Names matter

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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

 So mused the ill-fated heroine in Romeo and Juliet, about her equally ill-fated love.

In medicine and in teaching, however, names can mean a lot.

The late Dr. Kate Granger of the United Kingdom was one of the strongest advocates for using names with her #hellomynameis campaign – launched while she lived with terminal cancer. As explained in a BBC article following her death in July 2016, the campaign “encouraged healthcare staff to introduce themselves to patients.”

“A by-product of her own experiences of hospital in August 2013, it grew out of the feelings of unimportance she experienced when the doctor who informed her that her cancer had spread did not introduce himself,” the BBC wrote. Granger had explained it this way: “It’s the first thing you are taught in medical school, that when you approach a patient you say your name, your role and what you are going to do. This missing link made me feel like I did not really matter, that these people weren’t bothered who I was. I ended up at times feeling like I was just a diseased body in a hospital bed.”

Learning and using names is important for both teachers and students, long before they reach patients’ hospital beds. For this reason, we emphasize the importance of names in our UGME classrooms and clinical skills environments, too.

“Learning students’ names signals your interest in their performance and encourages student motivation and class participation,” writes Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching. “Even if you can’t learn everyone’s name, students appreciate your making the effort.”

One of the strategies of learning students names that Gross Davis (and others) suggests is one we’ve adopted at Queen’s UG: having students use name tent cards in the classrooms. This was adopted for two reasons, Dr. Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Integration explains.

“It’s because we start developing professional identity from Day 1, and being a doctor means introducing who you are.”

“And because it helps build relationships,” she adds. “Student-student but also teacher-student—teachers can respond to students as individuals with names not ‘the guy in the ball cap’.”

“We expect all medical students to wear identification nametags for all clinical skills sessions, both in-house and when at health facilities,” says Clinical Skills Director Dr. Cherie Jones. She notes that the Year 1 students don’t have these on Day 1 as these are provided by KGH. “We use paper ones until they are done!” Once the official badges are available, they must be worn.

And it’s not just for students: clinical skills tutors are expected to wear their ID that they use in their clinical settings.

And for all those (like me) who’ve become accustomed to wearing an ID card on a lanyard or on a hip-level clip: IDs are to be worn on the lapel of the jacket—where they can best be seen

“Name tags are important in clinical skills sessions because the Standardized Patients (SPs) and Volunteer Patients (VPs), like to know the names of the students and tutors they are working with and don’t always understand or hear the name when the student introduces themselves,” Dr. Jones explains.

The Clinical Skills policy mimics the name-badge policies at the hospitals in Kingston. “Name tags in clinical settings like KGH are mandatory for anyone interacting with patients, staff, even with visitors,” Dr. Jones points out.

“Not only is it policy in the hospital, but patients like being able to read anyone’s name – not just the students’,” adds Kathy Bowes, Clinical Skills Coordinator.

So, remember your ID badge, use your name tent cards in the classrooms, use people’s names. And me, I’ll be pinning my hospital ID badge in the right place the next time I’m heading over to KGH for a meeting.

Because names matter. To everyone.

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