We live in a world of constant connections and yet most of the time people do not know who you are, never mind anything about you.
We had a campaign in the NHS called ‘Hello my name is….’ to remind people to introduce themselves and restore a little humanity into a busy workplace.
People like to be called by their name and I try very hard to remember it. However I’ll be honest if the nurses move people around in the ward for whatever reason it will completely throw me. I always refer to my patients by their preferred name but I will map them in my mind as a bed space number. I then need a hook. The lady who loves watching Strictly. The man who worked on Christmas Island during nuclear testing. The lady with the pink fluffy dressing gown. Once you give me the bed number and hook I can rattle off all kinds of specific facts about them from blood results to the CXR findings;
‘Oh yeah, Mrs Smith Rm 9, bed 2. Has pneumonia, delirium and acute kidney injury. CRP was 102, now 86. eGFR was 23 and is now 29. Lives alone, Package of care three times a day. 1 daughter and 2 sons. Loves Strictly Come Dancing’
Move her to a different room and I will think she’s either gone home or worse that she’s a brand new person. I have been known to look blankly at the junior doctors until someone whispers ‘was a Louise & Kevin fan…’
‘Oh yeah, Mrs Smith…’ and off we go again.
So what is the big deal about a name if I can recall all that detail? Well, no matter how much detail I can remember nothing is as important as the person’s name.
This was reinforced when I called a person by the wrong name in clinic recently. I had been talking about someone else with a similar first name and I stupidly used that name when I went to call them in. They were understandably annoyed. I was mortified. Despite apologising and going through all the detail it took some time before I could convince them I knew what (and who) I was talking about.
I have even more trouble with colleagues. It’s not just about taking them out of their work environment and seeing them in civvies. It’s when I meet them at a conference or in a different work environment (think rotating trainees). Not only do I struggle with their name but also in what context I know them from. It’s a nightmare!
I have often joked that people but especially doctors should wear a badge stating; ‘Hello my name is… you may know me from such things as your FY2 on nights, that ALS course we did 7 years ago, that time I referred you someone at 2am etc etc’
Admittedly my response is something along the lines of ‘was I crabbit?’ I always assume the worst of my harassed past self.
So while a name is without question important, I do think we ought to see beyond it. To me it’s the person behind it that matters – so come on then, what’s your hook?