#CallMe – a simple idea

Published: 16/02/2022
Dr Michael McCabe

Consultant Anaesthetist at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

I believe that this is probably the simplest, most respectful, patient centred innovation you will hear about to improve patient care.

#CallMe came about after a clinical interaction I had where I went to pre-assess a paediatric patient on a trauma list.  A particularly cold interaction with the patient and mother followed. Clearly, I thought nothing to do with me, but rather a mother and child having a bad day. It was a crushing moment to find out at the WHO pre-list check briefing that the child was living life with a different gender and name to that of birth. Not an issue that our hospital systems could cope with.

Consider the fact that the child was being addressed by their birth name and being obliged to wear a name band with their birth forename. Consider the fact that this information was hidden on page nine of the nursing admission notes. Consider the fact that this can happen in healthcare of all places.

The solution is #CallMe – a cost neutral idea where we simply add a #CallMe field to both name bands and stickers. This is done in a different font and italics, kept physically separated from the other data to ensure clarity and separation from other formal identifying data for formal identification purposes.  We chose #CallMe over other suggestions such as ‘Preferred name’, ’Known as’ etc to minimise the number of characters used to allow more space for their requested term of address. There is no decrease in the number of identifying factors and the labelling remains GS1 compliant.

The genesis of #CallMe came to prevent this ever happening again to this child, but the implications are much wider. The post-operative patient, the elderly, the nonverbal, the confused, the patient with a foreign name, the patient in resus with a decreased LOC. As healthcare providers, we unknowingly cause a disconnect in trust and rapport with our patients by addressing them in an unfamiliar or impersonal manner.

It is another framework to deconstruct the limits of patient-staff hierarchy, providing new ownership for all inpatients around identity and respect.

I wonder if there is an anaesthetist in this country who can honestly say they have never dismissed a patient as confused or non-cooperative when not responding to the name on their name band or sticker? This is not the way we would want our loved ones ever to be treated.

Whilst traditional nameboards remain above in some areas of our Trust they are unreliably completed and not permitted in areas such as paediatrics, maternity, and day surgery. They also do not follow the patient on their journey around the hospital. #CallMe follows the patient from their point of entry through to their exit out the front door.

With over 20,000 completed #CallMe’s locally, we have over 30 per cent requesting a different term of address to their first formal forename. This closely matches the finding of Parsons et al in Australia.

Even in the cases where patients are happy to go with the current default and be addressed by their formal forename, I would suggest the simple fact of asking this question has value showing we are people in an organisation that respects the individual.

That is #CallMe. It just seems like the right thing. I believe it should be a standard of care. Please help spread the word about this incredibly simple idea.

Before you click on from this blog, please a do a #CallMe exercise – how many of your family and friends would be affected by this? We should get this right. Especially in hospital.

Help make it happen in yours. Excuse the cheap pun - #CallMe.

Dr Michael McCabe