Dr. Kate Granger, M.B.E., was an elderly medicine physician and the founder of the #hellomynameis campaign, an effort to encourage hospital and healthcare staff to introduce themselves to their patients. She was living with terminal cancer from 2011 until her passing in July of 2016. She will be rememberd for her efforts to improve compassion and understanding in the U.K. healthcare system and beyond.

This is the story of #hellomynameis in her own words.

If you’d told me on July 29, 2011, the day I found out that my 29-year-old body was riddled with cancer, that nearly five years later I would be the founder of a global and influential campaign to improve communication and compassion in healthcare, I would never have believed you.

But that is indeed the reality of my life today.

As a doctor specialising in the medical care of older adults, I already had a strong, person-centred focus. When I was thrust onto the patient side of the bed, I became even more convinced how important it is that we communicate with patients well, and how vital compassion is in the delivery of care. I have spent just over eight months of my life in hospital, and met hundreds of healthcare professionals. Most of these people have been utterly amazing, but sometimes, care and communication have failed to meet my expectations.

My own personal and professional values have all culminated in the #hellomynameis campaign. The idea sprang out of a conversation I had with my husband in August, 2013. I was in hospital with post-operative sepsis, and venting to Chris about how hardly anyone had introduced themselves to me since my admission. I’d also observed that, whenever someone did offer a friendly introduction, it made me feel better; it made me feel human. I will never forget Brian, the porter, or Georgie, the newly qualified staff nurse.

That evening, Chris simply told me to “stop whining and do something, darling!”

So we did.

Starting a Conversation

The initial idea was to use social media to start a conversation about introductions in healthcare. The hope was that this would induce some reflection, and perhaps even behaviour change. Chris came up with the catchy hashtag #hellomynameis, and off we went on an extraordinary journey.

We gave the campaign a visual identity with an approachable logo that incorporates a smile. Because it is not just about saying the words, but also about how you say them. A smile from a member of healthcare staff is an instant anxiety reliever when you are a patient.

I blogged about the campaign and invited readers to pledge their support. We set up a Facebook page and a website to collate resources and ideas.

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It became clear after just a few weeks that we had hit upon an idea that struck a chord with both patients and healthcare staff. Social media showed me instantly that my experience was not unique, and that it mattered to other people, too. This was a huge motivator to keep the profile of the campaign as high as possible.

We started to see the logo pop up at conferences, in university lectures, on pens, lanyards, badges, in outpatient clinics, on ward introduction boards, and above patient’s beds. There were selfie campaigns, cupcakes, and all manner of creativity to spread the message across the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS).

All of a sudden my diary became extremely busy, with invitations to speak to a huge variety of audiences, including students, healthcare assistants, allied healthcare professionals, hospice staff, managers, and doctors.

The simplicity of the campaign’s values was being heard and appreciated by the whole spectrum of people working in healthcare.

We have worked hard to keep the momentum of the campaign moving forward. This has included a nationwide launch in February 2015 with over 100 NHS organisations getting behind the campaign to help spread the message. The campaign is also spreading outside of healthcare into education, local government, the police force, and immigration service.

When Did We Stop Introducing Ourselves?

But why does all this matter? Why am I spending precious time and effort on this?

I believe that introductions are an essential steppingstone to providing compassionate care. By introducing yourself to a patient, you are acknowledging them as another human being and making a connection with them. Introductions lead to therapeutic relationships, and help patients build trust.

Patients make instant judgements about the people who look after them. As a healthcare professional, you only have one chance to get those crucial first impressions right, sometimes under very stressful circumstances. A confident, welcoming introduction is one simple way.

I am often asked for my opinion as to why introductions have been forgotten in health. This is a difficult question to answer but I believe it boils down to how much pressure staff are under. In the U.K., we are living in times of austerity, and health services are under significant financial strain. The consequences of this are often understaffed wards.

When we are stressed as healthcare professionals, it is much more challenging to deliver compassionate care. In an attempt to protect ourselves emotionally, sometimes we hide behind NHS anonymity.

Reflecting on the past two years of hard work, I am extremely proud of the campaign and what we have been able to achieve. I have learned that with a simple message, coupled with enough belief and passion, it is perfectly possible to make your voice heard in the world.

It has been awesome that the NHS has responded to my call to get back to the basics of truly person-centred care. Without the almost unanimous backing of thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations, none of this would have been possible, and I am so grateful to anyone who has championed the #hellomynameis message.

When I was first diagnosed, I hated the thought of being known as “that tragic young doctor who died of cancer before her time.” But I think I can now die peacefully in the knowledge that I have created a legacy to deliver better care for many other patients.

Visit the #hellomynameis website to learn more about the campaign and how you can support it. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @GrangerKate