Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” That makes it the strongest connection to their personal identity and individuality. Using a person’s name in conversation lets them know they matter to you. It implies you know them. And nowhere is that more important than in healthcare settings. Patients often have fears that they will be mixed up or confused with another patient and receive the wrong treatment. By using their name consistently, you help to ally those insecurities and reaffirm their importance.
A few days ago, I was rounding with nurses we had coached on communication and engagement techniques. We had encouraged them to make an effort to use the patients’ names during their hourly rounds. It sounds incredibly simple, but is an often overlooked skill. What we found was that this simple action improved the encounters for both the patients and the nurses.
When someone uses my name in conversation, it’s a clear indication that they know who I am. It also lets me know that I’m important enough for them to bother learning and using it.
In nursing school, our instructors drilled into us that we were never to refer to patients as, “The gallbladder in room 305 or the stent in 232.” Behind the chart and the diagnosis is a human being who deserves our respect. Start by learning and using the patients’ name. It works wonders for engagement.