller community, which makes you feel more included and appreciated.

Three members of reception staff at accident and emergency reception

What does your role involve?

My job within the Emergency Care Centre (ECC) entails being the first port of call to patients attending in their hours of need. This can be anything from a small easily treated problem such as a finger/toe injury to a life-threatening emergency such as shortness of breath (SOB) and cardiac arrests.

We offer around the clock service which means we are open 24hours a day, 365 days a year and cater to all patients’ needs, welcoming friends and family of patients and offering support as and where needed. Our department consists of lots different areas, which are: the Accident and Emergency (A and E) department including the Peapod (children’s emergency assessment), Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) and Emergency Admissions Unit, (EAU) on wards 1 and 2.

We also have the Blaydon Urgent Treatment Centre. This is located outside of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital but offers the same service as the UTC. Each of these areas assess the patients and place them in the correct area to make sure they receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me is offering my undivided attention and knowledge from start to finish. Being always welcoming and approachable. It is my job to ensure the patient is properly checked into the area I am covering that day, whilst always following the correct procedures to so they receive the care they need.

I offer support to all areas, all staff members both admin and medical, and make sure the patient’s hospital notes are available so we can take their opinions and needs into account in their care.

Accuracy is key in this job role as it ensures there are no problems with the patient’s care. We work closely with other professionals outside our ECC such as Police, GPs and Health visitors whilst frequently speaking with members of the public to deal with their queries.

What are the best things about your job? What do you enjoy the most?

The best thing about my job within ECC is being able to support and offer patients help when they need it. Patients who attend A and E often feel vulnerable and may be upset, being a helpful and welcoming receptionist ensures their journey with starts off smooth and reassuring.

What I enjoy the most is seeing what happens in A and E overall. The work that happens here behind the scenes is very fast-paced and a total eye-opener, I am happy I get to contribute to that.

Three members of reception staff outside the accident and emergency reception

What do you think the service will look like in the future?

I hope the service will continue to offer patients care as and when they need it. I do feel the service is sometimes misused by individuals who should have contacted their GP or pharmacy during opening hours.

Hopefully, in the future, this will have been rectified ensuring patients with more serious problems or injuries are seen and treated quicker.

How big is your team and how do you all fit into the day-to-day running of the trust?

My team consists of a health workers ranging from the administration team, doctors, nurses, health care assistants, domestics, security and ambulance crew. It includes an ECC team leader, receptionists and ward clerks who cover all areas. There are around 57 members of staff which include regular BANK staff who are also trained in our areas.

We fit into the day-to-day running of the trust by ensuring all areas run smoothly, quickly and efficiently whilst always working within timescales set by the trust. We do this by also working over 24 hours to ensure the service is always accessible.

Is there anything you think people don’t know about your role?

I don’t feel anyone who hasn’t worked within the ECC department can understand the constant demand for the service and how some days it can be non-stop from start to finish.

Every day is different, none ever being the same and you never know what cases you may be faced with. This can often require quick thinking and on-the-spot actions to ensure the outcome is productive. We are faced daily with a wide variety of obstacles however we always ensure we work to high standards and prioritise our patients’ safeguarding where needed.

Three members of reception staff