Last week I had a routine appointment with my doctor. When checking out, I noticed the assistant had a unique name on her badge, followed by only the first initial of her last name. She has a nice name, one I haven’t heard before. I asked her to pronounce it and whether she also has an unusual middle name. She deflected the attention elsewhere and avoided telling me her name. It dawned on me that I was unintentionally invading her privacy, which leads me to ask: If hospital staff members are afraid to let patients know their full name, what kind of danger are they subject to?
According to OSHA, 75% or more of workplace violence cases reported each year happen to nurses and other hospital staff, either at work or outside of work hours. Some medical facilities have avoided providing full names on badges in the event that an angry patient will find out where a medical professional lives and harm him or her. In fact, an ER staff member in Memphis experienced this exact scenario. “Our clinical assessment staff member was clearly identified by a patient, who followed her car and found out where she lived,” said Carri Ann, St. Francis ER Nurse. This case and many others that happen on a daily basis prove that working in the healthcare field is more risky than some might imagine.
Not only are there concerns over disgruntled patients and family members, there are addicts seeking access to drugs. Many people believe that all healthcare workers have open access to medications, and have been known to threaten staff in hopes of getting pills or drug supplies.
There is debate on whether removing last names from badges really provides much protection. Many say that not including full names threatens the credibility of nurses and staff. After all, patients have a right to know who is caring for them and whether they’re qualified. Without a name, a patient who has received poor care has a much harder time reporting the experience to proper officials. Patients and their families deserve to know whether the employee treating them is an experienced doctor, resident, RN, physical therapist, specialist or aide.
ID badge laws and requirements vary by state. It’s important to know the laws of your state. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have very strict rules for ID badge requirements. According to an article from Lippincott Nursing Center, some states require healthcare employees of state-licensed institutions (hospitals, rehab facilities, skilled nursing facilities) to wear ID badges that include a full name and current photo. Moreover, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is strict enough to require that ID badge photos be updated every 4 years. Similarly, California has very rigid rules, down to the type size used on nurse’s badges.
Others, including healthcare professionals themselves, believe it is bad practice to exclude last names or other valid information from name badges. “To me, not having our full names on our badges and not using our last names freely with clients just makes us look like we don’t take ourselves seriously and communicates to clients that they don’t have to take us seriously either,” wrote a healthcare professional on a discussion board at allnurses.com.
What are ways that hospitals can keep their staff members safe while also providing proper credentials for their patients? First and foremost, ensure that all healthcare providers and other staff wear official identification. Depending on individual state laws, this may or may not include a last name, but should at least include a first name and up-to-date credentials.
Tips for designing nurse and doctor badges or name tags:
Most importantly, ensure the text is large enough to read from a distance. No one should invade someone’s personal space to read their badge.
Include enough information to put patients and their family at ease. This can include:
- Official hospital or healthcare provider logo
- Hospital contact information
- Cardholder’s name
- Cardholder’s up-to-date photo
- Fingerprint (particularly for high security staff like lab workers)
- Employee’s signature
- Badge issue date and expiration date
- Barcode and/or QR code
- Security access level or color code
- Information such as height, sex, hair, eye and skin color
- Job responsibilities of card holder
- Years in service
This type of information puts patients at ease and reduces the need to show last names on badges. In turn, staff members feel safer from the threat of being located after work hours. Other measures for staff and patient comfort and safety include:
- Color coded lanyards or badges
- Corresponding signage that lists the color codes and their meanings
- Secured entryways that open only with approved access cards, fingerprint or facial recognition
- Secured parking areas for staff
- Strategically placed surveillance cameras
- Security staff stationed at vulnerable areas
- Screening all visitors. Require that they show valid ID and wear a visitor pass
The debate will likely continue about whether full names should be included on nurse name tags, but in practices that are required by state law to include last names, there are other ways to protect staff privacy and safety. Before ordering custom photo IDs or name tags, it’s important to know your state’s laws, and to be aware of the unique requirements of your workplace. However, NameTagWizard.com customizes photo IDs and name tags that feature any information needed. From full names, logos, barcodes, QR codes and more, these badges can be fully personalized.