Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Name game

I recently switched health clinics. Yesterday I visited my new clinic for the first time. On a wall in the waiting room were the happy, smiling faces of the staff, identified by first name – “Jakob,” “Kristine,” “Marie,” “Samir,” “Erik”, etc. – and job title – doctor, administrative assistant, doctor, doctor, nurse, etc.

Self-reference by first name only is supposed to convey friendliness and feel less intimidating for patients, I assume. But I think it conveys a lack of gravitas I find distressing when it comes to my health. I appreciate friendliness and service with a smile; but both a first and a last name convey a professionalism I find reassuring. When a doctor or nurse uses his full name when introducing himself I feel like he's giving me his complete attention and putting his entire reputation on the line for me. This person is saying “I’m completely committed to your care.”

Although my former doctor put a perfunctory “Dr.” before his first name, i.e. “Dr. Harold,” when he phoned with test results or treatment options, this didn’t cut it either. It’s the way someone talks to children or how people refer to doctors on radio or TV talk shows: I am not seven years old and you are not a media personality. I want to be approached as an adult peer, and I want my medical practitioner to present herself using her first and last name as in any professional relationship: “This is Claris Parnell from the City Health Clinic. I’m calling about….” Or, more traditionally, “This is Dr. Parnell from the City Health Clinic.”

But don’t try and be my “buddy.”  It’s supposed to feel friendly, but I find it forced and phony, and presumptuous. Given a choice, who would you trust: Dr. Hibbert or Dr. Nick?

© 2012 Kvick Thoughts. All rights reserved.

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