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

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