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Audrey Hitcham, 2008
Doctors Receptionist

I started working at Rushden Medical Centre as a receptionist back in September 1973 and my employment by Drs. Cunningham, Lumb & Reading came about purely by chance. I had an appointment to see a doctor and in those days it was quite usual for patients to wait in a small queue outside the consulting rooms, whilst waiting to be seen. Mrs Davidson, the practice secretary, came to talk to me and she asked if there was any chance that I would be interested in working for the practice part time. I was very interested and an appointment was arranged for me to see Mr Hurst the practice administrator and after a successful interview he offered me the position.

At that time I was a registered child-minder and managing a small playgroup five mornings a week from my home as my youngest child was still under school age. It was therefore agreed that I would work afternoons at the Centre.

Three practices known as the Yellow, Blue and Green all used the premises at that time and each had their own receptionists however we all helped each other when necessary. Our duties were of course making appointments, dealing with patients' queries, writing prescriptions, manning the switchboard and mountains of filing. All the appointment books had to be written up by hand in those days and as the Yellow practice also had a branch surgery at Higham Ferrers the manning of the surgery there had to be taken into account when making up the appointment books. To add to this it was also necessary to know which doctor would be on call to take the emergency visits for patients that were too ill to come to the surgery, which doctor would be on call through the night and who would be on call over the weekend; once this cover was arranged it was then possible to make up the surgeries for the rest of the week so as you can imagine it was very time consuming to get the right balance. Every day mountains of letters arrived from the hospital consultants and when they had been read by the doctors the receptionist had to file them in the correct medical record making sure that all data was kept up to date. Patients records had to be given to the doctor at the beginning of each session and filed again later, woe betide you if a patients' record went "missing". I think doctors often forgot that they had given records to their secretaries for them to do a referral letter to the hospital (or left them in their consulting rooms) as it was always assumed that the receptionist had "lost" them.

Early in the 1990s I was asked if I would work in the "Treatment Room" as a receptionist, the work in there was much the same as the main reception apart from the fact that I worked directly with the nurses. There would be 3 or 4 nurses on duty at a time and each one would rely on the receptionist to check in the patients, answer the 'phone, write prescriptions for dressings, fill in claims forms, test urine samples brought in by patients, keep details of which nurse saw which patient and the reason why they were seen and liaise with the doctors when they were needed in the treatment room ( all practices used the same group of nurses) If there was time to do so the receptionist would also scrub and sterilize the instruments used by the Doctors and Nurses.

In 1995/1996 I was sent on a phlebotomy course at Kettering General Hospital. I was very nervous about this but I was assured by my tutor that I was a "natural" at taking blood and I was delighted to pass my course. Gradually other duties were added which included doing ECGs, blood pressure readings, glucometer readings for diabetic patients, new patient medicals and weight checks. During this time my role changed from receptionist to Health Care Assistant a position I held until I was made redundant in 2003 just one week short of 30 years at the centre and I am very proud to say that as far as I am aware I was the only employee with that amount of service.

Celebrating Audrey's 25 years of service in 1998 The girls on a night out
Celebrating Audrey's 25 years service in September 1998
A girls' night out

Who would have thought that a comment from Mrs Davidson all those years ago would have led to such a long and fulfilling career?

Audrey Hitcham

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