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Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Should doctors be on first name terms?

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 09 September 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3408

Rapid Response:

Re: David Oliver: Should doctors be on first name terms?

Dear Editor,

David Oliver states that one of the benefits of first name terms is to flatten hierarchies within the multidisciplinary team. I completely agree. I would add that those who still want to be referred to by their title should not, in return, use the first name of others, as to do so is disrespectful. It doesn't matter if the person they are talking to is junior or less qualified. I believe that the same applies to our patients.

At the start of any interaction with a new patient or colleague, I ascertain what they prefer to be called. In the main, these days, most ask me to use their first name, which leads me to respond, 'Thank you, please call me Sarah'. Very occasionally either a colleague or a patient has told me they would like to be called 'Dr. X' or 'Mr. Y', and, to match their formality, I respond with 'Thank you, please call me Dr Norman'. I can't recall having being asked to use someone's title for a few years now. I personally find that first name terms all round makes for good communications in both our work teams and with patients.

There have been many responders to David Oliver's article, a number from those who want others to use their well earned title. I would just ask them to consider whether they treat others with the same formalities. The GMC asks us to treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination, equality and inclusion being paramount. I would suggest that this should start with equal terms in respect of how we prefer to be addressed.

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 October 2020
Sarah Norman
Aesthetic Doctor/ Clinic Owner, Immediate Past Chair of BMA Trafford Division
BrightNewMe, 28 High Street, Altrincham, WA14 1QP