When I worked as a nurse in A&E, I knew that even in the middle of emergency procedures, how I treated the patient and family would be remembered. As a parent standing over my fitting son while the doctors fought to stop an hour long seizure, this simple fact went from theory to reality.
As a healthcare professional and the mum of a child with severe and complex disabilities, I know that little things count. Seemingly insignificant details can change the whole atmosphere or outcome of an appointment.
Here are my 5 little things that make a big difference
1) Talk directly to my son.
Say hello to him, even though he won’t respond back. Acknowledging him directly means we all know why we’re here.
2) Look me in the eye, shake my hand, smile and introduce yourself with your name (Ok thats four things but they take a few seconds to do).
I will be delighted to tell you what I want to be called too.
3) Before we part company make sure I know what you are going to do and when.
Then, please do it.
4) Give me a chance to ask you questions
5) Please ‘Don’t call me Mum’.
Although I am a Mum, I’m not yours. You can refer to me as ‘S’s Mum’ but ideally use whatever name I used to introduce myself at the beginning of the meeting. If you know my name, because we have know each other for ages, then definitely please use it. Using my name and not just a generic ‘Mum’, makes me feel as though you respect me and see me as a partner in my son’s care.
When the words I am listening to are hard to hear, how the professional makes me feel makes a big difference.
I have a dear old friend with Alzheimer’s. Very often she forgets what we have talked about. She forgets the words spoken between us but she rarely forgets how it made her feel. She will relay a time we spent together by the feelings she was left with.
I think the same is true for me, maybe all of us. Even when I don’t remember everything a professional says to me, I remember how I felt. Whether I felt my son was addressed as the central person, whether I was engaged, heard and respected.
Yes, there are a lot of more important things that will be said when we meet, but don’t forget that the little things can make a BIG difference.
The parent led ‘Don’t call me Mum’ initiative is highlighting one of those little things. For many parents, being called ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ by a practitioner in the middle of a meeting is irritating. Such a small detail can make a difference to how parents feel valued and respected.
So whether you are a professional, parent or both, you can engage with the initiative on Facebook or Twitter, wear your badge and let everyone know that you see parents as partners.
The ‘Don’t call me Mum’ initiative is proudly supported by Simple Stuff Works.
For more information on effective communication and co-production with relatives and carers head to the Training page. Book your place at Eventbrite or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote to train your team or department.