What’s in a preferred name?
Why is using someone’s preferred name so important? In a word: respect.
As we welcome new team members this summer, we will be learning some new names. Some may be unfamiliar, some may be nicknames and some may not match a person’s given name. Our HRO (High Reliability Organization) skill of this month aligns well with Pride Month. Introduce yourself using your chosen name, including chosen pronouns.
Most people try their best to be respectful of others and can have anxiety over pronouncing a name properly or in deciding which pronouns to use for someone else. What is the best thing to do when we are unsure? Ask!
People who have chosen or affirmed names that are often mispronounced or different from their given names appreciate being asked how to pronounce their name. It shows that the other person is trying to get it right. It might take a few times to learn a name properly, and that’s ok. Keep trying and keep asking.
If the patient has a note that they are transgender or transitioning or have a chosen name for other reasons, the team should use their chosen name when communicating with them, but should make the patient aware they may need to provide their official or given name on the patient record.
Use correct pronouns
You may have been hearing more about using a person’s chosen pronouns. Until the past few years in our culture, we tended toward using only he/she to refer to other people. But those pronouns are not always the right fit. It can cause stress and anxiety when a person is misgendered with pronouns that they do not identify with. Using a person’s correct pronouns can reduce depression and suicide risk for transgender people.
Want some practice using correct pronouns? Take the OHEI (Office for Health Equity and Inclusion) class called “LGBTQIA+ Awareness & Inclusion: An Introduction to Inclusive Language.” Find out more here: Office for Health Equity & Inclusion. (You can also check out this video on respecting names and pronouns.)
“It makes me feel welcome when I’m called back to an appointment and the person uses my preferred name,” said a patient. “You could call my given name all day long and I won’t respond because it’s not the name I use. I recognize that the person calling me back may not actually remember me from last time, but they took a moment to look up my preferred name in my chart and that makes me feel like I belong here. I appreciate it so much!”
Leaders should also follow this universal skill when communicating to their team members. Showing respect in this way builds relationships and trust among the team. Leaders can also role model this important skill during rounding, to help their team get comfortable with this practice.
Welcome to our new teammates and our patients! Let us all take a moment to show respect for others by learning what they would like to be called and what pronouns they have chosen.