As part of a series of articles BBC News Online reporter Jane Elliott looks behind the scenes of the NHS.
Watching operations has helped Shirley understand her work
This week we focus on an administrator who takes an active part in the care of heart patients.
Shirley Gore is more than simply a hospital PA.
For the busy mum the job means far more than just administrative work.
It means patient liaison and learning as much as possible about her boss's work - even if that means watching the odd operation on the telemedicine screen to get an idea of how he operates.
Shirley, who works for Harefield heart surgeon Mr Samad Tadjkarimi, likes to get to know his patients personally.
She knows each one by his or her first name and, wherever possible, tries to meet them when they come to the hospital.
Her work is a far cry from the letter-typing monotony envisaged by her sons.
"My sons in particular were under the impression that all I did was type letters, but they do not realise the involvement that goes with the job.
"For example I ensure that patients are told what medication to stop before their operation and that their body mass index is not excessive and that the doctor's attention is drawn to the fact if they are diabetic."
But for her the main joy of the work is dealing with people.
When she first started work as a hospital receptionist she had little time to liaise with the patients, but now it is a crucial part of her job.
"I enjoy talking to their patients and their relatives.
"The main part of the job is dealing with the patients from when they are referred to the surgeon.
"We have to put them on to a surgical waiting list.
"I talk to patients quite a lot, often on the telephone.
"I think I spend too much time talking - that is why I am here until 8 o'clock in the evening.
"I went to see one in the clinic who came for her pre-operative investigations. She asked for me to come down. I think they feel better when they see you face-to-face.
"Her husband said it was nice to have someone to talk to on the phone."
"Often I go down and say hello after they have had their surgery. I met someone I had not seen for two years and I remembered them.
"When their operations are cancelled I go down and talk to them. If you talk to them on the telephone and then go and see them it helps to reassure them and they feel a little more comfortable."
"I always call my patients by their first name unless they ask me not to. Even when I do their admission letters I call them by their first name and I always wish them well.
"It does make a difference. I think that if you treat patients as you would like to be treated it makes a difference.
"One patient was very angry that he was cancelled, but I was able to take a letter for him down to the ward telling him when His next appointment was going to be.
"After talking to him for a little he calmed down because I was listening. I try to be sympathetic as it must be horrendous."
She said all the patients were very grateful for Mr Tadjkarimi's help.
"I get patients bringing cards and chocolates, they are so thoughtful. The boss is an absolute treasure and his patients adore him.
"We could do with a board where all the cards are pinned up."
She is so interested in Mr Tadjkarimi's work that she has even been to see him operate at a telemedicine conference.
"If you want to you can go in and watch surgery at telemedicine and that is a bit of an eyeopener. I have been to see a valve being replaced and a bypass.
"I never realised what a lot went into doing the valve replacements. It was absolutely amazing."
But despite her admiration of the job and her faith in the hospital Shirley admits she has a horror of ever being ill.
"I never go to the doctor and I don't like hospitals.
"But I adore the man I work with, it is a privilege to work with him"
Consultant cardiac surgeon Samad Tadjkarimi admits his PA is worth her weight in gold and that she is the lynch-pin for his office.
"Shirley is an asset to the hospital, she always puts the patient's interests first, and I could not function without her."