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.