Health workers on the New South Wales north coast have been told they cannot call colleagues or patients ‘mate’ or other terms of endearment.
A memo was sent out last week by the Northern NSW Local Health District reminding community and allied health workers of the need for ‘professional language’ within the workplace at all times. It specifically referred to terms such as ‘mate’, ‘darling”, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘honey’.
The memo says that this type of language “may be perceived as disrespectful, disempowering and non-professional”. It should not be used across any level of the organisation, such as employee to client (or patient).
In a discussion of the memo on the NSWNMA Facebook page, most nurses disagreed with the directive.
I recently had surgery and the staff who called me ‘darling’ made me feel safe and secure, I always use kind terms of endearment for patients who are under stress and need a great deal of comfort, it really helps. Professional nurses know what they are doing and don’t need memo reminders of how to behave.
I do call my colleagues ‘mate’ and I don’t apologise for it, this is Australia and one of the things that defines us is our mate-ship.
Sometimes a gentle word, a little personal interaction or gesture can make all the difference in a patient’s day. Most of my patients are elderly and are from nursing homes … and when you see the eyes of a 93 year old lady light up when you ask them a simple ‘how are you feeling darl/pet’, it means something to them and to you. HR and management should go back to enforcing NHPPD and like for like replacements and leave nursing and patient communication to US – the nurses! … But where one LHD goes, others are sure to follow.
One nurse, however, supported the memo.
Try calling them by their actual names – you will develop a much stronger therapeutic relationship with them and build rapport much quicker than using a generic ‘mate’ or ‘sweetheart’.
With a caveat:
The intent behind it makes all the difference.
What do you think? Do you use these sorts of terms in your working life as a nurse? Do you work within the Northern NSW LHD – if so, how do you and your workmates feel about the directive?