By Dr Kate Granger
I crossed over the patient professional divide on the 29th July 2011. I'd never really been ill before and hadn't seen a GP for years. It was quite a shock to suddenly be thrust into this seemingly familiar but simultaneously alien world. The way I kept myself sane while coming to terms with my terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of 29, was to become a keen observer of my own care. I reflected long and hard on what care was, what makes a good doctor or nurse, what my core values as both patient and clinician were...
It soon became abundantly clear how much communication mattered to me. Poor communication distressed me. I admired the good communication skills possessed by many of those looking after me. I even stole some of their strategies for my own professional toolkit. It was also apparent very early on my illness journey how much 'the little things' mattered and that they could make a huge difference when at my most frightened and vulnerable.
#HelloMyNameIs was born out of a combination of all those important inner values shaken together with a negative hospital experience. I was an inpatient on a surgical ward with postoperative sepsis after a routine stent exchange procedure. I made the stark observation during this difficult time that many of the staff caring for me didn't introduce themselves. It was almost as though I'd been forgotten as a person and had just become 'bed 7 with an infection'. Those people who did introduce themselves had a profound effect though; they connected with me; they relieved my anxiety; they helped me to trust them. I can still remember some of their names today, nearly two years on. Bryan the porter. Georgie the newly qualified staff nurse.
I've always been a strong advocate for quality improvement. Sharing my illness experience has essentially been about improving things for other patients; I guess my own way of still caring when I'm not able to work. Supported by my husband we decided to do something positive about my negative experience. An introduction. Universal, simple, no-one can argue that it doesn't need to happen. So the seed was sown...
We used the awesome reach of social media to start the conversation with the catchy hashtag #HelloMyNameIs. I tweeted. I blogged. People shared. People retweeted. We gave the campaign a visual identity with a logo that incorporated a smile, to demonstrate that this is not just about saying the words, but how you say them. After investing some time and no money I had a global, social movement on my hands, which was beginning to be used as a driver to improve compassionate care across all sectors of the NHS.
The premise is ingeniously simple: to remind, encourage and inspire healthcare staff to introduce themselves to their patients. To make a pledge to themselves that this matters and they will try their best. I believe if you get this one basic aspect of communication right then you are more likely to get what follows right too; a common courtesy that naturally leads on to a therapeutic relationship.
In the meantime we have been working hard to spread the message of the campaign. I've spoken at too many conferences to count. We had a national campaign launch earlier this year in conjunction with the Listening into Action network, which reached over 100 NHS organisations and consequently hundreds of thousands of healthcare staff. The hashtag has made millions of impressions on Twitter. We are taking the campaign 'on tour' next month with a series of roadshow events across the country.
You might ask why? Why is this girl who probably only has months to live investing so much time and energy into this? I'd respond because it matters to 80-year-old Jim who'll be admitted with pneumonia this evening - it matters that he is treated with respect and is made to feel safe and cared for; that all begins with a kind and friendly introduction. If that will be my legacy then I can die proud.