1. LeBlanc, Raeann DNP, APRN-BC
  2. Burke, Mary Ellen MSN, CNM
  3. Henneman, Elizabeth A. PhD, RN


The key to establishing the relationship between nurse and patient.


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Communication skills alone do not ensure that nurses will successfully collaborate with patients. Trust is central to establishing a collaborative relationship between the nurse and the patient. A professional introduction, in which a nurse states her or his full name and role in the patient's care, is key to establishing this trust.

Figure. Raeann LeBla... - Click to enlarge in new window Raeann LeBlanc

Although there are many other ways the nurse's role may be communicated to patients, this professional greeting is a powerful way to make clear the centrality of the nurse's role in the care of the patient. The professional introduction also makes explicit the nurse's accountability to the patient. It increases the visibility of the nurse's knowledge and expertise, helping to highlight nurses' responsibilities and the scope of nursing practice, which are often not well understood by the general public.

Figure. Mary Ellen B... - Click to enlarge in new window Mary Ellen Burke

To ensure safe patient care, experts stress the need for transparency and open communication-both of which are supported by the use of a professional introduction. This includes the use of first and last names when nurses introduce themselves to patients.

Figure. Elizabeth A.... - Click to enlarge in new window Elizabeth A. Henneman

The 2010 report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health from the Institute of Medicine (now the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) contends that "a fundamental rethinking" of nursing and other health care professional roles is needed if the health care system is to be transformed and focused on the "unique needs" of patients. The report notes that "outdated policies, regulations, and cultural barriers" have prevented some important changes from being made. The lack of professional introductions by nurses is one such limitation. This must be addressed if a true transformation in the health care system is to occur.


It's not clear why a professional nursing introduction is not a well-accepted standard. As licensed professionals, nurses are legally and publicly identifiable. Yet some nurses avoid a professional introduction because of safety concerns associated with revealing their first and last names. Physicians, however, routinely use their first and last names in their exchanges with patients. Why would there not be similar safety concerns for physicians and other professionals who, out of necessity, reveal their full names when writing prescriptions or when discharging patients from their care?


Withholding one's full name does not fully protect one's identity. It does, however, prevent the transparency needed to promote open communication. In addition, nurses who fail to describe their role and responsibilities to patients or other health care providers will not be recognized for their expertise and will potentially have less involvement in the patient's care, which could result in suboptimal patient outcomes.


It is entirely possible that the reason basic interpersonal behaviors such as professional introductions aren't taught in nursing schools or explicitly required in the practice setting is because they are simply assumed to occur. The use of clinical simulation scenarios and other case study approaches in both academic and clinical settings could provide opportunities for professional introductions to be practiced and critiqued.


At the same time, this would offer nurses the chance to address their concerns about personal safety and professional identity through role-playing and reflection about professional boundaries, examining how they can best introduce themselves and explain their role during practice-based interactions. Professional introductions help to create a social exchange (or a social contract) that emphasizes a nurse's responsibility to both the patient and the nursing profession. These practice sessions would also enable nurses to discuss how to best identify their profession and expertise.


We encourage you, if you do not do so already, to introduce yourself by stating your full name and role. See if it makes a difference for you and your patients. We believe it will.