May 18, 2012

Nurses' name tags have names on them, right?

I have seen reports that some nursing programs are eliminating last names from student name tags for security purposes. This is troubling to me for several reasons. The purpose of the name tag is so patients and other staff can identify you. That is part of the openness necessary for patient praise or complaints. Nursing students are also new faces to the staff on a unit who also may need to identify a student. The other issue is one of professionalism. It is fine for my mechanic or waitress to display only first name because that is all the information I need in this transaction; but professionals should exhibit a little more formality. I really don't want my neurosurgeon to only be known as Doctor Phil. A physician-patient and nurse-patient relationship needs to be at a high level of trust. When a nurse refuses to reveal her last name then the message is sent to all patients that they are not trusted.

We give up much in the name of security even when it protects very little. Anecdotal stories of nurses being stalked are not enough to make decisions that diminish the role of nurses in patient care. A patient crazy enough to stalk a nurse or nursing student is probably also resourceful enough to find out her last name.
Nursing faculty need to be modeling a professional image for students. Cowering in fear over minimal risks sends the wrong message to students and patients.
Let's keep full names on the name tags of nursing students and faculty. Send a message to your students and patients that we are professionals engaged in mutual trust.

Now let me tell you what I think of the security measures of the TSA...


11 comments:

Florida said...

I believe you have some valid points. In my area of the country, Southern WI, this has been the practice for some time. A positive aspect to this practice is for family and patients in crisis, it’s easier to remember one name and for elderly it’s usually larger font with just one name and easier to read. I wonder at what level these decisions are made and how many nurses have an influence on the decision.

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

I would argue that in those settings then the badge should still have full names, just in a larger font.

d1fb2e38-b254-11e1-820b-000bcdcb471e said...

I agree that nurses should have name badges with full names. Our patients trust us with their personal information and we should trust them with our names. In addition patients have the right to research our credientials, license status etc. In order to do this they would need our complete name.

Unknown said...

Interesting conversation. I live and work in Washington Stated and I have never - as an RN in a patient care environment - had a name badge with my last name on it. My badge when I was a student and my current clinical instructor badge both have my first and last name. Brent and other commenters brought up some great points about patient access to provider credentials, trust, etc. I agree!

Anonymous said...

I wear both a name tag and hospital ID with my first and last names on them. It hasn't been until recently that there is debate over this at my institution. Like they say, a couple of bad eggs and it changes things for everyone. By bad eggs I mean incidences of stalking of employees by former patients. So far, we have not changed policy and continue to display our full names. I have always liked that I share my full name with my patients. Many times it is a conversation starter when my elderly patients ask, "you German?". I did have a patient write to me at home, informing me that she had gotten my address by googling me. It made me realize how easy it is for people to find information via the internet, but then unless you requested to be unlisted, addresses and phone numbers have been available for years in something called a phone book for you young folk. I say we continue to trust our patients as they trust us by putting their lives in our hands.

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

Thanks Anonymous:
Most physicians, especially in the psychiatric field, are used to the idea that you don't publish your home phone and address in phonebooks and online sources. I think some nurses would find it painful to remove identifying information from their Facebook pages but that is part of being a professional. It is a balance between trusting your patients but not making it too easy to find you. The reality is that it is beyond extremely rare for anyone to get hurt by a patient outside of a clinical setting. Being stalked is frightening but there are legal remedies. We cannot live risk free in a profession that routinely asks us to deal with the infectious and the mentally disturbed.

Anonymous said...

Is the ID a State or Federal code. That would be my only concern regarding what the ID should have on it.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with full names displayed on an ID tag. Larger font is appropriate for working with the elderly. I believe that if we want to be taken seriously as a profession, it is not a trustworthy action to hide behind a first-name-only. Our patients put their trust and often their lives in our hands, it makes sense for us to disclose our full names to them. I would not trust a care-giver who only told me their first name.

Anonymous said...

When I first entered the profession as a neonatal/pediatric nurse I realized that on one or two chart documents I had access to a PLETHORA of information about an individual(including an infant's birth mother who wasn't EVEN a patient): Full and maiden names, address, employer, SS number (not required for receiving care by the way: I DO NOT provide mine as a patient!), number of pregnancies/terminations/etc, STD history, number of sexual partners, sexual orientation, drug and alcohol use/abuse, mental health history, etc etc. This information should only be utilized for providing care but that is an involved list of info to have access to! I also was the clinic manager of a large HIV/AIDS population and realized how important it was for patients to know full names of staff members who are dealing with sensitive issues. I am a licensed professional with two master's degrees and am proud to list my name; I don't even let my students into my classroom without a proper ID...therefore I consider the idea of us not providing our last name completely ridiculous! If someone wanted to "stalk" you they would follow you to your car in the parking lot, etc. If you don't want your professional title displayed than there is a job for you elsewhere. Display the trust to patients and families that you expect in return.
-Christine Embon, RN, MSN

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