The #Hellomynameis campaign founded by Kate Granger, a Yorkshire Geriatrician with terminal cancer, has done much to promote the importance of staff introducing themselves when meeting and treating patients.
I am fully signed-up to this, as is my organisation, with the motif appearing in all wards. This is great and the way things should be.
But, let us look a little more into this – my name isn’t doctor – it is ‘Rod’ and it is revealing how people relate to those they work alongside. My dream is that everyone I meet will know me as Rod – the fact that I am a doctor, a little bit like the fact I was born in Glasgow, is a bolt-on; it is not who I am – I, like every other person, is more than the sum of our parts. The Gestalt that is doctor or sister or Mr or reverend or professor to me, gets in the way.
Sure, we need to know who we are dealing with, yet, usually in life it is apparent, for example when I pop in to Kwik Fit, it is quite obvious who the mechanic is, or when I travel by plane, the pilot, or the traffic warden or bus conductor.
The days when what we did was who we are are long gone – Thatcher, Baker, Teacher and Nurse;
Perhaps some of this has to do with our increasing lifespans; most people, if lucky, will live into their 80’sor 90’s, and for those fortunate enough to have the luxury of retiring at 60 or 65, that means a significant number of years not in work, but instead pursuing other avenues, developing the self outside of an occupational framework.
Doctor is funny however, it somehow sticks – people call me ‘doctor Kersh’ whether I like it or not; this reminds me an encounter I once had at three in the morning when phoning a colleague for advice – ‘Hello, is that doctor X?’ ‘No, I am professor X’ – the conversation continued although it was a little one-sided, stilted from then on; my faith in the other as a peer, as a fellow seeker of the truth, had gone.
How can I turn the tables and make myself into Rod?
When I was younger, I recall a family friend’s consternation at being called ‘X’ instead of ‘Mrs Y’ – my mum, who spent many of her latter years in hospital was always Sheila – perhaps this is a Scottish thing, in the land of my birth where hierarchy is not something that people traditionally use to beat others down.
And, there you go. #mynameis Rod – call me Rod, discover that by chance, by luck, I work as a doctor – I am lucky enough to help people for a living, figure-out what is wrong and try to make them better.
So, dear colleague, doctor or sister or matron or whatever branch of health and social care you occupy, let us upend our type, let us undo the barriers that exist, the artificialities that have been created by degrees and diplomas and appointments.
Call me Rod and I’ll be happy; let me call you Jim, or Ted or Morag, let me hold your hand and talk face to face without barriers, without screens, rubber gloves, face masks or other strategies that might mislead.