Sticks and stones may break my bones…

One conversation that struck me throughout today’s discussions was on the words and phrases we use when discussing adverse events with patients. For example “review” vs “investigation.” How you talk about something can drastically change the way the other party perceives what you are saying.

Thinking about this and the power of language, I am struck by an aspect of healthcare culture that I have noticed over the last 3 years, especially working as a scribe. As such, I was kind of the fly on the wall. I was privy to many important conversations with patients, but I was also present for the not-so-important side conversations. Often times I was shocked to hear how people talked about each other- this included physicians, nurses, PCAs etc. Usually it would start as an expressed annoyance or small complaint but these conversations could easily escalate. Hardly ever did I witness the complaint being directly addressed with the individual being talked about.

While I know I don’t have much clinical experience, I do know behavior like this is not conducive toward forming stronger teams. Having such degrading conversations behind people’s back do not unite, but only cause conflict within our teams. It shouldn’t matter if that physician isn’t your favorite or if so-in-so has an annoying voice. We are all here for the same reason and have patients relying on us. Even things spoken in “private” have the power to drive wedges between care teams. If we can’t support each other, how can we expect to support our patients?

A gentle tongue is a like a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. – Proverbs 15:4

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