Using patients' names

105 - AnnabethUKAnnabeth van Stroe is an Obstetric and Gynaecological Nurse at the Zaans Medisch Centrum, in The Netherlands. As a Dutch Nurse she has been following NHS ChangeDay with a lot of interest, and when Change Day also started in the Netherlands she immediately became an ambassador of it. Here is her pledge for Change Day.

We’re all guilty of doing it at certain moments: talking about the disease instead of talking about the patient. The appendectomy or the hysterectomy. We’re so used to talking in this way that we don’t even recognise anymore that we do it! And without being aware, we’re being unjust in limiting the patient to his or her disease, while a patient is not just somebody who comes for an appendectomy or a hysterectomy. There is a person with specific needs and character behind the disease. So many times we’re so focused on fast recovery, that we tend to only focus on a person’s disease.

Primary life necessities, micturition, defaecation, exercising, pain-scores – these phrases seem to have become the core-business of our profession. As an outpatient, screening takes place by an anaesthesiologist, blood is examined and the patient arrives one to one and a half hours before admission in the operation room at the ward. We ask if the patient has an empty stomach, we check their health status, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Before you know it, it’s time to bring the patient to the operation room and you realise you did not have one true moment with the patient.

This is also something striking: when the patient is off for surgery, we say that he is ‘off for theatre’. Makes me wonder, will it be a soap or a drama there … but for us nurses, it’s common language.

Meanwhile, we’re doing our best to avoid true medical jargon towards the patient, or at least we try to translate the message into common language, because it is important that the patient is well informed in terms that they understand. No medical language. At least we’re doing a good job with that … I guess.

But what if we break off our habit of talking in medical language and start to see the patient as a person with a disease, illness or handicap? And not the other way around; a disease, illness or handicap that accidentally seems to be attached to a person? Treat the patient and not the disease? Considering our patients as people would not only positively influence the patient, but also us as their carers.

At times, I confront my colleagues with this idea. I say to my colleague “I was standing next to a diabetic or next to a cesarean” at the traffic lights, because that is the way we address the people that are admitted at the hospital.

So, every time when I hear this medical or professional language, I rectify it towards the patients name, only if necessary accompanied by his or her disease. And that is my pledge for Change Day!
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