Margarets and Lindas 

At a recent leadership course, my classmates and I were discussing how to inspire hard work and provide good leadership in our organisation, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, honestly. I quite enjoyed the course, it was far more relevant to healthcare than the last time I had to do something like this. 

There were many people there in quite different medical and surgical specialties than the wonderful world of General Surgery and it was interesting to hear their gripes and problems and find the common themes. 

One of the exercises involved thinking of ways in which you can inspire others as a leader. A general surgical colleague suggested that knowing the names of the team members was a good idea. A hush fell across the room, all eyes turned to him as though he had suggested something illegal. A palliative care doctor eyed him suspiciously, “know your teams names?” she queried aghast that not knowing their names was even an option. 

I leapt to my colleagues defence and explained that actually a great many surgeons have no clue what half of the nurses are called and that although I don’t fall into this group (being an eager to please female with a pathological need to be liked) many surgeons do. The silence and raised eyebrows persisted and my surgeon friend decided to speak up. “What I do” he said “is I call them either Margaret or Linda and that usually is correct.”  

He looked pleased with himself, like a dog with a dead baby rabbit, he was unaware of what it seemed like to everyone else. Happily he wasn’t dragged off into a dark room and beaten with a heavy textbook and we moved on. 

It’s easy to say “the nurse” and not take time to know someone’s name and you may be respected anyway and function as an average leader even if you don’t bother with this stuff. In order to be truly effective and negotiate the politics of a hospital it helps considerably if you know the name of the woman who empties your bin as well as the chief executive. 

In my job, getting things done well and efficiently makes for better patient care and knowing the team makes that happen much quicker. I’m proud to be someone who makes the effort to know everyone’s names and as a result my life is easier for it. The theatre porter will possibly delay his break and get my patient for me if I personally tell him “Please Jim I really need this man down here now….”

Again, more stuff that seems obvious if you are a human but nobody tells you about it. 


4 thoughts on “Margarets and Lindas 

  1. I’m internal medicine in the U.S. and love this post. Even in my outpatient office, there has been quite a bit of turnover, and I feel badly when I don’t know an administrative assistant’s or medical technician’s name. It does require an effort, but it is so important. I’m pretty sure there is evidence in the literature suggesting that knowing and communicating with all the members of a team improves health outcomes, and of course I don’t have time to go searching in Pubmed. Makes sense, though!

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