Sal arrived at the clinic for work Wednesday morning clutching his morning coffee. He greeted the already busy clinicians as they were rushing past him to prepare for their days. He made his way to the front desk and relieved the worker who had been manning the phone throughout the night.
Sal’s clinic operates a very successful central intake program. Two individuals sit at the front desk during the day to answer the phone. They handle the daily logistics of the agency and assess the needs of each potential patient who calls to determine whether they need immediate assistance. They ensure that the potential patient receives a return call with information about their treatment plan within 5-8 days.
Sal is considered an integral part of the clinic. He keeps it running smoothly and ensures that those seeking help receive it. His job is to develop a smooth and comfortable process that will orchestrate a connection between a patient and a clinician.
While not a clinician himself, Sal has worked in behavioral health clinics for the past 25 years. He personally suffered from alcoholism and successfully completed treatment in a similar agency. This sparked an interest in the field of behavioral health. As he progressed in his treatment plan and became more stable, he was offered a job answering phones within the clinic. A gregarious and caring person, Sal excels in the role.
On this Wednesday, he settles in at his desk and starts sipping his coffee. The second central intake worker arrives and the two are ready for the morning. They listen to, and soothe the few individuals that call and note what will need to be done for their treatment plan.
Not sure what should happen during this initial call? Click here for Who You Gonna Call? The Central Intake Office! 3 Expectations for Intake Calls.
One individual exhibits suicidal tendencies, so Sal makes her an emergency appointment and extracts a promise that he would see her that afternoon. In between phone calls, he follows up with other treatment plans that were within the 5-8 days response time and had not received a follow up yet.
When Sal returns from lunch, the phones become busier. At 1:30pm, a second worker arrives to help Sal and his co-worker respond to phone calls. Sal begins prepping for Open Access hours, ensuring that the waiting room is clean and his staff is logged in to their EHR and ready to check people in. He makes sure to have his afternoon coffee on hand.
The clinic holds Open Access hours from 2-5pm every day. During these hours, patients can arrive at the clinic whenever and receive treatment the same day they request it.
Meet Sal – The Floor General
Sal acts as the “floor general,” organizing those arriving for Open Access hours and putting them at ease. It is his favorite part of his job.
At a few minutes before 2pm, clients begin making their way into the clinic. As each client walks in, Sal greets them and explains the Open Access process. Each client needs to check in at the front desk and then wait for a clinician to call their name. Open Access hours are always busy and the waiting room quickly fills. Sal walks through the room, greeting clients and ensuring that they check in.
Every 15 minutes or so, he checks their EHR to see how long patients have been waiting. This Wednesday is extremely busy. When Sal checks the list at 3:30pm, there is a patient who has been waiting for 40 minutes. Sal quickly finds him to touch base and informs him that he will personally look for a clinician. Sal finds one who is catching up on her paperwork and asks her to see the individual. He takes a quick break to freshen his coffee as well.
The afternoon passes quickly. At 4:45pm, Sal checks in with another patient who has been waiting for 45 minutes. He again sweeps the clinic, but everyone is busy. Open Access hours are about to end and the remaining two hours of the day are scheduled with appointments. Sal apologizes to the patient and offers to set aside time for her during the next Open Access hours. She accepts this grudgingly.
Sal makes sure everything is clearly marked for the next day, especially the woman’s appointment. At 5:30pm, the evening workers arrive and he goes home. It’s an exhausting job, but it keeps him busy and he loves it.
Based on a day in Sal’s life, you can see that the Central Intake Office, especially the Floor General, keeps the clients happy and the office moving quickly. Caffeine is also a necessity. All are invaluable to an agency.
Be sure to thank your Floor General-maybe with a cup of coffee every now and then.