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The use of jargon in healthcare. Are we stopping to think about the language we use?

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Interesting blog posted today in the Learn library about the language we use. Do you stop to think about the language you use when speaking to your patients? Are we all guilty of using jargon rather than taking the time to explain what we mean? Have you tried any exercises as a team to help improve communication, in order to improve patient safety? Please share your tips.


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When I used to work on the cardiac ward patients would have to swab themselves for MRSA pre op.  

It surprised me how many didn’t know where their perineum was.  

I remember trying to explain where it was to a man who didn’t even know he had a perineum.   After a long while trying to tactfully explain where it was located he exclaims ‘oh you mean the bit between your b******s and your a*** h***, why didn’t you just say?’ 

Use of appropriate language is needed, depending on the patient.  Not easy to judge sometimes  

The use of medical language is a huge barrier when talking to patients.  I try and use plain English when explaining what I am doing , but not always that plain! 




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There are huge communications issues in an industry as complex as healthcare: and as @Steph O'Donohueand @Claire Cox point out, these can have a serious impact on service delivery. Worse, poor communication can result in unsafe care whether:

  • within and between disciplinary teams
  • between clinicians and patients
  • between patients and carers
  • between managers and clinicians

And that's communication that is verbal, non-verbal, written, electronic. And whether in diagnosis, consent, handover, escalation, medication management  etc

In your example Steph, I'm not sure how easy it is for clinicians to hear themselves. Maybe ask a patient! When I worked at the Alzheimer's Society, we had groups of service user volunteers who would review written communication for the NHS, Local Authority and other service providers. They were brilliant and they simplified and clarified so many leaflets, advice and guidance notes, official forms etc.

I think, if we don't already have this on there, that we should have a section on communication and patient safety on the hub. And highlight some great resources: see below

Much work by prof. dr. annegret hannawa, professor of health communication - interested in the conceptual and empirical intersections between human fallibility, interpersonal communication science and healthcare. https://annegrethannawa.com/










etc etc


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