Monday, July 25, 2016

It is as simple as saying “Hello, my name is…”

by Christian Sinclair

This weekend I was on-call for our inpatient palliative care consult service. As I reviewed the list, I knew only a handful of the patients from seeing them earlier in the week. We had three new consults and had to make a handful of follow-up visits for symptom control and goals of care discussions. Many of the people I met this weekend, I had never met before and I knew we would need to start talking about very challenging issues within in a short order of time. Thankfully I had a simple tool, that made these potentially awkward situations much easier for me, the patients, the families and staff: a friendly introduction to each person in the room.

“Hello, my name is Christian Sinclair. I’m a doctor on the palliative care team.”

With my formal training in hospice and palliative medicine, I’m at ease with many communication approaches that I have learned and observed over the years. Most of them are incorporated into the majority of my clinical interactions, but only one has transformed how I think of talking to patients and families. Like all clinicians I had been taught that introducing yourself to the people you are seeing in clinic, nursing home and the hospital was a good thing to do long ago. But if I am being honest, I probably introduced myself only 70-80% of the time and I certainly never taught anyone that it was important. Clinicians know so much about patients, but they know so little about us, sometimes not even our name, because we don’t take the time to say it. Until Dr. Kate Granger showed me how important it was to say, “Hello, my name is…”

We’ve talked about Dr. Granger and the #HelloMyNameIs effort on Pallimed before, but I wanted to write it again to honor Kate and her efforts, because she is no longer able to carry on this mission. I know that many other people will, and I hope you will be one of them. Kate Granger died in England this past Saturday from sarcoma. The same sarcoma that landed her in the hospital in 2013 and inspired her essay on the lack of human connection in modern medicine. During that hospital stay she noted how inconsistent the introductions from staff were. After that stay, she sent out a tweet with the hashtag #hellomynameis and encouraged other healthcare professionals to always include it in their practice.
Because of this, Kate Granger is a clinical hero of the first order, who has changed the care of millions of patients, by cementing a simple concept of the friendly introduction into clinical practice. Her efforts in the UK led to the National Health System (NHS) to make #HelloMyNameIs an official campaign, with hundreds of thousands of clinical staff, clinics and hospitals signing on. Kate spoke internationally on the importance of building relationships between clinicians and patients. She was awarded the Most Excellent order of the British Empire for her work in this area. I’m surprised at the lack of widespread uptake here in the United States, because this is such a winning concept that other clinicians and health care organizations around the world have adopted and made big impacts. Everyone in healthcare should know about Kate and #HelloMyNameIs.

So this past weekend, knowing Kate was gone, but really still with me, I continued the lesson she taught me 3 years ago. I made better connections with people because of #HelloMyNameIs. Her legacy will live on with all of us to exercise in practice and to educate our peers and learners. Because of Kate Granger, her story and her advocacy for #HelloMyNameIs, I didn’t have to wait until I was a patient to view the imbalance of power and vulnerability. It has been laid out for all of us to acknowledge by Kate, our peer and hero, to make a friendly introduction and never stop seeing the person in the patient.

Thank you, Kate

Tribute to Dr. Kate Granger (The Guardian (UK)) by Rachel Clarke
One of Kate's last essays in the UK Telegraph - "I blogged about my death, but then I didn't die"
Official website for #HelloMyNameIs - Get a name tag!
Dr. Kate Granger's Twitter account
Dr. Kate Granger's Blog

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