Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

“Do you suffer from epitaxis?”

Say What?


When doctors use difficult words to describe common problems, like nose bleeds, it can be distressing for patients.  Why do doctors do this?

Imagine going to college for four years, working exclusively on science and math. Then, throughout the four years in medical school, they learn a whole new language.  Upon graduation, they receive an MD.  Yet their journey is far from over.  They have to do a residency that can last from three to five years.  After residency, for further specialization, the doctor may do a fellowship that can last from one to five years.   There are several tests that physicians need to take to become licensed and Board Certified. They become comfortable with using this language.

Doctors continue to use medical jargon with each other — it’s much more efficient. A specific word, short phrase, or acronym is much easier to understand and communicate for people well versed in the language.  However a full description or long sentence explaining the same thing is what patients often need.  It’s all about health literacy.

After spending as many as 14 years speaking this language with each other under stressful conditions, there’s really little wonder they sometimes seem to have forgotten how non-medical people speak, and often end up using medical jargon that may confuse their patients.

So don’t just nod and say “I understand.”  It doesn’t help.  It’s smart to ask questions of your doctor.  To be a smart patient, it’s vital that you understand what your doctor is telling you. That’s why it’s important for patients to say:

Say What?

–or words to that effect.