Receptionists are often the first person our patients see. They use customer service and admin skills to welcome people to a hospital, health centre, clinic or NHS headquarters. 

"I have had plenty of support and now I feel confident sorting out  queries. It’s nice to know you’ve helped someone."

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Working life

As a receptionist, you're often the first person a patient meets when they go to a hospital, clinic or health centre. You'll:

  • book patients in for appointments
  • enter patients’ details onto IT systems 
  • direct patients where to go within the department or health centre

As well as dealing with patients face-to-face, receptionists often:

  • answer phones, sometimes directing calls to other staff through the switchboard or phone system
  • book appointments by phone
  • answer queries from patients and other staff

Patients and their relatives can be nervous or upset when they visit a hospital or clinic so as a receptionist, you may have to calm them down or reassure them. Some receptionists may combine the job with other admin duties, such as:

  • filing
  • chasing up reports
  • photocopying
  • inputting data 
  • ordering stationery
  • word processing

Receptionists work with clerks, health records staff and other admin staff. Depending on where you work, you'll have contact with healthcare professionals such as GPs or  nurses. If you work in a specialist clinic or in a health centre you may also deal with, for example,  podiatrists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Entry requirements, skills and interests

There are no set entry requirements to become a receptionist. Employers usually expect good literacy, numeracy and IT skills. They may ask for GCSEs or equivalent qualifications. Employers often ask for relevant work experience. Even where this is not specified, it would be an advantage if you have worked in an admin or customer service role.

Personal Characteristics

Receptionists need to: 

  • be friendly and welcoming
  • be patient and understanding
  • follow instructions and procedures
  • work accurately and methodically
  • work in a team but use their own initiative
  • work with all types of people
  • deal with people who may be angry or upset
  • be confident using the phone

Skills required

  • organisation skills
  • good communication skills
  • IT skills
  • excellent customer service skills

Training and development

You will get the training you need to do the job. This includes an introduction to the department, how to use the IT and phone equipment and the procedures to follow. You may also have training in customer care.You may be offered the chance to take qualifications such as NVQs or those from:

Some receptionists become members of AMSPAR or BSMSA. Both AMSPAR and BSMSA offer training, online forums and newsletters so staff can network with others doing the same type of work.

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