Doctors’ jargon to watch for on your medical notes…

doctors,jargon,medical notes,abbreviations,acronyms,writing,humor,funny jokes

If he thinks you’re CTD, you’ve had it

Doctors’ abbreviations, acronyms and slang terms actually used on patients’ notes have been on the way out for some years now, according to this article from the BBC’s News Online, dated back in August 2003.

And not because of high technology or computerized patient records – [Read more…]

Do you let your writing walk all over your personality?

Writing guides like me always preach that you should write as you speak, whoever you are. But often there are big-bully barriers that get in your way, making your writing dull, long-winded and not like the real you at all.

Does your writing walk all over your personality?

Here’s how to get over those barriers to achieve fluent writing that sounds like the you, and to make sure it never walks all over you again.

You feel you have to reflect the importance of your job

There’s no reason why what you write should be any different from the way you speak to your colleagues, staff, customers or clients, stakeholders, etc., when you’re in a relatively informal meeting with them.

Provided that you’re confident in yourself, your skills and talent, those will shine through in your writing without your needing to resort to long words and pompous phrasing. Keep it simple, have some faith, and your readers will hear your voice coming through those words.

You’re not too sure exactly what it is you want to express

Another thing we pro writers often admit is that once we get writing, we often delete the first paragraph because that was us just “warming up” before we really got to the point. It’s not just pro writers; everyone does that, especially when they haven’t really decide a) what they want to say or b) how to go about saying what they need to say.

By all means, take all your time to “warm up” with your writing, but be brave enough to go back with a hatchet and chop out the early sentences where you were getting the car running and the oil circulating smoothly around the motor.

You’re hampered by the need to use conventional structure and wording

This is especially true amongst “professionals” like doctors and lawyers, as well as throughout the scientific and academic communities.

Lawyers always come up with the excuse that to use sentences less than 95 words long with any punctuation at all opens them and their clients up to horrendous legal liabilities potentially costing millions. That may be true for a legal contract, but it isn’t true when writing a letter to a client or prospect. A short, snappy sentence in active rather than passive speech does not make you look like a moron; it makes you look human and alive in the 21st century.

Does your writing walk all over your personality?Doctors, despite repeatedly being asked by patient representative groups (and I speak as one of those, as well as doing my day job) to write letters about your healthcare in layman’s terms, invariably fall back into medical jargon – especially if they’re writing a letter to a medical colleague with you, as the mere patient, being copied in for good measure. If the correct terminology is “radical cystectomy with formation of ileal conduit” that’s fine, but to insert (in brackets if you must) “bladder removal followed by construction of a stoma on the abdomen” would be very helpful. After all, that’s how you, the doctor, would describe it to a patient face-to-face. It may feel comfortable to chat away in jargon, but get out from behind it when non-professionals need to understand it.

Academic writing makes my eyes cross. However I mustn’t criticize it according to my undergraduate son who sends me his university essays to proof-read. These are so tightly packed with long-winded sentences and paragraphs several inches long, I need a bottle of water and a sandwich to sustain me just so I can read them to the end. If your audience is entirely academic, OK, but if non-academics – or non-specialists – need to understand what you write, once again – write it as you would tell it to their faces.

You want your text or script to sound properly “corporate”

I’ll never forget an advertising agency wallah who once rejected some copy I had written for a corporate brochure because I had written a direct, no-fuss account of what the (his) client company did and how it could achieve damned good results for its clients.

Why? It didn’t seem “corporate” enough. What do you mean? I asked. “Well, you know, there should be more long words. More formal writing. More, you know, corporate stuff.”

Much as freelancers like moi  can scarcely afford to fire a client, I fired this guy and told him where he could stuff his business along with his corporate lunacy.

Don’t be silly. The fact that you and/or your corporate organization know how to use long words means nothing other than long-windedness. Don’t hide behind it and allow it to destroy the personality, zest and vigour of the organization: get off the corporate high horse and tell it like it really is.

You’re afraid to step out of a comfort zone that you learned years ago

Does your writing walks all over your personality?Particularly if you studied English (or the language of your own country if that isn’t English) through high school and into tertiary education, you may still be harbouring rules and conventions that no longer apply, and perhaps never did considering that we’re now out in the big wide world beyond school.

Many of us, me included, can still hear our old English teachers’ remonstrations when we strayed away from the norm with our writing, splitting infinitives and leaving participles dangling all over the place. The reality is that we do that when we speak, and so in theory we should do that when we write.

Apologies to older English teachers, and here’s a caveat … you need to know what the rules are, before you can break them effectively. So to write “I want to utterly trash that malformed opinion” is technically wrong, but everyone can understand it because it’s only a minor transgression from what’s correct and so is easy to grasp. However to write “I think it’s essential to utterly and beyond all serious, sensible doubt trash that malformed opinion” doesn’t work.

See the difference?

Moral of the story?

Writing today – whether for personal, business, “professional” or whatever other requirements, is all about sharing information in the quickest, most effective ways. It’s not about pontificating, patronizing, posturing or any of those turgid old affectations that pervaded literature a few decades ago.

Now, it’s about being you, writing as “you,” and connecting with your business and personal communications in an honest and worthwhile way.

Provided, as always, that you use sufficient discipline in grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax so that you leave no-one in doubt as to what you really mean.

 

Some help to make sure your writing reflects who you  really are:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: mezone via photopin cc

Just what the doctor ordered … or did he?

Just what the doctor ordered - or did he?Medical terms and instructions can be hard to understand, but some misinterpretations – despite their serious origins – can have everyone rolling around laughing.

Here are some examples of misunderstandings and other words-related goofs between doctors and patients, sent to me a few years ago from a friend in the USA. They are supposedly true and in my original version the doctors’ full names were given, but for the sake of discretion (and embarrassment!) I’ve abbreviated them to relative anonymity…

More than one cab

A man comes into the ER and yells, “My wife’s going to have her baby in the cab!” I grabbed my stuff,   rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady’s dress, and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs, and I was in the wrong one.

–Dr. M MacD,San Antonio,TX

Just what the doctor ordered - or did he?Do you speak with a lisp?

At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient’s anterior chest wall. Big breaths,” I instructed.” “Yes, they used to be,” replied the patient remorsefully.

–Dr. R B, Seattle,WA

Goof from the heart

One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a “massive internal f*rt.”

–Dr. S S, Manitoba, Canada

Patchy problems

During a patient’s two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. “Which one?” I asked. “The patch. The nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I’m running out of places to put it!” I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn’t see. Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.

–Dr. R St. C, Norfolk, VA

Just what the doctor ordered - or did he?Eye, eye, doctor…

I was performing a complete physical, including the visual acuity test. I placed the patient twenty feet from the chart and began, “Cover your right eye with your hand.” He read the 20/20 line perfectly. “Now your left.” Again, a flawless read. “Now both,” I requested. There was silence. He couldn’t even read the large E on the top line. I turned and discovered that he had done exactly what I had asked; he was standing there with both his eyes covered. I was laughing too hard to finish the exam.

–Dr. M T, Worcester, MA

The other use for a bed

While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, “How long have you been bed-ridden?” After a look of complete confusion she answered. “Why, not for about twenty years, when my husband was alive.”

–Dr. S S, Corvallis, OR

Kentucky Yuk

I was caring for a woman from Kentucky and asked, ”so, how’s your breakfast this morning?” “It’s very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can’t seem to get used to the taste,” the patient replied. I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled “KY Jelly.”

–Dr. L K, Detroit, MI

Whistle while you work

Just what the doctor ordered - or did he?A new, young MD doing his residency in obstetrics/gynecology was quite embarrassed performing female pelvic exams. To cover his embarrassment he had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly.  The middle aged lady upon whom he was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassed him. He looked up from his work and sheepishly said, “I’m sorry. Was I tickling you?” She replied, “No doctor, but the song you were whistling was ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”

–won’t admit his name!

Make sure they understand what you  mean:

How to write better humor in writing“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

photo credit: Fire At Will [Photography] via photopin cc
photo credit: GEO M I via photopin cc
photo credit: D’oh Boy (Mark Holloway) via photopin cc

Doctors, patients and words – a true yet hilarious mixture…

Medical terms and instructions can be hard to understand, but some misinterpretations – despite their serious origins – can have everyone rolling around laughing.

Here are some examples of misunderstandings and other words-related goofs between doctors and patients, sent to me a few years ago from a friend in the USA. They are supposedly true and in my original version the doctors’ full names were given, but for the sake of discretion (and embarrassment!) I’ve abbreviated them to relative anonymity…

More than one cab

A man comes into the ER and yells, “My wife’s going to have her baby in the cab!” I grabbed my stuff,   rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady’s dress, and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs, and I was in the wrong one.

–Dr. M MacD,San Antonio,TX

Do you speak with a lisp?

At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient’s anterior chest wall. Big breaths,” I instructed.” “Yes, they used to be,” replied the patient remorsefully.

–Dr. R B, Seattle,WA

Goof from the heart

One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a “massive internal f*rt.”

–Dr. S S, Manitoba, Canada

Patchy problems

During a patient’s two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. “Which one?” I asked. “The patch. The nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I’m running out of places to put it!” I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn’t see. Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.

–Dr. R St. C, Norfolk, VA

Eye, eye, doctor…

I was performing a complete physical, including the visual acuity test. I placed the patient twenty feet from the chart and began, “Cover your right eye with your hand.” He read the 20/20 line perfectly. “Now your left.” Again, a flawless read. “Now both,” I requested. There was silence. He couldn’t even read the large E on the top line. I turned and discovered that he had done exactly what I had asked; he was standing there with both his eyes covered. I was laughing too hard to finish the exam.

–Dr. M T, Worcester, MA

The other use for a bed

While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, “How long have you been bed-ridden?” After a look of complete confusion she answered. “Why, not for about twenty years, when my husband was alive.”

–Dr. S S, Corvallis, OR

Kentucky Yuk

I was caring for a woman from Kentucky and asked, ”so, how’s your breakfast this morning?” “It’s very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can’t seem to get used to the taste,” the patient replied. I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled “KY Jelly.”

–Dr. L K, Detroit, MI

Whistle while you work

A new, young MD doing his residency in obstetrics/gynecology was quite embarrassed performing female pelvic exams. To cover his embarrassment he had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly.  The middle aged lady upon whom he was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassed him. He looked up from his work and sheepishly said, “I’m sorry. Was I tickling you?” She replied, “No doctor, but the song you were whistling was ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”

–won’t admit his name!

Let’s make sure your writing is better than your doctor’s!

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Why doctors need to, er, improve their writing skills

Recent articles in the UK press have renewed public disapproval of doctors’ slang. This includes examples like “digging for worms” (varicose vein surgery), “departure lounge” (geriatric ward) and “TTFO” (told to f*ck off) coming in for the most criticism – presumably from former and existing patients who understandably don’t’ see the funny side.

We all know that pharmacists or druggists have supernatural powers of clairvoyance when asked to interpret doctors’ writing on prescription forms … so handwriting, as well as patient respect, ain’t the medicos’ strong point.

Worse still, it seems English ain’t their strong point, either – see below.

When I first received these alleged doctors’ notes by email from a friend I couldn’t believe that they could be real. However three weeks on a surgical ward in a British hospital last year changed my mind…they’re plausible, alright…

1. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year

2. On the 2nd day the knee was better and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely.

3. She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

4. The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993.

5. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

6. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year-old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

8. The patient refused an autopsy.

9. The patient has no past history of suicides.

10. Patient has left his white blood cells at another hospital.

11. Patient’s past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.

14. Since she can’t get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up.

15. She is numb from her toes down.

16. While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.

17. The skin was moist and dry.

18. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.

19. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

20. Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid.

21. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

22. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

23. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

24. Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

25. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

26. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stockbroker instead.

27. Skin: Somewhat pale but present.

28. The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.

29. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

30. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

31. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

Now, let’s really boost your writing skills!

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Why “professionals” need to learn business writing skills

“Professionals” working in healthcare, education and other non-commercial arenas increasingly are called upon to write information leaflets, web content and other text aimed at their “Joe Public” audiences. But can these people rework their own expertise and often antiseptic style and approach to create text that ordinary mortals can appreciate and understand? There’s a lot they can learn – and use – from the skills we use to communicate business messages.

Audiences of written material delivered by doctors, nurses, teachers and others usually are not up to speed on the latest information and jargon related to the subject matter concerned, but – they need and/or want to learn about it.

Yet all too often, the creation of information leaflets, letters, newsletters and other material to meet such needs is left up to “professionals” who are too close to the subject matter and aren’t trained in writing skills. Often this leads to text that’s inappropriate in style and/or content.

One of the other things I do apart from writing in here …!! is to help out at our district hospital as a volunteer member of a group of users of cancer services. Not surprisingly I often get asked to comment on and edit information output aimed at patients facing cancer treatments and other serious issues.

Prior to our current phase of chop-chop cuts in the NHS I was talking to a senior healthcare professional about doing some workshops on how to write better patient information … and we had many folks, particularly in the advanced nursing area, very interested in learning from what I can offer. Whether those workshops will go ahead now I’m not sure, but certainly the need was there – and was perceived to be there.

How can my business writing techniques possibly help in a non-commercial setting?

Simple, really. My business writing techniques that I teach apply, in all honesty, to anyone wanting to get a message across to an audience effectively, no matter who they are or what you want to convey. (More on that in “The MAMBA Way To Make Your Words Sell,” an eBook soon to be available on here.)

Here, in as small a nutshell as I can manage, are the basics of that – and how they work for anyone wanting to communicate messages even if they are not commercially related.

1. The First ‘M’—Mission

You start that process by creating a brief for yourself based on sorting out your objective—what you want to achieve. It’s no good thinking about what you want to say, because that often isn’t what you need to achieve. If you start by thinking of what you want to achieve, you’ll keep yourself focused on outcomes, not subjective desires.

2. The First ‘A’—Audience

If your message is going to work you don’t just need to know who your audience is, but also how they feel, what they need, how they think. You need to know what makes them tick so that your message will be on their wavelength. You need to get out there and find out, too—not necessarily rely on demographics data or other impersonal research. For worthwhile results, touch and feel.

3. The Second ‘M’—Media

Or “medium,” as usually there’s just the one. Before you can make the best of it, you need to understand its restrictions and its benefits. And you need to understand in what way that medium delivers your message to the audience—can they read it at their leisure on well-printed paper, or will they be rushing through messages on a computer screen? Can they understand it in English or should you have it translated into other appropriate languages?

4. The ‘B’—Benefits

We need to go back to that old sales issue of features versus benefits. Features are what something is, benefits are what it does for me. And here’s the key to it: “what’s in it for me?” Cruel though it may seem, that’s the only thing that really interests your audience. That’s a commercial notion, but it should be applied to non-commercial text too. Everyone needs to know how they’ll benefit from what you’re telling them.

5. The Final ‘A’—Articulation

Choosing the right tone of voice and the right angle of language to make the audience feel comfortable with what you’ve written and get the best from it. Ensuring that the text remains focused on “you,” the reader or viewer or listener. Avoiding pomposity and getting the right balance between professionalism and informality.

As I said above, there’s a lot more to come in my MAMBA eBook. But for those of you who are “professionals” and particularly those working in the public sector, take note.

More useful writing help for professionals:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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