Medical secretary

Medical secretaries support the work of a department or group of staff. They provide secretarial and administrative service to the lead consultant and associated clinical staff.

Medical secretaries are also the main point of contact to help and give advice to staff, patients and professionals regarding service enquires. They often work independently and resolve workload and patient problems.

My name is Anne Mcelwain. I'm a Medical secretary at the Royal Hospital for Children in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

My job is varied from day to day, but mainly it's audio typing and dealing with telephone queries. [I do] a lot of managing for doctors to organise their time, which could be from arranging theatre lists and space in the theatre for surgery, to managing appointment waiting lists, but mainly dealing with parents' phone calls.

The skills I bring to the job would be really good typing skills, excellent spelling skills and a eye for accuracy. Obviously, you're typing really important letters, so you need to make sure that everything is extremely accurate.

The challenges in this job would be the busy environment. There can be an awful lot of noise, general chit chat, phones ringing, so you have to concentrate on what you're doing.

I enjoy this job. I've been in it for 17 years now, in different aspects of the hospital. I enjoy knowing I've helped the doctors out in their busy days. I enjoy knowing I've helped patients out on the phone or face to face, because they're on a journey through the hospital. So, if you can help them in any way, make that journey smoother, then that's the satisfaction I get when I go home at night.


Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become a medical receptionist, you need a good standard of education. There are no entry requirements, but useful subjects include:

  • Administration and IT
  • English
  • Maths

Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is a good way to start your career in healthcare.

Modern Apprenticeships

A Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (non-clinical) is appropriate for people interested in working in a non-clinical healthcare support role.

Other relevant Modern Apprenticeships include:

Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

The role

As a medical secretary, you will take on administrative and secretarial tasks. You will be expected to use your initiative to make decisions and deal with patients and staff. You’ll also be in heavy contact with GPs and other healthcare staff.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • arranging appointments for patients and managing the waiting list
  • managing the diary of the consultation to guarantee effective time management
  • dealing with telephone and face to face enquiries from all staff groups, patients and relatives
  • working together with other staff
  • completing personal assistant tasks relevant to supporting the department lead consultant
  • carrying out administrative jobs

You could be expected to have a good knowledge of medical terminology.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • accuracy checking skills
  • communicating with people
  • listening
  • organisation
  • planning
  • teamwork

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • GPs
  • consultants
  • clerks
  • health records staff

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospitals
  • specialist clinics
  • GP surgeries

Useful information

To work as a medical receptionist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Learning and development

You will be encouraged to develop your career in NHSScotland and will be given training such as:

  • an introduction to the department and its procedures
  • health and safety
  • risk management

Some personal assistants become members of the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR) or the British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA).

You may be offered the chance to take further qualifications for AMSPAR or BSMSA. They also offer training, online forums and newsletters.

You may also have the chance to study for additional qualifications, including:

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) website has a full range of qualifications on offer for staff working in business, administration, IT, finance and medical records.

Gaining these new qualifications will help your career prosper. You’ll be able to apply to more senior roles, and progress to jobs such as team leader or office manager. You could also move into other senior roles in business and administration.

A full guide to the NHSScotland Education Pathways for Business and Administration is available.