The Right And Wrong Way To Introduce Yourself To Patients

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

When you meet a new patient, you’ll need to introduce yourself. But for many nurses, this is easier said than done. If you’re not exactly a social butterfly, meeting new people can be challenging. But the way you introduce yourself is important for patient relations, and you need to make a good impression to help the patient feel comfortable and at ease.

Your introduction forms the basis of your patient-provider relationship. Not only are your words and tone of voice important, but your body language also plays an important role. It’s estimated in the textbook “Communication and Nursing” that about 85% of communication between nurses and patients is primarily nonverbal. A lack of communication comes across as unprofessional, and it can make the patient feel uncomfortable. Being friendly, upbeat, and empathetic is essential when interacting with patients.

What’s the Best Way to Introduce Yourself?

A great introduction can be described by the “five P’s”:

  • You need to know who the patient is.
  • Understand where people fall in a hierarchy, and how it’s appropriate to address them.
  • Develop a consistent introduction to use.
  • Be sure to say the patient’s name clearly and correctly.
  • Introducing a point of commonality can go a long way toward forging a good connection with someone.


Here are some tips for a great personal introduction.

  • Make eye contact and shake their hand. Making eye contact and shaking their hand helps you come across as friendly and personable.
  • Address them by an honorific. Address your patients as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” and other polite honorifics, unless they specifically ask you to address them by their first name.
  • Make sure nonverbal communication is positive. Your facial expressions, body posture, and degree of eye contact send out social signals. Sit or stand in a position where you’re close to being eye to eye with the patient. Lean slightly toward them, and avoid crossing your arms or legs.
  • Use the right tone of voice. Make sure your tone comes across as interested, polite, and empathetic. Speak clearly, at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow, and avoid using too much jargon.
  • Explain why you’re there. It’s helpful for the patient to understand why you’re seeing them. For example, “I’ve come to measure your blood pressure today.” If you’re performing any type of procedure, make sure the patient fully understands what you’re doing, and that they consent to it.
  • Ask the patient if they have any questions. Patients are sometimes hesitant to actively ask questions or bring up their concerns. Inviting them to do so can encourage them to open up, which may provide you with medically relevant information.
  • Ask if they need anything else. Before you leave, ask the patient if there’s anything else they need from you. Again, they may be hesitant to bring it up on their own.
  • Thank them, and explain what will happen next. Saying “thank you” is only polite. You should also explain what’s going to happen next — for example, whether the doctor will see them momentarily, or if you’re going to come back again later.

How Not to Introduce Yourself

We’ve discussed the best ways to introduce yourself to a patient, but many nurses make mistakes that can damage their therapeutic relationship with their patients. Here are some of the most common introduction missteps.

  • Not introducing yourself by name. It’s surprising how often doctors and nurses neglect to give a patient, their name. When you fail to introduce yourself, the patient may feel alienated.
  • Coming across as cold and aloof. A warm, welcoming demeanor is a big part of good bedside manner. If you come across as uninterested or annoyed, it makes patients uncomfortable.
  • Ignoring the patient or not listening to them. It’s important to be a good listener. Some patients may seem to go on and on about things that don’t matter, but it’s polite to listen and nod your head anyway. Patients also voice concerns about things like pain or discomfort. It’s important not to write off these complaints.
  • Not explaining what you’re doing. Patients can benefit from understanding what you’re doing when you visit them. Whether you’re administering a medication or examining their vital signs, it’s alienating and uncomfortable when they aren’t told what’s going on.


A Great Introduction Can Make a Patient’s Day

When you introduce yourself to a new patient, a warm greeting, and friendly demeanor can make a big difference for them. Whether they’re in a hospital bed or they’re seeing their GP for an annual check-up, patients can benefit when staff members are friendly and responsive.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. When coming to the conclusion of a visit with a patient, your article says to ask ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ As a student – too many years ago – an instructor suggested saying, instead, ‘What else can I do for you?’
    Fine line, I suppose, but I was taught that you often get a better response with the latter ‘ What else…’ vs the former ‘Is there anything else…’ Often, folks will see the former as ‘I’ve other things to do and I’m in a hurry’, vs the latter as ‘I’m here for you and I have the time to help’ – even though you might very well be very busy. I’ve gotten better responses in my practice as well as with my home/social life with my suggestion. Just a thought…wording is everything.

  2. While I agree with the article in addressing the patient in the honorific e.g. Mr. Ms. etc, it should have done the reverse with how the RN prefers to be addressed. As an older nurse, my preference is to introduce myself as “I’m Ms. Surname.” Some PTs do not like the formality and the millennials take an affront to it.

    I make sure I wear a name tag with “Ms. Surname.” When asked what is my first name, I simply state “in my role as a professional, I prefer to be called Ms. Surname.” In the USA it’s quite common that staff and PTs like to refer to each other by first name. I do not.

    In the southern states it’s also common to be called: Honey, sweet thing, sweetheart, etc. I was brought up to respect elders by addressing them with their honorifics. I expect the same.

  3. In the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, I’ve found that patients just emerging from anesthesia do not always respond to their honorific + surname, possibly affecting my neuro assessment. My approach is to address them by their first or preferred name when arousing them. Once they can make eye contact and are oriented to event, I switch back to the more formal address.

    • I agree…as an OR nurse, I always ask the patient (or parents if it’s a child) what name they go by on a routine basis, & note it right on the front of the chart via post-it note. This way as they awaken from anesthesis, the surgical team can call the patient by a name He or she is more apt to respond to. This is passed on to PACU as well, for the same reason.

  4. I agree with all the above. It is also important for the nurse to explain their “role” in the patient’s care, not just what they are there to do. Today I may be the charge nurse, or the house supervisor – when yesterday I was their primary nurse. This let’s the patient know and understand the role you play, and the actions they can expect.

    And with the explanation of what you will do, make sure we explain it so the patient and the family members can understand – that means leaving out the big medical words and putting it into everyday terms. When in doubt, asking the patient to provide “teach back” to what you just explained helps you figure out as a nurse how well you did and helping them understand. If we will keep that in mind, we can go a lot further as a nursing profession… “Our goal is not to explain/teach/education… our goal is to help them understand.”

  5. Need to hold the “honey, sweetie, dearie”etc. when addressing all patients. It’s disrespectful. I do not like it when it is done to me. Makes me want to throw up.

  6. Just as it is appropriate to use the honorific “Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss” with the last name when addressing the patient, we should introduce ourselves the same way. I am Mrs. Rose or Nurse Rose, not Nurse Kathy or Miss Kathy. You do not walk into a classroom and hear the teacher tell her students, “you can call me Miss Amy”, nor does a doctor enter the room of a new patient and say, “Hi! I’m Ed, your doctor.” Introducing myself can be done in a warm, empathetic and caring manner and still give me the respect I am due as a professional. I expect to be treated as the professional I am and my reference to myself allows others to know that as a professional, I will treat them with the respect to which they are due.

    • Good point. But the article left out the honorific “ms.” You didn’t, but the article did. Didn’t we get past Miss and Mrs about four decades ago?


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