Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dealing with Walk Ins

I'm finally getting used to accepting walk ins as part of my day -- and without it meaning that I see every walk in right away. Thankfully most of my clients don't do this often -- often being once a week (emergencies notwithstanding of course).

Walk ins come in two groups: Folks who stop by to make an appointment, and folks who want to be seen right away. Some of the time clients who want to be seen right away have an emergency situation a la "my heat is off" or "I got locked out of my apartment." Types of situations that require immediate (or day of) attention. Most walk ins, though, are more mundane. A few examples are asking for a bus card to travel and see the doctor, asking to use the phone, or understand what on earth a social security letter is rattling on about.

Here's the thing. It's pretty unusual to be seen right away in most agencies. I can't think of too many times I can walk into an office without an appointment and be seen right away. And sure, not all case managers, for various reasons, are able to see clients immediately but some do. Being seen right away doesn't necessarily mean to meet with the client in my office, but rather meet with the client in the lobby to find out why she has stopped by.

I do understand that for some clients who don't have a phone (or have ran out of minutes on a cellphone), it's not easy to call and make an appointment. And of course not all clients expect to be seen right away. But those who do are sometimes quite perturbed, as if finding out that they aren't the only client on my caseload. Which is when I get a look to the effect of "What do you mean, but I'm here now!"

My problem was initially that while I was concentrating on something or meeting with another client it would throw me off to get a call from reception that a client was in the lobby asking for me. A regular phone call goes to voice mail, but a a client's physical presence means it's a situation to be dealt with immediately in some way. In my first months especially I would think, well, the client made the effort to come here, I should just go downstairs and talk to him. I also thought that it may be urgent if he had walked from his apartment to see me. But then I learned this wasn't usually the case (and if it was an emergency reception would tell me).

Now when I get a call I try to give a specific time that I can see the client. Some clients accept the appointment time; some want to negotiate the time through our receptionist and to his annoyance; and some I know I would likely need to go to the lobby and talk to because that's just how it is. It's the deciding-right-away-on-a-plan-of-action that may seem straightforward but to me took time to learn. I see it similar to learning a dance.

I've gotten better used to accepting walk ins as part of the flow of the day. But I was never such a great dancer.

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