I can remember, it must have been in the first week or two of starting my studies in Dundee, our then Professor of Medicine (Forbes) lectured us about what would become of us through our training – the ups and downs, challenges, successes and failures, that kind of thing.
Something that stood-out, in fact, the only thing I can remember is him grabbing-hold of a couple of junior doctors and talking with them in fluent jargon.
‘Do you realise, that over the next five years you will learn the equivalent of a whole new language? The words of medicine.’ (The latter said with particular reverence).
Of course, I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying – it was a mixture of drug names, techniques for investigation, treatment and, so on. A blur of medico-speak.
Well folks, I am now fluent in that language, or, at least I mostly understand it although my sense, a little bit like any non-native speaker is that I am more comfortable in my mother-tongue; when in pain, when angry or upset, which words come to my lips?
I hear jargon spoken every day, all day.
Offenders come from every rank and division of healthcare – doctors, nurses, therapists, clerks, porters.
‘We need to send you for a CT-PA’
‘Would you like analgesia?’
‘Lie down so that I can measure your BP’
‘It’s surely a UTI’
Some words, such as UTI have morphed into everyday language, at least, if you work in a care home or have an ageing relative, prone to water-work infections; many times over the years a worried son or daughter has told me, ‘I’m sure she has a UTI,’ perhaps, this is from people paying too close attention to Casualty on Saturday nights, or maybe, the longer you spend hanging-out with doctors and nurses the more you pick-up; lingo by osmosis.
The thing is, I know that when we communicate, that is, human to human, most people don’t hear every word; we gather the essence of the conversation, we pick-up the relevant parts and discern the meaning.
Sh-rl-ck H-lm-s – H–nd -f th- B-sk-rv-ll-s.
From this, you could argue, it doesn’t matter if the patient is told, ‘I am going to do a PR’ – so long as they get the gist.
Yes, the words consistently travel to my ears and more than their expression they say to me that the person speaking – (healthcare professional/staff-member) potentially lacks empathy and understanding for the other.
Assuming that we all see the same world, we all perceive identical pain, sadness or joy is an impediment to relationships, to understanding.
Getting into the mindset of another is perhaps not physically possible, we can at the very least consider the existence a barrier, an obstacle to negotiate.
Forgetting that our patients come from different countries and generations, have different abilities to manage hearing and seeing, whose senses are attenuated by a lifetime of experience is at the core.
‘Would you like cornflakeswheetabixporrigeortoast?’ – I hear this every morning, thrown at my patients, rat-a-tat-tat; gangster-style, some not fully awake, many disorientated as to where they are; home, a home, hospital, hotel? These ‘h’ words blurring into a confusing picture as meals are delivered, catheter bags emptied, medicines administered and ‘sats’ recorded.
It is surely role-modelling;
Providing examples of good practice and, to those who still don’t get it, perhaps remedial classes.
Grannie Jones is 97, she does not have a deep understanding of AF, MS or C.diff.
Undoing the jargon is our responsibility.
There is no Babel-fish, despite what Google would have us believe, there is a reversion to mindfulness, slowing down and considering what is said and what might be heard.
CT-PA – Computerised Tomographic Pulmonary Artery scan – a sophisticated x-ray useful in diagnosis clots in the lungs
BP – blood pressure
PR – per rectum; intimate examination of your bottom.
Analgesia – pain relief
UTI – urinary tract infection. See here.
AF – atrial fibrillation – a chaotic, erratic beating of the heart which can predispose to strokes
MS – can be Multiple Sclerosis or, if you are talking with a cardiologist – Mitral Stenosis – a narrowing of the valve between the atria and the ventricles on the left-side of the heart.
C.diff – Clostridium difficle – horrible diarrhoeal infection. See here.