Interview with Sonja Mills - Front of House Lead

Sonia at reception

Sonja Mills

Front of House Lead,
BMI The London Independent Hospital

I encourage my staff to stand up and greet all our patients and smile; I believe that a smile is a part of the uniform.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, background and current role?

I moved to Hackney, London with three small children and completed my NVQ level 3 in healthcare before finding employment in the sector. 

In search of new opportunities, I expressed an interest in working at BMI The London Independent Hospital and began working in a clinical role on the neurology ward, after which I went on to the cardiac ward as an auxiliary nurse. 

I've worked across many departments in the hospital ranging from HR, day surgery, cardiology and palliative care. I've worked as a ward clerk, senior ward coordinator and a health assistant. 

After the loss of my daughter six years ago, I chose to retrain in the admin side of the business and the hospital was a great support. The hospital staff are like a family to me and that is why I love being here. 

I set up the documentation for the day surgery service and I was later invited by the executive director and the director of nursing to consider a new role at the front of house - I've loved it ever since! Front of house is my niche - that's where I belong and I am now front of house Lead. I've shared my journey with the people who have been here a long time, like Annie. You can't share that journey and not love each other - we're not just colleagues we're friends. I came to London not knowing anyone and these people have become my family.

It's the patients and the staff of BMI The London Independent Hospital that keep me here.

How long have you been working at BMI The London Independent Hospital and how is it different since you first started?

The hospital is a lot busier today than it was 22 years ago. Demand for our services has increased and we are now a key provider of healthcare in our local community and beyond. We used to think 10 patients a day was a busy day, however, now, we often see more than 60 patients a day.

Can you describe a typical day/week at BMI The London Independent Hospital for you?

I enjoy listening to patients and answering their questions about the hospital. Customer care is what I do best, I enjoy helping customers receive the best service available. If you are prepared to listen you will learn how to better help a patient sooner.

Providing the best customer care is my utmost priority, for example, walking someone to the toilet rather telling them where they are. I encourage my staff to smile when greeting patients, I believe a smile is part of the uniform. I encourage front of house staff to give each patient their undivided attention until such time as the patient is confident their enquiry has been dealt with. It is key to use different approaches depending on how the patient chooses to engage with us - we listen actively and our body language reflects that.

It’s about being able to adapt to different people, active listening and reflective body language.

What aspects of your role do you enjoy most?

It's definitely the people; meeting patients and working with the staff. It's important to empower everyone, by giving them a voice and it’s absolutely vital to have good communication and to be there for patients if they want to talk to you about any issues.

This goes for the staff as well. You have to make the effort to learn about the people you’re working with and make them feel like a valued part of the team, as team work is so vital. 

During my appraisals, I give people ownership or a specific job. Everyone in my team has got their area of expertise and they’re proud of it.

The days at BMI The London Independent Hospital are completely varied and I love it like that. I enjoy being set challenges and figuring out a solution during the day. 

I always try and make myself available for other departments and will help out when I can.

What do you love the most about working at BMI The London Independent hospital?

The thing I love the most is the family of The London Independent. I started a social committee, which includes days-outs, social events and parties. This gives us the chance to get together in an informal way, to mix and learn more about each other, which is particularly great for new people.

For me, it’s crucial to get to know people who I work with. What makes them tick? What gets them out of bed in the morning?

How do you feel your role contributes to the hospital?

Reception at BMI The London Independent HospitalBeing that I am the 'first impression' people have of the hospital, I feel my role creates an expectation within the patient of how they will experience the rest of the hospital. I am uniquely positioned to make sure they get the best start to their visit. I care deeply about fellow colleagues as I do our customers.

What has been your biggest achievement or most rewarding day at BMI The London Independent hospital?

My biggest achievement has been developing and maintaining a close-knit team who deliver and excellent standard of customer care on a daily basis and being here 22 years. Outside of work, my biggest achievement was marrying the love of my life who is incredibly supportive in all that I do.

Thanks for your time, Sonja.

BMI The London Independent Hospital provides a wide range of services including, endoscopy, cardiology and imaging. Find out more about the other services the hospital offers here.