MAKING PRACTICE PERFECT; X-Rays, Blood Tests and Urgent Department of Health Faxes Are All in a Day's Work for the Medical PA. Not Forgetting the Patients Screaming Down the Phone

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE CROCKETT

CHOOSING to be the PA to the medical director of a large London hospital is only for the bold. Juggling her boss's meetings, patient appointments, private clinics and referrals, as well as managing two junior secretaries is just the tip of the administrative iceberg for Heidi Garrett, PA to Dr David Mitchell, medical director and consultant in respiratory medicine at St Mary's NHS Trust, Paddington.

Garrett, 31, is an experienced administrator, having worked as a medical secretary for a gynaecologist in Bristol for ten years, and as a senior medical secretary and office manager in the urology department at St Mary's for more than a year.

Two months ago, she moved to the hospital's chest and allergy department to join Dr Mitchell as his PA and office manager.

"I'd been in urology a year and I really felt I had a lot of experience behind me, and this came up and it was a step higher," she explains.

"There aren't many opportunities to climb the ladder in the NHS, so I felt I had to go for it and that it would be a challenge."

Garrett commutes from Wokingham, Surrey, arriving at her desk at about 8.45am.

"The first thing I do is check the diary to see what is going to be happening that day, and what Dr Mitchell's movements are," Garrett says.

"As the medical director, Dr Mitchell is a member of the Trust board, so he meets regularly with hospital management and chief executives. I arrange all the paperwork and agendas that he'll be needing."

She also deals with any emails or pressing issues which have arisen overnight.

"For example, we had an urgent fax from the Department of Health about the safety of a drug. That kind of thing goes to the medical director and has to cascade down, so I have to act on that as soon as it comes through."

As well as being Dr Mitchell's PA, Garrett provides secretarial support for his NHS clinic and runs his private practice, where he treats people with asthma, allergies, hayfever and lung cancer.

This mix, she says, is what makes her work so interesting and enjoyable.

"I get patients on the phone - a lot of them very distressed - particularly at this time of year when the hayfever season starts, and I need to be sympathetic and try to sort out their needs."

Dr Mitchell attends his Harley Street practice one afternoon a week, and Garrett is responsible for booking appointments, checking patients have been referred for the correct reasons, and arranging any necessary investigations, such as X-rays and blood tests, before the patient's next appointment. …