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Recently, one of our editors needed treatment at an emergency department for a laceration over her eye. Within 5 minutes of her arrival, someone-a nurse?-took a history, gave her an ice pack, and settled her in an examination cubicle. Later, someone else-another nurse?-cleaned the laceration and assured my colleague that a physician would be along shortly.
A young physician entered the room. Making eye contact with my colleague and her family, he introduced himself and shook their hands. After exchanging pleasantries, he assessed the laceration, explained how he'd suture it, and answered their questions. Someone who seemed to be a nurse accompanied him but stood in the background unidentified.
When the physician finished suturing the laceration, he again shook hands all around, wished his patient well, and left. His companion applied a bandage, provided discharge information, and sent my colleague on her way.
With a simple introduction, a handshake, and some small talk, the physician established his role and put his patient at ease. Why didn't the nurses assert themselves in the same way?
In its "Speak Up" initiatives for improving patient safety, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations urges patients to expect health care workers to introduce themselves when they enter the room. No longer just good manners, introductions have become a safety issue.
People develop an opinion within the first 5 seconds of meeting someone and may form a lasting impression in less than a minute. As a strong believer in the power of first impressions, I'm asking you to consider how your patients regard you from the start.
Sure, your name badge identifies you as a nurse, but someone who's nervous or in pain--or who has an ice pack on her eye-may not notice or be able to read it.
The best way to connect is to make eye contact with the patient and family, identify yourself as a nurse, and tell them your first and last name. I favor a handshake too. A respectful, professional introduction inspires confidence, and a warm smile eases anxiety. Good grooming adds to your positive image.
Let's step out of the shadows and show patients the pride we take in our profession. Before you meet your next patient, stop at her door, take a breath, and think about making a first-and lasting-impression. Then imagine 3 million nurses making strong first impressions on patients and families every day of every year.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN, BC CMSRN, MSN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2006 email@example.com
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