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Another greetings survey?

  • James C. Allen (a1)
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Abstract
Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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1 Vinjamuri, IS, Nehal, MAM, Latt, MM. Greetings survey (letter). Psychiatr Bull 2009; 33: 313.
2 Burch, DE. Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners: 254. Pan Books, 1982.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Another greetings survey?

  • James C. Allen (a1)
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eLetters

Another greetings survey?

David Dodwell, Consultant Psychiatrist
18 January 2010

Allen (1) refers to patients' and colleagues' views on how they are addressed.

I routinely ask my new patients how they want me to address them and vice versa. I have not kept records so my data are approximate. Nearly all my patients want me to call them by their first name. Roughly one third to one half say they wish to call me by my first name, although not all consistently do so; one expressed a preference to call me "Doc".

I routinely ask my new trainees the same questions. So far all have expressed a preference for me to call them by their first name, and roughly 95% wishto call me by my first name, usually doing so.

Mental Health Review Tribunals usually ask patients how they wish to be addressed, but do not ask staff this nor indicate how they themselves wishto be addressed (I personally take my cue from patients' legal representatives and call them "Sir" or "Ma'am"). All patients I can remember have expressed a preference to be called by their first name; all tribunals I have attended

address the professionals by title and surname, thus creating disparities.

It is now usual for consultant colleagues to call each other by theirfirst names (when on talking terms!), however I have a consultant colleague who is younger than me (although now senior in medical management terms) who calls me by title and surname although I have asked him to address me by forename; he considers that calling me by my forename would be disrespectful. I now rarely hear the surname alone, which used to be commonplace; a few colleagues have accepted abbreviations or other appellations.

I'm aware that nursing colleagues mostly find it hard to call me by my first name, even when I have requested this, and some of them have commented on the difficulty they experience. I personally find it offensive to be routinely addressed in impersonal terms by a nurse I have worked closely with for over a year - this is usually "Doctor" but occasionally a random endearment such as "sweetheart" that some nurses habitually use with patients and colleagues.

The situation is complicated by the third person. Nurses routinely call me "Dr Dodwell" to patients, even when I am on first name terms with both nurse and patient in one-to-one situations, and I notice that patients pick up on this and call me Dr Dodwell in front of the nurse. This occurs even when I have

explicitly asked the nurse not to use this form of address. When I'm with patients, I often call medical colleagues - consultant and junior - by Dr + surname, and do so inconsistently with colleagues.

(1) Allen JC Another greetings survey? (letter) Psychiatrist 2009; 34: 36.

David Dodwell
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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