Name tags help staff connect with patients

Dr. Aisha Mirza approaches a patient, greets her and begins to discuss the reason for her visit to the emergency department. During a pause in the conversation, the patient says, “It’s nice to see your smile.”

Aisha hesitates, knowing that during COVID-19 much of her face is covered to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

“I was confused slightly because I was wearing my mask. And then when I looked down, I realized they were commenting on my visual ID, which was nice, and we both sort of laughed.”

Aisha’s name tag is one of dozens created by the team in the Grey Nuns Community Hospital emergency department. They made their own photo ID to make it easier for patients and colleagues to see the faces that are hidden behind personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Honestly, sometimes you don’t even know who you’re looking at, between the scrub caps and goggles and face masks,” says administrative assistant Kaytlyn Marshall. “It’s a weird feeling going on the unit and everyone’s masked up because you’re so used to everyone saying hello with a smile. You still get those hellos, but you don’t know that they’re smiling.”

Some of the name tags worn by staff in the Grey Nuns emergency department

The idea for the name tags came from a team meeting where staff recognized the challenge the PPE requirements created for relating to patients and each other.

“Wearing PPE can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and it can create an extra barrier when we’re trying to make connections with our patients,” says Aisha. “In the ER, we are expected to make meaningful connections in a very short amount of time. We want our patients to trust that we have heard them and that we are committed to providing quality care.”

Staff have the choice of using a personal photo or a cartoon avatar. Kaytlyn prints the name tags before laminating them and inserting them into a badge holder so they are easy to wipe clean. She has made 38 name tags in a little more than a month for physicians, nurses, unit clerks, health care aides and management staff. Some of them submit a photo, but many choose an avatar. 

“People are having a lot of fun with them. It lightens things up a little during this time, and it also helps make patients more comfortable.”

Aisha has noticed children looking at her picture.

“It’s a good thing. I can see them making the connection that this is the human being behind all this gear. You can imagine that a healthcare worker in full PPE can come across as very intimidating to young children.”

Emergency physician Dr. Michael Lai shows his name tag.

When Kaytlyn offered to make name tags for the staff, Aisha eagerly accepted. And she says they’re getting good feedback from patients.

“These visual IDs allow for an injection of humanity into our daily encounters while respecting the safety constraints of this new environment that we’re in,” says Aisha.

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