I’ve always had a problem. I’ll admit it. It’s remembering patient names. When you see patients more frequently, it’s much easier to remember their names. What about patients who return to your office every 24 months for a comprehensive eye exam? It’s darn near impossible to remember the name associated with their face. In my case, memory is never linear. After greeting them in the exam room but before reading their chart, I might clearly remember their prescription or how they struggled with the cross cylinder portion of their refraction or a small nevus discovered four years ago in the superior temporal quadrant of their peripheral retina, but somehow their name escapes me. When a patient stops you at the local mall to say hello, it can be a bit uncomfortable not being able to remember their name during the conversation.
‘ve read a number of memory books that teach tried-and-true methods to alleviate this problem. Tips include:
•Repeating the person’s name: Use their name throughout the exam. Look at them during active listening when reviewing their history. When you’re saying goodbye, make sure to use their name one last time while looking at their face.
•Writing and reading their name: This one is easy to accomplish during an exam with their chart right in front of you. At meetings, when someone hands you their professional card, take a few seconds to read their name and thank them for providing this before putting it away in your pocket.
•Associating their name with something outlandish: If their name is Rose, picture a giant red rose in their pocket to create a memory hook for you.
It’s easy to slip back into a routine of simply reading the patient’s chart before entering the exam room, so remind yourself to use these tricks often. Thankfully and by a great coincidence, my wife and I named our kids in the order they were born: Alisha, Benjamin and Caitlin. It’s a lot easier to remember their names as our ABC kids.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor