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  • Writer's pictureBethany Huebner

What's in a name?

clinician to educator

I have a confession. I am a coffee snob. I am not high maintenance in most things in my life (well, I guess we should ask my husband if that is true or not), but when it comes to my Starbucks order…very high maintenance. It includes 5 different ingredients to make this little piece of goodness, which usually takes about 2 minutes to get through as they are writing all over the cup and then they ask my name for the order (which I secretly hope they don’t so my high maintenance order can remain anonymous, but that usually doesn’t happen). Starbucks is a company that knows how to sell and knows the significance of a person’s name. The baristas have been trained that even for the 30+ word drink orders, the name always goes on the cup.

When I was first transitioning to academics, I was given a lot of advice. Advice that ranged from which books to use, how to lecture appropriately, how to prepare my content, how to treat students, and how to conduct my class. I received a lot of great advice (and some not so great, but that is what the learning process is for) that I plan to share with you along the way on this blog. As the new semester is upon us, I wanted to share with you the most valuable piece of advice I have ever received. Learn your students’ names. (For my non educator readers: This can apply to your profession too) When you use a person’s name to address them or to even ask about their day, you have just said the most powerful word of influence in that person’s life.

Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. A person’s name is significant and you knowing it and saying it communicates a powerful message.

Why are names so important? What’s in a name? Here are the three reasons I believe learning your students’ names (and everyone you meet) is so important:

1. It communicates care.

Learning and saying names is simple right? No…not always. If you only have 5-6 students in a class then maybe it does become simple, but in each one of our cohorts we have 40-50 students. That ends up being around 150 students’ names to know. Learning their names and addressing them by it has to be intentional. That is why it was the best piece of advice I ever received. Calling a student by name without having a piece of paper to look off communicates a loud message of care and investment. It communicates to that student that I spent the time to work on knowing their name, that they are worthy enough to be known.

2. It opens up connections.

Every use of a person’s name is like opening a door to knowing them better. Think about the most charismatic person you know. What is the first thing they ask for when they meet someone new? The other person’s name. Often the other person’s name is the last thing they say when the conversation is ending. They also use the other person’s name in every question they ask. For example, “So Sally, tell me about your family.” Or “When did you move here, Mike?” When people use your name in conversation, you automatically feel connected to them. You feel important. Students that feel connected and significant have better outcomes and learn more. So often our students can feel lost in a crowd, but by using their name in conversation you have the power to make them feel significant.

3. It makes it personal.

Every field of healthcare is personal. Whether we are treating patients in the clinic or teaching students in the classroom, healthcare is personal. Actually, I will go as far as to say inhabiting this earth is personal. We aren’t our job title, skill, disability, or favorite color. I don’t want my students just calling me “professor” and they don’t want me just calling them “student.” And news flash, our nurses don’t want us calling them “Nurse!” That is unless you say Nurse and their Name, like Nurse Cara or Nurse Susan. When we call people their profession or some other identifier, we depersonalize them. No one should go through life as a number or some other identifier. Learning your students’ names makes what we do everyday personal and allows that person to be recognized for who they are not what they are.

Names are very powerful. They are your tag, your indicator. It is yours and means a lot to you. Why do we keep coming back to Starbucks and paying $6-8 for a cup of coffee? Because it is a place where they know your name. Using a person’s name in conversation is a sure-fire way to win them over and create influence and in the long run, as clinician educators, that is exactly what we want to do. We want to influence people to make healthy choices, influence students to learn the skills to become an excellent clinician, and so on and so on. Sales people know this well and use it to sell us on all sorts of things. Remembering people’s names can be hard, but worth the effort. Next week, I will discuss the techniques I’ve found to be the most useful for me to memorize and utilize 45+ names in a short time.

What is your Starbucks order? (please let me know that I’m not alone in high maintenance ordering…😆)

P.S. If you are dying to know my snoody order…it is a Grande Decaf Americano with 2 scoops of Vanilla Bean Powder, 2 Packets of Stevia, and Half & Half. Try it…you won’t go back!

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