Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's in a (first) name?

Yesterday I was talking to a very nice physical therapist at work named Elaine. Elaine is around my age, and I noticed that she was calling me "Dr. McFizz." This seemed a little weird because I call her by her first name and I basically consider us equals.

"Hey," I said to her. "You don't have to call me Dr. McFizz. You can just call me Fizzy."

Elaine laughed. "A few of the doctors have said that to me, but I'll be honest, I just can't do it."

I looked at her in surprise and she added, "You should take it as a compliment. It's a sign of respect."

I'm glad we had this exchange because now I've confirmed that I'm wasting my time telling people to call me Fizzy. I suppose I understand this, although I'm not sure how to feel about it. When I was in residency, there were attendings who used to say something like "Hey, it's Mike" when I'd return their pages, but I just couldn't call them by their first names. I just couldn't.


  1. i believe the invitation to use your first name still matters, then others can choose how they feel most comfortable addressing you, and your relationship will be that much stronger...

  2. It goes back to something that is quickly being forgotten these days and that is manners. I agree with happy internist I call everybody Mrs., Mr., Dr., Ms.,(and last name) until they ask me different. Not only patients respect you more, but so does the average person.
    Then again rarely do I hear please, thank you, excuse me, or see a young kid give up their seat on the subway for an elder.

  3. HI: I don't know if I'm going to make the invitation if it doesn't get used. I always felt awkward if the invitation was made to me and I didn't want to accept... then I'd end up calling the person nothing because I couldn't use the first name and they didn't want me to use the last name.

  4. yes it does feel awkward getting the invitation and continuing to use the last name, but I always appreciated being given the option. I think there were cases where someone told me to use their first name and I kept using their last, and in time when I felt comfortable with the person, I started to use their first name, and no second invitation is needed.

    It's like a pending invite haha

  5. Somehow I just feel embarrassing telling coworkers over and over to call me Fizzy, although I'm not sure why. I'd rather just refer to myself as Fizzy when returning calls or something, and hope they get the point.

  6. I'm a new grad nurse, and I find it VERY difficult to call the docs by first names...except for one of the interns, who told me she wasn't going to return my next page unless I promised to call her by her name. She said it was because otherwise, for the sake of teamwork, she was going to call me by MY last name, and she can't pronounce it ;)

  7. I call almost the doctors at work Dr. Lastname. I've had several tell me I can use their first name, but I don't. We have enough doctors that I can only keep most of them straight by their nametags. I have no chance at remembering their first names, and their nametags only give their last name!

    I do call a couple by their first name, since they're our "regular" night shift docs and both go out of their way to interact with non-MD staff and introduce themselves by their first name.

  8. The invitation is worth a lot, but I'm a big believer in calling people what they want to be called. And being called what I want to be called (which is a fair combination my name, diminutives and a nickname - 5 in total, just not my full name -EVER).

    That said, some people are more comfortable with honorifics or rank between you and them. And I can see that too.

  9. My current attending on nephro consults this week asked us to call her by her first name this week. I have to say it's a bit difficult - I certainly don't address residents as Dr. PGY3, but staff are another matter.

  10. Depends on the rank. I will call Consultants as 'Dr' or 'Mr' according to speciality, but usually will call other doctors by their first name. In particular it'd be awkward to call F1 doctors by a surname, as I'm in Final Year of Medical school and have seen them drunk. I might when I first see them after they become a doctor, for the novelty of it.

    Always nice to have little old dears call you Doctor though. I never have the heart to correct them, but definitely for younger patients I would prefer they call me by first name. When I become a doctor (or as the way of saying it now in the shadow of Finals - 'if I become a doctor') I'll introduce myself as 'a doctor' and then say my first name.

    Never liked people calling me by my surname, so when I have a bit of influence, I'll be encouraging little use of my surname.