Working in a hospital with so many highly-educated patients that seem to know more about their diseases than we do, I think we probably run a greater risk of making assumptions about our patients’ education, intelligence, and vocabulary.
Many times I’ve noticed doctors, even when trying to explain things in “English” (as opposed to medical-ese), start using terms like “distal” and “proximal,” and patients start to get a look of confusion on their faces. I try my best to stick around and explain things better to the patient, but many times I don’t even think we realize we’re doing it. Even words like duodenum and common bile duct I would imagine could be very confusing. I assume that most patients have heard of the liver, the intestines, the stomach, and the pancreas, but don’t have a clue how they’re connected, where they are, or what they do. This has nothing to do with their intelligence or ability; they’ve just never felt the need or had the interest to learn. Many were probably never taught about them.
I’ve been thinking about carrying around some pictures of the abdomen to show them to patients and explain their problems and the surgical procedures to correct them. It’d probably go a long way to making them feel a little bit more in control of their care and their bodies.