Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reflections from a Thursday at Grady - What's in a name?

"What's in a name?

That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

~ Willam Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

"Say my name, say my name
You acting kinda shady
Ain't callin' me baby
Betta say my name."

~ Destiny's Child "Say My Name"


"That'll be $44.52," the cashier told my mother at Publix one afternoon.
"Thank you-- Justin," she said cheerily with her eyes focused on his name badge. Sure enough, it read "Justin." After taking her debit card information, he decided to return the favor.
"Come back and see us, Mrs. Draper, and have a great day."
It was a veritable name-calling lovefest.

My mom always calls a person by their name whenever possible. She asks. She remembers. And if for some reason it slips her mind (which things often do with my mom), she asks again. It's one of the things I love the most about her. No one is ever a "hey you" or even an "excuse me, ma'am", especially if they have a name tag on. She gets the origin, the pronunciation, the whole kit and kaboodle. And not once have I ever seen a person mind.

A few weeks ago, I was rounding on one of my favorite floors at Grady, 7A. After seeing my patient, I realized that the chart was out of paper. I headed over to the unit clerk to ask for some assistance.
"Pardon me, Ms. Natalie, but do you have any extra progress notes up here?" I then remembered that I hadn't greeted her. "Oh, I'm sorry! Good afternoon!"
Ms. Natalie smiled wide revealing the trademark gap between her two front teeth and handed me a two sheets of Grady progress note paper. "You know I got you, Dr. Manning!"
"Thank you, ma'am!" I announced and prepared to write a note at the nurses' station.
"No problem, Dr. Manning!" she answered. Again came the bright smile.

I stood quietly at the counter writing for a few moments until my concentration was broken by the boisterous banter of a few of the nurses finishing their afternoon report. I lay my pen down in anticipation for what was sure to be their characteristically warm greeting. The ward wasn't particularly busy this day, and by the relaxed pace of the staff, it showed.
"Where you been, Dr. Manning? We thought you had put us down!" laughed Mrs. Nix, one of the senior nurses.
"Yeah, Dr. Manning!" Mr. Stanley chimed in, "You too cool for 7A?"
We all chuckled as we exchanged hugs. "Come on, Mr. Stanley and Mrs. Nix! You know I love me some 7A," I responded lightly.
"How is Master Isaiah?" Mrs. Nix asked with a twinkle in her eye. "Oh, and the baby--what's his name again? How his that little pumpkin?"
"Thank you for asking,"I said. I was flattered that she'd remembered my sons. "That little pumpkin, Zachary, is almost 3 now, and he and 'Master Isaiah' are both doing great."

I smiled and then returned to writing my note. I finished the last few lines and signed my name and license number. I paused for a moment and thought about the game plan for this patient. Darn, I wonder what time that MRI is going to happen?
"Hmmm," I said aloud while scanning the board to see which nurse was caring for my patient. At the top of the board was a familiar sight: "Nix, RN - Charge Nurse." No surprise there. Next were the names of the other nurses, followed by the rooms to which they were assigned-- "Shepherd, RN", "Stanley, RN", "Nwoke, RN", "Salami, RN", "Sunday,RN" and "Chiwiteloju, RN." Aaaaah, Ms. Salami, cool.

I headed down the hall toward the regal African woman clad in white who stood at the pull-down chart preparing medications. She had already begun to grin before I even reached her. "Hey, Dr. Manning!" she spoke with her musical Nigerian accent. I returned her greeting with a hug.
"Mrs. Salami, do you know when my patient in bed 2 is going for his MRI?"
I was glad she was his nurse. I knew she would know this kind of helpful information.
"They told me two o'clock, but I am going to call them right at 1:30. I know he is wondering what's going on," she answered while separating pills into a little plastic cup. "I can page you if I hear differently, or if he doesn't go at 2pm." I loved the staccato sound of her Yoruba-twinged English.
"Thanks, Mrs. Salami, I'd appreciate that."
Sliding the note into the three ring binder of the chart, I gave the entire ward an exaggerated wave before scurrying to the stairwell.
"Bye, Dr. Manning!" they replied in unison; a chorus of multitonal voices, melodic accents, and positive energy--hands down one of my favorite things about Grady.

It probably has more to do with Mrs. Draper than anyone else that I always try to learn the names of the people I work with-- no matter where they are on the totem pole. My rule is simple: if you have taken the time to learn my name, I will make every effort to learn yours. It still amazes me how much such a small gesture means to people.

Case in point: I once worked with a resident who'd had quite a few awkward interactions with the nursing staff. They complained about her, and the resident complained about them. She would insist that the nurses were disrespectful, and surprise, surprise- the nurses had the same to say about her. One day we sat down to talk about these issues, and my first question was, "Which nurse or nurses are you having trouble with?" As it turns out, she could not name a single RN on the floor. Even after I described them one by one, she had nothing. Unfortunately, she had not committed one staff member's name to memory--even after 16 days on service. They all knew her name, but she didn't know theirs. Not a one. My single piece of advice to her? Learn the nurses' names and make every effort to address them by name. Start there, and see what happens. You know what? She didn't have any other problems for the rest of the month. In fact, at the end of the month, they were sorry to see her go. Kind of interesting, don't you think?

So what's in a name? That's easy, Mr. Shakespeare. Regardless of smell, I know this much is true-- a lot is in a name. Affirmation is in a name. Acknowledgment is in a name. And as I am learning more and more. . . . . . .respect is in a name. Folks just like it when you think enough about them to not only ask their name, but remember it and use it.

So thank you, Justin at Publix, for being so pleasant to my mom in the grocery store. And thank YOU, Cheryl Draper, for teaching me early a simple truth that helps me every single day at Grady--exactly what's in a name.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, so that's where I get that from??? LOL! People always laugh at me when I take them to games at the Staples Center. I always address the security people & the folks working at the concession stands by the names on their badges. I know the security guards at work, and I know the janitors. My co-workers always say, "Darlene, you know everybody!" When the truth is, I walk by these people almost everyday, and it was just strange to me to not know their names & say hello. My seven years in the south conditioned me to say hello/good morning/afternoon to just about everyone I encounter... so I feel better saying, "Hello, Maria!" to the janitor on our floor or "Good morning, Quiana!" to the guard at the front desk.

    Great post!


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