… and what should I call you?

I recently came across the most amazing blog by a doctor who has ended up on the other side of the bed – she is now the patient. As a result of first hand experience she has started a very worthwhile campaign called #hellomynameis, which is to encourage all professionals, when they meet patients, to remember to introduce themselves properly. To take a moment to be human before they launch into symptoms and diagnoses. You can read all about it, and her story, here:


This got me thinking about the respondents, the patients, who are sat in their compromised position wishing they were anywhere else. Nothing personal, but no one likes a hospital. They are not in their usual clothes, but in a hospital gown, not in their comfort zone of home, but an alien environment of hospital, smelling of sterility, run by women and men in colour coded coats. How often have you been asked what you would like to be called?

Here’s what happens when I bring in Small. ‘So, what brings you here today, Mum?’… ‘Now, Mum, were we waiting on some results today?’…. ‘So, Mum, how’s Small getting on?’
Hang on, is your mother here in the room too?? Oh. Wait. You mean me.

Technically, I can’t argue with this. He’s my boy and I am his (and Big’s) mother. I am indeed his mum. On so many levels though, this shorthand term used to mean ‘You, the grown up’, is not the one I wish you to use when I bring my child to you in the hope of answers.

By reducing me to ‘mum’, you take away my identity; you push me to the bottom of the pile. It says, ‘I just can’t be bothered to remember your name as well’. I suspect this isn’t deliberate, more a way of getting around that awkward ‘Do I call you Mrs… or your first name….?’ or that you just have a terrible memory for names. I have to tell you though, it’s so annoying, borderline rude. On every one of Small’s hospital visits I meet nurses, consultants, registrars … and I remember their names. When they introduce themselves I tell them my name in return. They still call me ‘Mum’.

I understand that it’s easy, that the number of people you meet every day is huge. But you remember Small’s name, why not mine as well? If it was me coming in by myself to tell you about my aching back, you wouldn’t call me mum, would you? No, you’d take two seconds to look at my notes beforehand and call me by my appropriate name. You’d maybe use my first name if we’d met on many occasions, or you’d use my surname if we were not so long acquainted. Because it was the polite thing to do.

When I accompany Small, who cannot talk to you himself, we are not simply transacting, this is not my buying a pint of milk from you whilst you talk to your colleague on the opposite cash till, this is me offering up my boy to you – for you to poke, prod, stick needles in – and the least you can do is remember who I am too.


9 thoughts on “… and what should I call you?

  1. When my eldest was little, we were in hospital for 8 weeks due to her having a dislocated hip and it not being picked up until she was 1 year old. I got to know most of the nurses on the ward yet they still insisted on calling me “mum”. It really annoyed me, I am a person!

  2. Pingback: … and what should I call you? | itssmallsworld | NHS Improving Quality

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