We have all heard it, we have probably all said it:
- “My diabetics never follow my instructions”
- “That schizophrenic is back in the hospital again”
- “How should I screen cirrhotics?”
- “Did you hear about my CHF-er?”
It might be easy to say but it certainly isn’t patient-friendly. Patients are people. Sometimes they have diseases or syndromes or symptoms. But diseases shouldn’t describe our patients. Patients are not a disease, and certainly they aren’t the “adjectival” form of the disease (e.g. “diabetic” for the disease diabetes). Ascribing these words and phrases to people can have a few effects:
- It anchors the doctors and/or the patients on the disease or diagnosis, when the diagnosis may not be correct or complete
- It changes our focus from the person to the disease
- It changes patient perception of the medical profession
- And worst of all…It demeans patients
So let’s think about rephrasing the above:
- “The patients with diabetes in my practice often have difficulty…”
- “The man with schizophrenia we both recently treated has been readmitted.”
- “How should l screen patients who have cirrhosis?”
- “Did you hear about Mrs. X, the patient with CHF I treated last week?”
Yes, it may seem like semantics. Yes, it takes a few extra seconds and a little bit of effort. I’ve personally had to focus on changing my own lexicon and occasionally find myself resorting to my older habits. But if you pay a bit of attention to colleagues from here on out, you might start thinking about how it sounds and try to make the change yourself.
Hi Dr. Madanick. Great post. This is actually something I am very cognizant of on a daily basis. It’s an easy habit to get into- identifying patients as a breast patient or ovarian patient or whatever kind of disease patient. The disease does not define the patient- they just happen to be diagnosed with the disease. Patients are people. Diseases are not! I never thought about it until we had a big discussion about this as a team and it was like a lightbulb went on. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for the comment!
Wow .Dr ryan. I didn’t know changing phrases can make so much differance.thank you for the brilliant article. I will sure think before what I speak.
Gastroenterology in london
You’re welcome! Hope it helps…
Hi, nice post. Patient care is very important for any type of treatment. caring and loving a vital role in treatment. its helpful for patient in health recovering.
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