Get Rid Of Your Waiting Room

Nurse Practitioners and other  Clinicians can no longer continue business as usual.

Our patients (clients, customers) deserve and expect much more. Gone are the days when a white coat gives one cart blanche to treat patients and staff indifferently behind the ruse of being busy. There is no doubt that you are busy. But just as you want respect from your patients, they are now expecting it from you as well.  Addressing one of the most common concerns patients make about provider offices will go a long way.

You are no doubt familiar with this complaint: “Every time I go to that office, I have to wait for hours!” I trust patients waiting in your office, wait for a much shorter time. There is much we can do to reduce wait times, but waiting is a reality for both patients and providers. It’s a fact of life that emergencies and other situations can and do happen.

So what can we do to minimize the impact of waiting? Well, it turns out there is much that can be done.

  1. First – stop calling it a “Waiting Room” and rename it a reception area or something similar. Waiting Room implies that I will be waiting, no matter what. Changing the name can help reduce that perception and soften the idea that there will be a short delay before seeing the provider.
  2. Make your patients comfortable. Patients have been invited into your office to see you. Think of this as your work “living room”. Make sure the reception area is comfortable for your guest. Take a seat…are the chairs comfortable? What about the room temperature? Too warm? Too cool?
  3. When we are waiting (and idle) time can seem to drag on and on. However, when we are distracted or better yet engaged, time flies. Do you have a variety of reading material that is up to date? And while you are at it, is the lighting appropriate for reading? I’m not a fan of TV’s in reception areas, but perhaps you may want to consider a TV or video screen that is playing something engaging and appropriate (maybe even educational)?
  4. Comfort Station. If possible, it’s nice to have a restroom available to those who are waiting as well as water or other appropriate beverages depending on your office situation.
  5. Children. It can be quite irritating to a non-parent (or parent!) to listen to a child who is bored and tired. If you see children, or the family members of young children, consider having appropriate items that may keep their hands and minds engaged.

Most important, if you have patients waiting to see you, make sure they are keep up to date on any delays. Consider offering them the option to reschedule. Respect your patients and their time. It will go a long way in making them happy, satisfied patients.

What changes can you make in your reception area today?

Comments 9

  1. In my Women’s Health practice the reception area features an electric fireplace, for added warmth and ambiance , -rocking chairs, warm and inviting furnishings, relaxing music, aromatherapy and one of the most popular features is our patient loaning library. We have hundreds of books-mostly relating to health-physical, emotional or spiritual, others just “good reads”- patients may sign out-many patients come to the office a bit early to take advantage of the peace and quiet, and enjoy a cup of comfort from the hospitality area offering an assortment of teas, flavored coffees or cocoa or a bottle of water. Art from local artists is featured. (I purchased or was gifted mine, but some artists will be glad to loan you their art to display for the exposure.) This works especially well if your office style/space permits and you don’t mind rotating pieces.
    We must be doing something right as the only complaint we get is “Do I have to come back already? I was really enjoying the relaxation!” We also almost never have anyone wait beyond 15 minutes to be seen-if we encounter a delay we offer to re-schedule. If we inconvenience someone, besides a sincere apology, I might send them a handwritten note, thanking them for their understanding, and maybe including a small token like a bookmark or small insert with an inspirational saying, etc. The most popular reading material is hands-down are these tiny little “gems” called “Elf-Help” books available by One Caring Place-Abbey Press. One book can be read in 5 minutes, and the messages are simple and profound. I keep lots of them on the coffee table., and in the exam rooms. And probably most importantly is greeting the patient warmly upon arrival, and an equally warm good-bye.
    Good old-fashioned hospitality goes a long way!

  2. Pingback: Best In Nurse Blogs: Thanksgiving ER Visit Edition! | The Millionaire Nurse Blog

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    Rana…I love what you are doing! Sounds as if patients are relaxed and thus more open to sharing what is going on with them, as well as hearing what you have to share with them. Excellent example of remembering that our patients are people too. This is how we put the CARE back into HealthCare.

  4. Yes, I went to the office of a new practitioner recently. I saw a sign on the reception desk near the door inviting folks back to an inner “reception area” which included a cozy rug, reclining chairs, nice lighting, hot beverages and lots of reading material including books of photography and nice coffee table books. It really shifted the focus from “waiting” to relaxing.

  5. Wow, I like your blog! I am an FNP student (I graduate in May 2012) and hope to open my own place with a few NP associates in a few years. I will add you to my blog so others can check your site out. Thank you for creating your blog.

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