New support staff course brings person-centered care to the front desk

By Helle Gjønnes Møller

The notion of person-centered care (PCC) goes far beyond the actual appointment. It considers the entire patient journey and includes all relationships and interactions along the way. In the audiology clinic, the first point of contact is typically the front desk staff, and their role is therefore fundamental in creating a positive initial impression, and making the patient feel heard. Unfortunately, this first important step is often overlooked, even in clinics where PCC is a priority. 

To help prioritize this stage of the journey, Ida Institute has now developed a new Learning Hall course, “Getting Started with Person-Centered Care for Support Staff,” dedicated to individuals who work in a support staff role within an audiology clinic. Developed in collaboration with Greta Stamper, AuD, PhD, the Assistant Director of Audiology at the Mayo Clinic, the course helps support staff to identify different ways of changing their interactions to better embrace PCC. 

Solidifying PCC for support staff

While one might expect PCC to be an innate part of the support staff workday, this is far from always the case. Greta Stamper explains, “While it might be an integral part of their workday, it is often not something they receive formal training on. They often pick it up on the job and this can lead to occasional breakdowns in care when it is forgotten. Most support staff training focuses on the technical aspects of the workload (how to schedule an appointment, answer the phone, etc.) and the personal interaction skills are not formally taught. By offering a formal training, it can really help solidify the skills needed for interacting in a PCC directed manner.” 

A sounder hearing journey

Even clinics with a dedication to PCC do not always pay sufficient attention to the support aspect. Stamper says, “As audiologists, we can occasionally underestimate the importance of support staff on the patient journey. Support staff are the point of contact for patients and offer the first and last impression as people enter and leave the clinic. If this is a positive experience, it will lead to a more positive hearing journey as well. By involving everyone in PCC, the patient journey is much more comprehensive and complete. There are not gaps in care and everyone is able to support each other exactly the way they should.” 

Bite-sized learning

“Getting Started with Person-Centered Care for Support Staff” is intended for anyone in a support role, from front desk staff members and audiology assistants or technicians, to individuals handling insurance or billing – and anyone else who might interact with individuals in hearing healthcare. The course is bite-sized and can be taken on the go. It provides an overall introduction to PCC, looks at the different elements and key benefits, and then delves into the aspects that are particularly relevant to support staff, focusing on the following three steps of the clinical journey:

1.   Before the appointment looks at the various modes of communication that typically precede the actual appointment and describes some of the key aspects when communicating with individuals with a hearing loss.

2.   Welcoming into the clinic offers guidance on how to greet people entering the clinic and how to start off person-centered care on the right foot. 

3.   After the appointment discusses the various PCC elements that will help create a lasting impression and make the client think, “I want to come back here again.” 

Stamper, who was diagnosed with a hearing loss at age eight, says her own hearing journey taught her early on to appreciate the important role of support staff. 

“In the first audiology clinic I received services, the support staff and my audiologist only talked to my parents – neither of them even addressed me personally. I left most appointments in a very emotionally distressed state and dreaded having to go in for appointments. At the second clinic I went to several years later, the support staff and my audiologist were much more engaged with me. They directed questions to me and made sure I understood what was going on. I had a much more positive experience from that moment forward and I actually looked forward to having appointments.”

Getting Started with Person-Centered Care for Support Staff” is now available free of charge in the Ida Learning Hall (login required). Support staff who complete the course are eligible to join the Inspired by Ida program.