If you haven’t been following the wonderful Dr Kate Granger on twitter, #hellomynameis is her bold and brilliant attempt to get healthcare workers to introduce themselves. She was admitted to hospital with a serious medical condition and was seen by a series of doctors and nurses of different grades, none of whom told her their name.

Being ill, or even thinking that you might be ill, is anxiety provoking – it stops you thinking clearly, it makes it very hard to remember almost anything, and some of us, myself included, have problems remembering names at the best of times.

Kate asked for some ideas to give #hellomynameis some traction.

I think every NHS worker, doctors in particular, should carry some cards with their name and position and contact details and give them to the patient or relative/ carer so that they know who they have seen. My father has several different medical conditions and can never remember after an appointment if he saw the consultant, a trainee or a nurse specialist, let alone their name.

My patients are the same, they come back from their outpatient appointments confused by what they’ve been told about their disease and the plans for management and can almost never remember who they’ve seen.

Patients who don’t have their own GP frequently complain that they see a different doctor every time and cannot remember who it was they saw last time, but wouldn’t mind seeing them again, if only so they don’t have to repeat their story.

If in each of these situations the doctor had given the patient a card, then the patient or relative or GP would be able to ask to speak to the right doctor in case of concerns or complications.

Often during an in-patient stay, and sometimes during an outpatient visit patients meet a bewildering number of doctors. To mitigate the confusion of having a box-full of cards to take away, hospitals should take responsibility for the cards which should all include the name of a consultant, so that lines of responsibility are clear.

Once it started to become normal practice, patients would start asking if they weren’t offered one. It would improve continuity of care and accountability, increase trust, reduce anxiety, save time and embarrassment.

For more on #hellomynameis click on names

9 responses to “#hellomynameis

  1. Most hospital managers assume that wearing a name badge should suffice. These name badges vary enormously in quality. Even the mugshot of the person in question often bears little resemblance to the individual wearing it. “Business Cards” with the person’s name and designation is a good idea, but how many would each employee have to carry on their person? Before I retired I might have seen 20 – 40 patients on a ward round. The patient would need to write something on the card to remind them who this person was in relation to their healthcare management. So, maybe it is not a practical solution.
    In hospitals it would help if there was a dress code for employees. The rank of a nurse can usually be recognised from their uniform. Doctors currently have no dress code and commonly no dress sense. We need to smarten up our appearance and be proud that we are either the most junior doctor on the ward or the consultant.

    • Although a patient may be 1 in 40 to a consultant, a patient’s perspective is quite different, as Anya de Longh – who stopped her medical training because of illness, explains:

      “In my first year at university I lost
      track of how many outpatient
      appointments I sat in on – they are
      just another 15 min slot in very busy
      day. As a patient, my perspective
      couldn’t be more different …
      I have one appointment with my
      consultant a year, and spend weeks
      planning and preparing, then a
      month recovering emotionally.”

      I agree though, it needs figuring out, it’s a suggestion not yet fully worked through.

  2. This is a brilliant initiative and would I believe work well. I took my 10 year old daughter to see my consultant, Alex Gibson at Stanmore to treat her Scoliosis. Since he had introduced himself to her, she felt more at ease and believes he will give her the best treatment. We have also been given details of how to contact him. It’s so simple yet so effective and makes managing her treatment so much easier.

  3. From a patient’s viewpoint, this might make doctors take ‘ownership’ of our cases, so we aren’t passed around the ‘Team’ willy-nilly, but got to see same doctor – if possible – at each visit.

    • Good point, from a doctor’s perspective (I’ve asked a few this morning who are fresh out of hospital jobs) I think it would encourage us to take more responsibility too

  4. One of the initiatives we found most useful in both AMHT and in CAMHS – one which helped both when languages might not be shared or where a client might experience cognitive difficulties (as most of us do to some extent at some point in our lives!) … or was perhaps just not good with names and needed to share information later with other people in family or their network about who they had seen – was having our photos on our cards.
    I recognise there is some mysterious strong British objection to up-to-date photos generally, constantly working alongside professionals whose ID badges are dashing reminders of their younger selves, but apart from the facts identifying your name and role and contact details – immensely reassuring and in my case of over 20 years freely providing an email and mobile number only twice misused in that time – a photo does I think support the positive aspects of human connection, and helps people recall what you said or did and feel a bit more organised when due to see you again.
    But even without photos providing cards does mean that those who are basically quite disempowered by our professional processes and presentation do get something to hang on to, which offers a more convincing sense of responsibility and accountability than we can always manage in a stressed or harried situation – psychologically as well as practically I would say that cards are immensely helpful and more than pay for themselves.

  5. Love the business card idea, but that seems like an after-the-fact strategy. What concerns me (and patients like Dr. Kate) is the reality that perfect strangers called health care professionals somehow feel perfectly entitled to place their hands on our bodies without so much as the common courtesy of saying beforehand something like: “My name is XXXX and I’ll be doing your XXX procedure…” For example: http://myheartsisters.org/2011/12/27/the-lost-art-of-common-courtesy-in-medicine/

    Nametags are irrelevant if illegible.

  6. Think a business card would be important for me as I have quite a difficult surname to pronounce, remember and write down. I had one patient yetserday say she was going to call me Dale Attlee! To most I am “Dr Sam”, which despite being informal, I quite like, even though my name is Samir…

    As a practice we need to sort out how we communicate to patients electronically as I don’t yet use my personal email to correspond with them and not sure how a practice email would work for all of my colleagues. Are there any pointers for using email with patients that you know if?

    I’m off to design a business card…

  7. Just a thought – using technology, why not introduce QR codes which could be scanned by a patient’s phone. I know this could disadvantage those without tech, but it might help some.

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