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May 2016   Comments

Start with “Hello”

Five people I know were recently admitted to hospitals in Saskatoon, and I have been running back and forth, visiting and coordinating visits for family.

It has been a few years since I worked in the hospital setting. I know many things have changed, but I was astonished, disappointed and angry to observe staff entering a patient’s room who failed to introduce themselves or state their role. Some wore name tags on their belts or waistbands, making the names difficult to read.

In one case, someone came into the bed space (in a four-bed unit) of an elderly friend of mine without introducing herself, then sat down beside him and told him they’d made a mistake with his medication. After some inquiries, we concluded she must have been a doctor. To add insult to injury, she failed to see that my friend was on the commode at the time.

Time and again, I was told: “No one introduces themselves,” “Staff don’t look at me when they discuss my care,” “I don’t know who anybody is” and “Nobody tells me anything!” I don’t know that it matters what system is used to deliver patient care; what does matter to most patients is the quality of interpersonal care.

I teach communication skills to nursing students at the University of Saskatchewan. Some assume I’m teaching soft or even non-essential skills. I will argue that communication is the most fundamental and therapeutic skill we can bring to the patient’s bedside.

– Sheila Murray, BScN
Saskatoon, Sask.

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