Introduce yourself! Why is it a controversial issue?
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Introduce yourself! Why is it a controversial issue?

Recently, I accompanied my mother to a doctor’s appointment. The Registrar interviewed my mother without looking at her. She just looked at the screen and typed. I thought of clearing my throat and saying, “Ahem! Yoo-hoo! There are PEOPLE standing in front of you.” But I held back, and instead, I asked respectfully, “Excuse me. May we know your name please?” And the Registrar replied curtly, “Why?”

Always quick to defend other people, my mother said to me, “Don’t make her tell us her name. She doesn’t want to, and she’ll be mad at us.” I replied, “Mom, we’re in a doctor’s office. She is here to help us see the doctor. I just think it would be nice to call her by her name.”

Before my mother could answer, the Registrar looked at me, scowled, and said, “OK, my name is Harriet.”

I could have done without her scowl. Still acting calm, I pushed, “And Harriet, may I know your last name, please?”

And she said, “Why? Are you going to report me?”

I said, “No. I just think a person providing a service should introduce herself to the people she serves. That’s all.”

She replied, “Well, I don’t agree.”

And I said, “OK, my mom is here to see the doctor. Can you please tell us how soon will the doctor see my mother?” And the story ends there.

My Insight: This health care worker thought that introducing herself to patients and families was an option—a matter of personal preference. But in fact, not introducing oneself degrades the patient experience.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by this tense interaction about introducing yourself. When I was a supervisor, I met with resistance among my team members when I said I expected them to introduce themselves to their patients. Their most common reasons?

Am I missing something? It seems like a no-brainer to me that people providing a service should introduce themselves to those they are serving. It’s an act of professionalism and accountability. Yet, many supervisors complain that their staff members don’t consistently introduce themselves to people, despite the fact that they are clearly expected to do so.

If you or your team members are ambivalent, I think it’s important to unearth the reasons for resistance and address them. If your coworkers balk at introducing themselves to patients, ask for their reasons and list them on a flipchart. Go through one excuse at a time and ask group members to respond to each. Help them talk through the benefits of introducing themselves and the costs of not doing so.

Patient focus groups, consumer research, communication studies and customer service benchmarking ALL provide evidence that the effective service provider introduces him or herself to people. I don’t think this should be negotiable. It is key to the Language of Caring® and creating a culture of caring, and providing service excellence.

How does YOUR organization encourage employees to always introduce themselves? Please share your comments below.

Categories: Caring and Empathy, Patient Experience Strategies, Patient-Family Engagement


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