It’s inevitable. Sooner or later as healthcare professionals we become patients ourselves or our family members are patients. As insiders we are invaluable observers. We know how things should work. We know what to look for. Yet our input or feedback is less valued and seldom sought, another blog.
Recently in the ED with a family member I had a chance to observe many employees, including doctors, nurses, and technicians. Everyone was professional, friendly, and attentive. Everyone was careful to wash hands. I don't think this was done for my benefit. Most noticeable was less obvious: not everyone introduced themselves.
Saying, “Hi, my name is Scott, and I’m from the lab” to a patient I don’t know is more than scripting. It’s polite, courteous, and lets the patient know I’m accountable for what I do and say. It tells the patient he or she is important. It communicates vulnerability, making a connection with a patient who is already vulnerable. Not doing so communicates the opposite. So it’s very odd that everyone doesn’t do this.
Maybe I was tired -- it was in the middle of the night on little sleep -- but this was a big deal. When a physician walks in and says, “I’m Doctor Jones,” and a nurse walks in and says, “Hi, I’m Helen,” and then another person in a white coat walks in and just starts talking, it hits you on the head. My reaction was, “Who are you? Excuse me?”
More remarkable is our lab’s reaction to this. At our morning time out meeting I asked people if they introduced themselves to patients. Some did, some didn’t. Some resisted the idea, most had an attitude of, “Sure, it can’t hurt.” A few said, “We’re wearing a nametag, why should we?”
I suspect these perspectives are common in healthcare, possibly because we don’t all have a patient perspective. I’ve heard similar stories from other hospitals, and I wonder why we don’t ask patients for this kind of feedback. Introducing yourself is such a simple, small thing and yet so vital for human contact essential to compassion.
NEXT: Patient Rounding