How to Introduce Yourself

One of my pet peeves with EMS providers is how they introduce themselves to their patient. So many seem to feel this is unimportant and what really matters is their clinical skills. You could not be more wrong. How you forge your relationship with your patient in the first few seconds can be determinative in the outcome.

“Hi, my name is Dan and I’m here to help you.” Look them directly in the eyes. No sunglasses. You need to see into their eyes and they need to see into yours. Don’t erect artificial barriers. Then smile. Shake their hand. I use two hands, one above and one below. It’s an embrace. Be totally sincere. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a Medic skip this important step I could ride buses for free until the day I die.

Let me break it down for you. If they don’t trust you immediately then they are likely to omit telling you things that directly affect your treatment. Sure, you will figure it out eventually. But how long will it take? Isn’t it kind of stupid to build in delays to your care? Aren’t you EMS?

When I worked in an Emergency Room, the smart ER doctors built in a cooling off period. It gave them a chance to sort things out. How many times have you run lights and sirens to the hospital, only to have your patients inexplicably put on a gurney to chill? Sometimes it is because they are busy. But trust me, more often than not it was done on purpose. A little time gives a chance for truth to percolate to the surface. Medics have a very different job.

You need all the information, now. It is so much easier when the patient just tells you up front what all the mitigating factors are. Do you really want to be a veterinarian? That’s the hardest medical job in the world. Imagine you have a 2000-pound patient who cannot say one single word. They can’t even tell you where they hurt or how long this has been going on. I have major respect for vets because they have to do everything based solely on their assessment and clinical findings.

Don’t try to be a human vet. It’s just too hard. We have the incredible blessing of patients that can tell us everything we need to know. All it requires is your willingness to listen and their willingness to tell you. Their willingness to share will largely be based on how you introduce yourself. They have never laid eyes on you before. It’s all they know about you. Think about the implications of this simple but essential step in delivering quality care.

You think you look cool in sunglasses? Fine, leave ‘em in the truck and look cool on the way back to station.


About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for, on and I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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