The Authority of a Clinic Receptionist

Yesterday a clinic receptionist took me off the “Fall Risk” list. Maybe she noted that I was walking without a cane. That I didn’t have a leg brace. That I came without someone to lean on.

She could’ve been a nurse or doctor when she asked why I had fallen. “Were you dizzy? Did you lose your balance? Lightheaded?” I told her that I had overextended my leg when I was exercising and sort of toppled over, injuring my knee.

Could she see on my chart that this “fall” happened almost a year ago? At every visit to the physical therapy department for the knee injury, the receptionist put a yellow fall risk band around my wrist. Each time I saw the orthopedic surgeon, I wore the band along with a leg brace and leaned on a cane. After about three months, I stored the brace in its box, and after six months, I hung the cane on a rack in my closet. But the fall risk label remained.

The fall risk distinction must immediately show on my chart to alert all receptionists each time I have a clinic appointment. I get most of my health care in the same facility, hence the tenacity of my tag.

Now that spring was here, I found that I couldn’t hide the band under long sleeves. I began to wonder if I would ever get bumped from the list. Once a fall risk, always a fall risk?

The astute receptionist accepted my story. With the confidence of a health care professional, she told me, “I’m deleting your fall risk status.” She sprung me from the prison of labels. I am impressed with her authority. And grateful.

By Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, I write about growing older, confronting ageism, creativity and food. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold.


  1. This made me smile. It’s so true that sometimes people have power over us in small ways that are actually significant. I’m glad to hear you’re doing well! I enjoyed your essay very much.


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