Many hospitals make knee jerk responses to current issues in an attempt to be seen to be doing something about them.
Thus a small issue can bring about large modifications – bypassing budgetary problems, swerving the committees, and swiftly appearing before any great consideration of its relevance has been made.
My hospital is no different.
Trying to be trendy, it has jumped to endorse the widespread twittering of a high profile ‘doctor-as-patient’, who is calling for healthcare professionals to introduce themselves to patients. In case you missed that day at medical school, when consulting a patient you should begin by saying ‘Hello my name is’ and then insert your own name.
In case this is too tricky to remember, my hospital has kindly provided name badges for all staff with this printed before our names.
Though complete with a hashtag, it does not go the whole way to embracing social media, retaining spaces between words and an ellipsis; grammar no true twit would waste seven characters upon. It has a permanent smile as standard, presumably in case we forget to provide our own along with the greeting. A missed opportunity for an emoticon if ever there was one…
My little smiley badge arrived in my pigeon hole a few weeks ago and still it lies there gathering dust.
What’s my problem with the name badge?
This name badge is yet another step in dumbing down medicine and I am not following that trend. I am not wearing my new name badge as I do not believe simply seeing my name helps patients to know who I am or makes me a better doctor.
I don’t want my patients to call me ‘Caroline’ in the same way I would not call them ‘Jean’ or ‘Tom’ or whatever. I am not their mate and we are not having a jolly afternoon in a coffee shop. Medicine is a serious business and patients are reassured by knowing a doctor is taking care of them.
I was a doctor-as-patient in an out-patient clinic recently. The consultant did introduce himself : “I’m Dr…” in the same mumbling, low voice that he continued to use throughout the consultation along with a condescending attitude and clear display of annoyance.
Knowing his name did not make up for his lack of bedside manner.
Looking around my theatre team, all dressed in blues, hats and clogs, one cannot tell the nursing student from the surgeon despite their new badges. (Although you can now see everyones name which is handy since theatre huddles have disintegrated and commence with “We all know each other so we won’t bother introducing ourselves”.)
I ask trainees and foundation doctors to please, please, please introduce themselves to patients as ‘Dr Whoever’. Not only have we worked hard for this title, but being ill is a time when patients feel vulnerable and are reassured by those who go by the name doctor even if they still look young enough to be asked for ID at the bar.
I’m continuing to give my usual bland, introduction from memory: “Hello, I’m Dr Whymark, I’m the anaesthetist for your operation”, while indicating my security badge complete with photograph and title and post.