A while back, I used to do outpatient clinic at the VA and our clinic receptionist was possibly the worst receptionist I’ve ever seen ever.
I've done a lot of clinics in the last few years and dealt with a lot of nurses and receptionists... and for the most part, they have been pretty good. I mean, some have been great, some have been okay, and some have been not so great. But this woman, let's call her Hilda, was amazingly bad.
I don't know what her job entailed exactly because every time anyone asked her to do something, she replied, “That’s not my job.” Basically, every time I came to her desk, she was either chatting with patients or more likely chatting with a friend on the phone. When a patient arrived, we (the doctors) would call the patient out of the waiting room ourselves and bring them to the examining room. I guess she scheduled patients for regular visits, but she wasn't even allowed to schedule any of the EMGs, Botox, epidural steroid injections, or anything else because she was constantly accidentally overbooking patients. So we (the residents) had to do much of the scheduling.
She definitely didn't clean the examining rooms. When I walked into the examining rooms in the morning, they looked like a hurricane hit. There were dirty gowns strewn around the room, dirty tissue paper on the tables, dirty pillows on the examining tables. When I was 40 weeks pregnant, I had to change dirty pillow cases and put new sheets on the examining table for every patient I saw, because Hilda said “that wasn’t [her] job.” One of the rooms ran out of tissue paper to put on the examining tables and I asked her if she knew where more was, and she didn't. She'd been working there for YEARS and she didn't even know where the paper was for the tables?? I had to ask my attending to change the paper on the table.
Another resident told me a story about Hilda: he was doing consults in another part of the hospital, so he asked Hilda to page him if one of the clinic patients showed up. (We had a high no-show rate.) A patient showed up and Hilda just let the patient sit there for over an hour and didn't bother to page the resident or any doctor to let anyone know the patient was there. She said she “forgot.”
I remember there was one week when Hilda called in sick to clinic, and me and the other resident did the receptionist work. We basically just put a sign-in sheet near her desk and grabbed the charts ourselves. It wasn't any extra work whatsoever.
I have honestly never been in any other situation where the residents had to schedule their own patients, room their own patients, and clean their own rooms after every patient. But I guess it’s the culture of the VA that useless, lazy, or incompetent people can’t get fired. An attending at the VA once said to me that the only way to get fired from a VA job is that you’d have to make babies with a dead patient three times. The first two times you made babies with the dead patient, you’d just get a warning.