Friday, February 22, 2019
My name is...
The power of language.
I had a complaint letter from a patient (As you do in the modern era of complaining about everything.... but there's a separate story about that).
This lady had requested medication which I had refused to issue as there was no clear indication for them in her records. They also had a risk of addiction.
The tone of the letter was not very nice, to say the least.
She questioned the audacity of this foreign doctor whom she had never met, changing what her old doctor prescribed five years earlier. She decided that this doctor was a previous doctor she had encountered in a telephone consultation whom she thought had a language barrier. (Wrong assumption)
She demanded to see a proper doctor who spoke English.
Somehow, she ended up back on my list.
As it turned out, she had indeed met me before-face to face, not over the phone- but for some reason, had assumed my name to be something else like Moore or Mason. (Apparently, that was the name on the door).
I remembered her well now, seeing her again. It had been a very normal engaging consultation where she had expressed gratitude for making her feel listened to for the first time. (There should be another story about that phrase....and others. )
This time around, it was awkward. Mostly for her really, I had my invisible resilient cloak on.
"I didn't realise it was you." She apologised. "Because it had a foreign name on the message"
Long story short, she wasn't getting that medication anymore. At least, not from me. She agreed.
It was one of many occasions where I have observed how language sometimes transcends ethnic name or race in how people identify and relate with one another.
I remember reading Trevor Noah's " Born A Crime ", how he used his ability to speak different languages and in different accents to gain affinity amongst various groups of people, including gang type groups in his childhood.
This incident, one of many, brought flashbacks from many years ago, whilst applying for post-graduate training placements.
I was given advice like:
"With your name, it will be difficult to get a job."
"Maybe you should put a picture in front of your CV so people can appreciate the kind of person you are"
"Call and speak to somebody on the phone, let them hear you speak "
All with good reason and intentions.
I was once actually advised to start watching soaps like Coronation street to improve my English....by somebody who had never really spoken to me!
I dared not inform them that some of Coronation street language would defile, degrade and befoul my spoken English. I let it slide and let them learn. I was about to start working with them.
I have come to appreciate that language should be seen for what it is. A means of effective communication, not a measure of intelligence.
Anyway I am here now, in spite of my name and in honour of it.
This is me.