Resident doctors at the Bay of Plenty District Health Board are unhappy with a new policy requiring all staff to wear badges with their first and last names.
BOPDHB chief executive Helen Mason says the new initiative is currently being rolled out, and will affect 3300 staff across several sites.
“Patients told us that when coming into hospital, often an unfamiliar environment when they are at their most vulnerable, one of the things that makes a difference is knowing who is caring for them and who they are speaking to,” says Helen.
“They and their families and whanau want to know the names of the people who are helping them and what their jobs are.”
She says staff have also said in surveys that they want to know the names of staff they are working alongside.
“It is part of our CARE values (Compassion, All-one-team, Responsive and Excellence) that staff are easily identified. With 3300 staff, based at several sites, not all staff know each other, and not all staff are working alongside their own team members. Multi-disciplinary teams are formed, requiring different combinations of staff roles.”
The badges are in addition to security/access swipe cards staff already have.
Helen says for staff who are concerned about having their surnames included on the badge, there is an exemption process they can apply for.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation Bay of Plenty DHB organiser Angela Neil says the NZNO has been involved in consultation with the DHB regarding the name badges, as well as the criteria around the exemption process to wearing them.
“The Health and Disability Act is very clear that every health consumer is entitled to know the full name of the person providing their care or treatment,” says Angela.
“Where there is a concern, you can get an exemption, and there are some areas where it may not be appropriate. If people do have genuine concerns, we want to make sure they can be heard and receive an exemption. But they would still have to provide their ID regardless.”
She says most of the NZNO's members affected by changes are on board with the new policy.
However, New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association national secretary Deborah Powell says the staff represented by her union were not part of discussions around the introduction of the name badges.
“It would appear there has been no consultation on the matter – people have just started receiving their name badges. It's utterly unacceptable. The staff are not happy, and they're starting to report back to us and are refusing to wear the badges.”
She says staff already know who they are working with, and already have a security card with their full name on it, which is usually worn around the waist or neck.
She says in some cases, wearing name badges with both first and last names could present a safety concern.
“We do periodically have patients following up with staff outside of the workplace, so we prefer not to have our surnames that obvious and visible. That is the feeling of staff throughout New Zealand.”
She put a call into the BOPDHB on Wednesday morning about the new policy, after receiving emails from unhappy NZRDA members.
“The feeling of the staff is that this is a waste of money, because the badges won't be worn.”
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell, whose organisation represents senior doctors, says there has only been ‘loose' discussion with the DHB regarding the matter.
“We have joint consultation committee meetings with the DHBs, and in June last year this issue was raised. But I don't believe our view has been sought on whether this should apply to senior doctors.”
He says patients are entitled to know who is treating them, and they generally do as their doctor will introduce themselves.
“I think there needs to be a proper discussion if they intend it to apply to senior doctors. What is the benefit of it, and what are the pros/cons? I think there would be some compelling reasons to exempt some senior doctors, and perhaps some others as well.”
Those areas might include staff who work with mental health patients, as well as ED.
“If you look at violence against staff, it is more likely to happen in mental health or emergency departments,” says Ian.