Five little words: a tribute to the inspiring Kate Granger

Hello, my name is Fi. Those five words seem really little but they’re big, huge even, and they demonstrate the very essence of this blog and what we are trying to do here. Let’s start at the end though and go backwards.

We at Little Things were so sad to hear that the inspirational Dr Kate Granger passed away last weekend. Our thoughts are with her husband Chris and family and friends as they mourn her death. Kate, through her humility and honesty, inspired many people to be better (including us). Her story, resilience and approach has well-documented but it’s worth re-stating she stared death in the face for 6 years and found depths of courage to fight for better care through it.

On the #hellomynameis website, Kate introduces this campaign:

I’m a doctor, but also a terminally ill cancer patient. During a hospital stay in August 2013 with post-operative sepsis, I made the stark observation that many staff looking after me did not introduce themselves before delivering my care. It felt incredibly wrong that such a basic step in communication was missing. After ranting at my husband during one evening visiting time he encouraged me to “stop whinging and do something!” We decided to start a campaign, primarily using social media initially, to encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in healthcare.”

The rest, as they say, is history. According to the website, #hellomynameis has made over 1 billion impressions since its inception with an average of 6 tweets an hour and as you’ll read it is, most importantly, changing the personal interactions around healthcare today. Here’s three reflections from us about why this is:

  1. In the busy, messy, always-on life we live these days sometimes it can be difficult to remember to start with a greeting. In a lot of cultures though, greeting others is very important. It is an opportunity for people to show respect, through the language used and its accompanying actions, and the tone for the interaction is set. Whether the greeting is written or spoken, choosing the appropriate language is important.
  2. It takes bravery to be the person who genuinely starts #hellomynameis in almost any situation (remember the palpitations of introducing yourself to new colleagues, friends, potential partners at the beginning?), whether you might be feeling empowered by the professional role that brings you there or not. There is this point, here around ‘my name’ where you can choose to authentically go ‘all in’ and build a relationship with this person or choose to speed through who you are and get on with ‘the business at hand’. There’s a lot written and said about first impressions but the thing that sticks with me more than anything else is that it’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it – how you make them feel. Saying #hellomynameis is really important but meaning it is even more crucial.
  3. I’ve just started in a new job, in a really new organisation, and we’ve been reflecting on how you get people to work well together. The answer is in some ways really simple, it’s through relationships and trust. How do I build that with people I want to work with? I start by telling them my name. It’s a springboard to finding the commonalities that exist between us all that allow us to comprehend the humanity in all of us. My full name is Fiona Kirsten McKenzie but lots people call me Fi and telling you (as readers) that is a choice that gives you power. It starts a conversation about who I am as a person, and who you are and what matters most to both of us.

I’ve spent the week staring this post in the face, struggling to find the perfect words to explain why what Dr Kate Granger did was so momentous and why those 5 words matter so much. Instead let me tell you a story.

There’s a staff nurse named Peter who catches the train with me each morning. I know his name and job because he proudly wears a ‘hello my name is Peter’ badge and #hellomynameis lanyard each and every day. This simple ‘little thing’ has changed the relationship between us, he looked up as I scrutinised his badge – I smiled, he smiled and now we smile at each other every morning. It’s a very human moment in a commute full of people avoiding each other’s eyes. One day, very soon, I will be brave and introduce myself to Peter properly and learn more about his life on the front line providing much needed care and concern for our patients and communities.

#hellomynameis has built many genuine connections between staff and patients across the country. Long may it continue – we are in your debt Kate.


Fiona McKenzie, Deputy Director, UK Improvement Alliance


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