Don’t call me ma’am! How most of us want to be addressed by our doctors

What does your doctor call you – and are you happy with that? A new survey of Australian hospital patients has found
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What does your doctor call you – and are you happy with that? A new survey of Australian hospital patients has found some surprising answers to the question of how people like to be addressed by their health professionals.

Interestingly, most people prefer the casual approach – being addressed by their first name, rather that Mr Surname, Mrs Surname, or the dreaded Ms.

Medical Observer reports that two-thirds of patients were happy to be on a first-name basis with their doctor, while a further third wanted to be called by a nickname or a different name all together.

Only 1 per cent of respondents were happy to be called Mr or Mrs followed by their surname. When asked why, patients said it felt “too impersonal” or “that’s my father’s name”.

The Victorian researchers had a novel idea for how doctors could make patients feel more comfortable – by asking them straight up how they would like to be addressed.

It seems the common courtesies that were once so common don’t stop there, at the other end of the relationship, most patients were unable to say the names of their doctors or nurses while in hospital, suggesting that the health team members were not introducing themselves properly.

“The result is that patients are receiving information and acute medical care from persons with whom they have little or no rapport,” say the researchers, who add that name badges and information sheets with the names of doctors and nurses might help.

Let’s talk: How do you like to be addressed by your doctors and health professionals? Do you find doctors and nurses aren’t taking the time to build rapport?

  1. Our Dr calls us by our christian names, which we prefer!!

  2. We have been blessed to have an amazing family doctor for over 25 years. He goes beyond what I would expect from such a busy person. He delivers the same service my childhood doctor did in NZ. And yes it’s Christian names for us.

  3. Our dr we had for 36 years called us by first names. We have a new dr and he is on first name terms as well. I have noticed in hospitals now the drs and nurses are introducing themselves by their first names,but they come and go that you forget.I agree that name tags in hospital would be a good idea.

    • Most hospitals now issue name tags for all staff. I still think it is polite to introduce oneself by name. I think the widespread use of first names removes barriers and makes patients feel more at ease.

  4. Australians are deeply down to earth in every prism of social spectrum unlike their American counterparts who are so engrossed with their majestic name titles. They’re pretty casual, informal and personal. I’m comfortable being addressed by my name. My former GP in Orange didn’t want me to call him Doctor or Doc as we do back in my country of origin. We do so as a way of respect to their profession. When I addressed our family doctor Doc I was immediately corrected to just call him by his first name. 😀

  5. Always will use first names with permission, I have always addressed my gp by his first name even when making an appointment. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor you’re in trouble from the start.

    • That’s right Fred, my doctor and I use our Christian names. A previous doctor never even addressed me as anything, he would just indicate for me to come into his surgery , hence he is no longer my doctor. When I had a level 3 melanoma he put on the reference to the specialist that I’m ‘an hysterical woman’ hello !!! 🙁

    • Seriously!! Nobody is game to call anyone anything we live in a too precious society. Dammed if you do dammed if you dont😰

  6. I am on first names basis with my GP. My husband’s specialists also like to be called by their first names. I think it makes for a more cooperative relationship.

      • JAY  

        I wonder why people 30 years younger don’t deserve respect until you are asked to drop Mr, Mrs, Dr or any other title. My Doctor and I call each other by Christian name but if I am mentioning him elsewhere I say Dr Jack

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