Monday, 22 March 2010

Good Afternoon

So when is a Police Constable not PC? When the police force has issued even more guidelines of how to address people, or how to refer to the time of day. Or not, as the case may be - apparently it may cause confusion for "different cultural backgrounds" if you bid someone a "Good Afternoon".
Codswallop, Tishposh, Baloney and Tripe. I'm sorry. But it is. And I know that the beginning of this sentence sounds like some American legal firm. Sorry for that too.
I can understand not asking for a Christian name. I'm not Christian, and I wouldn't be upset if someone asked me for my Christian name, but I can, just about, understand that rule. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I can understand it. We don't need rules and regulations for every single little thing. There should still be some room for common sense.
The one thing that I have been left thinking about is names in general, and in particular, what do you call your patients?
Do you call all male patients "sir"? Really? Even the six year olds?
Do you call all female patients "madam" or "ma'am" or "miss"? Really? Even the really scared ones?
I know that if someone calls me "sir" it means one of the following. Either I've been knighted by Her Majesty, no-one told me about it and I've missed the Investiture, or someone is trying to sell me double glazing. I hate it. Don't call me sir.
If you call me Mr. M, I am equally as uncomfortable. Either I'm talking to one of my kids' teachers, who are trying to balance the tightrope of officialdom, distance and the personal touch, or I'm meeting the bank manager for another review of my ever-growing overdraft.
My parents were kind enough to give me a first name, so please use it.
I know that this isn't the case for everyone. I know there are many people who prefer to be addressed as Mr. SoAndSo, or Mrs. WhatsHerName, and they are entitled to that courtesy. The Rules say that this is how everyone should be addressed.
No room for manoeuvre, no room for the personal touch.
I think that this is what aggravates me the most. I disagree that calling people by their first names is unprofessional. Sometimes I find that it's just what they need to hear. Admittedly not ALL (ahem) our calls are life-threatening, and not at every given moment is either the patient or their relative in great distress, but if they are, then I think that addressing them by their first name, or whatever other name they choose, has a calming effect.
It portrays that we can walk that tightrope. Be professional at all times, and yet have the personal touch that shows you can empathise, sympathise and treat as necessary.
If, for example, Jill Greaves, was trapped in an upside down car after a high speed RTC, I'm sure she'd rather hear the strange multitude of voices saying "Don't worry, Jill, we'll have you out of the car and in the warm as soon as we can", rather than "Mrs. Greaves, we understand your concerns and are aware of your predicament, so we are undertaking your rapid extrication from the vehicle".
So what do YOU call your patients?
I vote for common sense.
I vote for asking your patient how they would like to addressed.
And I vote for bidding your patients Good Afternoon. But only if it really is.


Ross said...

I agree with you on this one.

I tend to use Mr or Mrs so and so for older patients (being a bit on the young side), or even sometimes ask what they prefer to be called.

I don't think it should be regulated. I know I prefer my first name to anything else.

CrazyNewt said...

I would just call all of your patients "Phil". Whether they are young or old, male or female - they're gonna be called "Phil". And hey, you'll be right 50% of the time (either you are, or you aren't).

RapidResponseDoc said...

I call all patients in A&E over 16 Mr or Mrs/Miss ... If they are stuck upside down in a car they get called by their first name (or is it given name??)

Some patients ask me to call them by their first name, and then I do, but I default to surname in the first place.

Tom said...


I often use sir or madam on the first introduction, but once I've asked my patients their first name, and they've given it, I'll use it!

I even revert to mate or buddy if the mood takes me, but only with young males usually.

Many may frown upon my unprofessionalism, but I've used darling and sweetheart for young females occassionally. When I say young, I mean children.

In my experience, it makes a potentially scary and lonely experience much more personal and friendly. We all have the professionalism to use discretion and we can all tell when we're talking to the kind of person that would object to being called something more informal.

Louise said...

I normally go for the 'Hello/Good morning/afternoon, i'm Louise and this is blah...what can we call you?' And then the patient tells me and i normally go for that unless they have any objections. Not been caught out yet or told its not very professional by a patient or relative so must be doing something right?!

And i agree with tom, for some patients mate/buddy/love can be acceptable in the right circumstances, tends to put younger patients more at ease if you're at their level.

Monkeysox said...

"Hi there"
offer a hand to shake...
I introduce myself and my partner by our first names and I ask the patient what their name is.

Their answer is the name I will use to address them from then on


Ambulance Amateur said...

My opening line is "Hi; I'm John, what may I call you?"

It has never failed to get a first name in return, but one day it may.

InsomniacMedic said...

I have no problem calling the patients by the name they choose, within reason... (Once had a patient who tried to get me to call him Mr I'mGonnaKillYouDead - He seemed serious so I left the choice of name to the police who came with us). Just don't think that it's necessarily something that needs regulating. Just seems to be an insult to both our intelligence and that of the patient.

Fee said...

Ah, but insulting the intelligence of sensible adults is in the mission statements of all large organisations, is it not?

Jeez, I'm getting more cynical by the day.

Seriously, if I need to dial 999, then you can call me whatever the heck you like. Love, dear, mate, pal, hen (I think that one's generally just here in Scotland). If I'm sick enough to need an ambulance, I'm not likely to care much what you call me!

Eytan said...

I call my patients 'Savlanut' ... sometimes 'Mr(s) Savlanut'

Tom said...

Two young policemen recently visited me with an enthusiastic and personable performance, which I have stated earlier on another blog (inspector gagdget), regarding a local initiative by police and other agencies in my area.

Both officers were entirely socially sterile, no doubt a response to their training, as my wife and I offered our hospitality, both officers appeared uncomfortable. No tea and biccys were accepted.

I recall the use of the courtesy blanket when I was with the Surrey Ambulance Service, and the un-PC comments frequently banded about as a matter of course.

An elderly female due for transit to hospital would watch us speculatiley as a blue 'zorbit' blanket (sic) was placed over, whilst I removed the bed covering. This was a courtesy blanket with the intent to preserve our patients dignity. Often I would say "It's for your own good love, if my crewmate sees too much lady flesh he gets excited" to be followed by a girlish laugh from a 70 year old.

In intimate moments of distress, intimacy with the patient is often humour, and an unqualified, and un-pc exchange between patient and rescuer is the best medicine.

Peter said...

I call all mine by their first name unless they expressly tell me not to, or I get a strong feeling it's inappropriate.

I'm not trying to sell them somethign I'm trying to get them some care. Calling them by their first name is more of a personal touch I think.

Emily said...

It's just like the whole are they a patient, customer, service user etc... rubbish. It annoys me.

In hospital I often did the 'so, what do you like to be called then?' when chatting to patients, I was supised how many men like to be called something other than their first name so always made sure it was on their name board by their bed. I've called people Mr, Miss, Mrs before now and always have been told 'Oh just call me Bob/Jenny'. You can often tell if someone is unlikely to like being called by their first name...

Anonymous said...

I ask!
We have plenty of people asking to be called "Auntie", and if they want to be called "Auntie", that is fine by me! Saves me trying to pronounce their name accurately (difficult when I do not possess the local accent). I only ask that I get their real name for my paperwork too.
Names are personal, you can be called what you like (within reason).