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#HelloMyNameIs Emma

It’s funny how your practice changes with age and experience. This hit home for me recently when another pharmacist commented on the fact that I had been holding a patient’s hand.

Because I work in critical care, my patients are usually sedated and on a ventilator. Of the few who are not sedated, some may have delirium or be intubated and unable to speak. Whatever the situation, most of the patients I see are not able to have an in-depth conversation with me.

When I was younger I tended to concentrate on the drug chart more than the person in front of me, and I still see that happening today with junior pharmacists. When I did the independent prescribing course I was forced to take a step back and look at the patient as a whole, and to do the one thing that all intensive care pharmacists fear — talk to patients. To help me do this, I watched how the doctors I respected treated their patients. One consultant in particular would let his registrar conduct the ward round while he held each patient’s hand and reassured them about what was happening.

As my practice has progressed, I now find myself holding patients’ hands more and more often, particularly the ones who seem deeply unconscious — in the hope that a combined sensation of touch and voice will register with them. With more alert patients, I have interesting conversations, conducted in some form of sign language or through written notes. It’s surprising just how much can be communicated with a few carefully chosen gestures.

As a result of her experiences as a patient, Kate Granger, a terminally ill doctor, has launched a twitter campaign — #HelloMyNameIs — to remind healthcare professionals to introduce themselves by name when they meet patients. I now make a conscious effort to say “hello I’m Emma the pharmacist” when I see patients — avoiding what I used to say, which was “hello I’m the pharmacist” or, worse still, “hello I’m just the pharmacist”. I do this even when the patient appears unconscious because, you never know, it may just be the one thing they remember.

So, I will continue to hold the hands of patients, tell them what my name is and say what I am doing — and I encourage my juniors, and you, to do the same.

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2014.11137788

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