Our lanyards are boosting patient care because it is essential that our patients and visitors know who we are, says Alice Webster
Some time ago a patient in the hospital where I work asked me: “What exactly do you do?” I talked about my role as the director of nursing then more broadly about the role of nursing in the trust. She replied: “I am never sure who is who here. It is all so confusing because people wear different uniforms and name badges aren’t always easily visible.”
That’s true, I thought. Working in the trust, we know who is who but identification isn’t always easy for others. In our emergency units, theatres and intensive care unit, everyone wears blue theatre scrubs, including the housekeepers; however, although housekeepers wear the same colour, it may be a different fabric - or is it? In maternity and the special care baby unit, they wear scrubs too.
On the wards it must be easier, as the doctors and ward clerks wear their own clothes, as do some of the therapists
along with clinical nurse specialists. We know who the nurses are, as they wear grey, navy or light blue, but do patients
‘The most rewarding element was patient feedback. Patients have admired and commented positively on the lanyards because they make it clear to both them and their visitors who they are talking to’
There had to be a simple, quick, cost-effective answer to ensure patients could easily identify nurses that did not involve reviewing the uniforms across the trust.
As part of a development programme for matrons, we have had a series of discussions that have ranged from how to inspire and ensure that compassion, dignity and respect are core to all activity to how to improve identification.
Staff suggested that lanyards could be used to identify ward matrons more clearly. This was undertaken with success and, yes, they are washable and the name badge is put in the top pocket during a clinical procedure to avoid potential harm to a patient. While they were worn with pride by most staff, some were less willing. Others started to ask if they too could have lanyards as they made it clear not just what your name was but also your role. The most rewarding element was patient feedback. Patients have admired and commented positively on the lanyards because they make it clear to both them and their visitors who they are talking to.
Discussion with nursing staff showed they wanted to identify themselves with lanyards and the project expanded to include staff who have direct and constant patient contact. We also decided to have lanyards made for the housekeeping workforce who wear scrub-like uniforms and are often confused with nurses in the clinical areas such as accident and emergency and the intensive care unit.
What is the outcome? Surely something as simple as introducing different coloured lanyards could not make such a difference? On their own probably not, but they have - as part of a larger programme of practice development - increased the focus on improving people’s experience of care. Patients, visitors and staff are positive that the lanyards aid easy identification and have facilitated more timely communication.
The experiences and feedback of people accessing our services helps us to understand what we are doing well and help us to change and reshape when improvements are needed. We also need to look at the needs of staff because staff experience is intrinsically linked to enabling a positive patient experience.
The care we deliver can be complex and challenging - it is also essential, not basic. Our lanyards are boosting patient care because it is essential that our patients and visitors know who we are. The lanyards are only one part of the story but have shown how a very simple change can help improve communication and, in turn, patient and visitor experience.
Alice Webster is director of nursing at East Sussex Healthcare Trust