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Voices for Safer Care

Insights from the Armstrong Institute

One of the most exciting things about working in patient safety and health care quality is that it’s not solely about advancing science or applying performance improvement methods. It is also about the excitement of being part of a social movement that is changing the culture of medicine—putting patients at the center of everything, sharing errors in the hopes of preventing future ones, and confronting hierarchies that stifle communication and innovation.

Kate Granger, a physician in the United Kingdom who is living with terminal cancer, has tapped into that sort of enthusiasm in a big way. Last summer, reflecting on a recent hospital admission, Granger remarked in her insightful blog that some members of her care team never introduced themselves when approaching her. She wrote:

As a healthcare professional you know so much about your patient. You know their name, their personal details, their health conditions, who they live with and much more. What do we as patients know about our healthcare professionals? The answer is often absolutely nothing, sometimes it seems not even their names. The balance of power is very one-sided in favour of the healthcare professional.

She asked that health care professionals make a pledge to introduce themselves to every patient that they meet, and share the challenge with others across the National Health Service. Thus was born a movement that went viral, aided by the Twitter hashtag #hellomynameis. More than five months since her post, there is a steady stream of tweets every day. Some clinicians wear lanyards with the hashtag, a show of support and a reminder to introduce themselves. Last week, NHS Employers released a video celebrating the #hellomynameis campaign.

More than anything, introducing yourself to patients is an issue of providing compassionate care. But it is also a patient safety issue. We know that faulty communication so often lies at the root of medical errors. How many adverse events might be prevented if all clinicians introduced themselves, making them more inviting to questions and concerns?

As Granger points out in her blog post, sometimes we need to do the simple things well, like introducing ourselves, so that the more complex aspects of providing care “will follow more easily and naturally.”

The #hellomynameis campaign is most firmly rooted in the United Kingdom, but it’s a concept that should be adopted by anyone, anywhere who has direct patient contact. Hopefully, it’s not too much to ask caregivers to keep a simple mental checklist of everything they do when approaching a patient: sit down near the patient, introduce yourself by name, listen to the patient and learn from them.

If we join this movement that puts patients at the center of our work, we would see the world differently. If we put patients first, we would have open visiting hours. We would round inside of patients' rooms rather than in the hallways. We would conduct nursing shift change with the patient and loved ones present rather than without them.

Several years ago at Johns Hopkins, we embraced a similar concept on our surgery teams. Before the start of a case, the entire care team—surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses and others— introduce themselves by name, as a prelude to going over the details of the operation. They talk about what might go wrong, so they can preemptively deal with those issues before incision. Across health care, we talk about the importance of treating patients and family members as part of the care team.  We can’t honestly profess to be doing that unless they know our names.


Peter Pronovost

One of the world’s leading authorities on patient safety, Peter Pronovost served a the director of the Armstrong Institute, as well as senior vice president for patient safety and quality, at Johns Hopkins Medicine from 2011 until January 2018.

7 thoughts on “Doctor Who?”

  1. What a great campaign. I think this is key to avoiding adverse events. Often patients may feel intimidated or afraid to speak up. It isn't until they feel "safe" to speak up and what better way to invite them in than taking the steps to build that trust. Great post!

  2. I think this is a great idea, we all can agree, when we actually know the people in our lives, it makes a difference . I would just like you to go back one step. I have been in different hospitals over the years and had a problem when I asked to see a clinicians name tag. My mother, being from a different generation, assumed every man in scrubs was a doctor. I was trying to teach her to identify who she was speaking with when she was hospitalized in 2012. It was not always easy.
    I have met resistance from clinicians of all types when asked, gently, to turn their name tag around, or in one case, take it out of his pocket. I love the idea of #hellomynameis and it will work a lot better if we can see name tags !

  3. Absolutely, been following @KateGrangers inspirational blog and the #hellomynameis movement from afar here in Australia

    One thing strikes me - this campaign was, in part, a respinse to the anonymisation of medical healthcare workers by the NHS. No longer are 'junior' doctors alloed to i troduce themselves as "Hi, I am Dr Jones' senior registrar on the ENT ward".... Instead they are "Max, Trainee doctor ST2"

    It makes them sound like they are a spotty teenager on work experience, not a professional with membership exams under their belt.

    Meanwhile the Consultant Podiatrist is clearly identified as someone important

    #hellonmyname is is awesome - but we also need to reclaim the title of doctor and be clear about what a Consultant means - the person whos name is at head of bed (except we've taken that away as wll, havent we)...

  4. Simple ideas are the best one. We all are human beings and we need connection to each other. Great article! Thanks!

    In other industries, @hellomynameis has been adopted few years ago. Think of airplane flights: before taking off, the pilot introduces herself and welcome people onboard. Then members of the crew introduce themselves and give instructions. This happens at every single flight.

    In the nuclear industry, peer to peer reviews are the norm. At the beginning of each review there is a formal introduction of the participants. At the same time, before every observation or interview, the reviewer re-introduce himself and explain the object of the activity.

    It is important to establish a connection with the people we are dealing with, co-workers, peers, patients...
    In healthcare this is so important because patients give their trust to doctors. Great initiative! Thank you!

  5. Ann pronovost-Buckley

    The articles written by Dr. Peter Pronovost are well written giving the lay person valuable
    information concerning many health issues as well as confidence when visiting their doctor
    or any health facility.The patient is much more confortable in having a direct dialogue
    concerning their health issues or those of a love one
    Dr. Pronovost has proven how "One person can change the world"
    I am so proud to be his mother.
    Ann Pronovost-Buckley

  6. Pingback: #HelloMynameis… Dottore dimmi chi sei e saro’ al centro dei tuoi interessi | Social Media, Medici e Medicina

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