Ever have this experience? You’re at your doctor’s appointment and the doctor begins sharing information. You have one of those “where am I moments and is my doctor speaking in tongues?” Your first thought is probably how many syllables can any one word have and the other…are these words for real. I bring this up because last night at a lecture there were questions on the screen before the program started. One slide was a long word pertaining to an illness. At the end of the evening an audience member asked what disease was that on the slide…the doctor confessed, there is no such disease.
Yes of course your illness is real, but if you’re “lost in translation” how is that helping you become an active participant in your healthcare? The answer to this dilemma is twofold. It’s up to us as patients to become familiar with basic anatomy and physiology (how your body works). I’m not talking about expert status, but basics would be a start. You need to ask questions, don’t do what we usually do in social situations and simply shake our heads in agreement. This isn’t about will you look stupid, this is about comprehending all aspects of your health and wellness plan. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to speak English.
When you make a request for the doctor to put it in lay-men’s terms you bring the doctor back into the room, sitting with you, instead of being off in Doctorland. The truth is that if you have some basic health education and the doctor speaks plain English you will understand what they’re saying. It’s not like you’re trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
The truth is that many medical professionals hide behind medical language because to do otherwise requires them to connect on a deeper level with their patients. In a culture where doctors are taught to be unattached, creating an atmosphere of collaboration is a new model that must be explored. Your other choice is to go to medical school and talk to the doctor in their language. Do you have the time, money or inclination to go that far to understand microbiology?
What have you done to get your doctor to speak outside medicalese? What happens for you when you’re better able to understand your diagnosis, care and treatment? Let’s create a movement and make English the official language of doctor-patient relationships!!