Breaking the code



A system of words, letters, figures, or other symbols used to represent others, esp. for the purposes of secrecy. – Wikipedia

Healthcare workers regardless of position and rank are trained in institutions to learn medical terminology. It is crucial that information regarding patient care is delivered quickly and no time is wasted. Thousands of Latin/Greek terms are committed to memory, and just as many abbreviations, mneumonics and eponymous names are expected to be used fluently on a daily basis. This ‘code’ enables the multi-disciplinary team the ability to speak to one another; but what of the patient and families that require education and knowledge about their diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options? Are they being left out of the loop?

Health Literacy is a fairly new concept. Does empowering the patient/family reduce hospital admissions? You bet it does. If a patient is given a brochure about Diabetes, but cannot understand the language, what is the point? Could that brochure be more beneficial by lowering the reading level of the language and adding pictures?

What if members of the healthcare team were making every effort to use lay terms when describing this diagnosis to the patient? Our healthcare culture needs to work towards simplifying information.

Educate your students on when it is appropriate to use medical terminolgy, and give them the tools to truly help their patients. Break the code.

For more information or resources, please see my link Health Literacy to the Public Health Agency of Canada.



About lisagedak

I work in the field of Healthcare, and am an Instructor of Medical Termionology, Healthcare Communications and Pharmacology. you can find me on facebook at: or on twitter @voodoowitch1
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2 Responses to Breaking the code

  1. Great point Lisa. In my work with new Canadians, the healthcare system was an area we tried to help make more accessible – hard to do when admittedly it’s intimidating for me too. Both my sisters are nurses and when they get together I don’t understand a word they are saying! I believe every profession has it’s lingo but particularly in the public health sector it’s up to the practitioners to think and act inclusively. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Ryan Downey says:

    Yes I agree. Patients are already feeling vulnerable and out of sorts, the last thing they need is to be confused by medical jargon. Is there a web site that might break up the jargon for patients. Some where they could go and research at their own speed at their own time. There’s gotta be an app for that.

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