Article Date: 8/1/2005

lessons learned
Say What?
In the mouths of patients, medical terms can be funny things . . .
JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

From Favorite Jokes of Mountain Folks In Booger Hollow: "Old man Barton's gal Susie almost drowneded a 'swimmin' in the crick last week. Ther wuz a college boy a 'swimmin' wid her 'n he reskewed her 'n got her to breathin' agin.

"She was kinda weak so this here boy carries her in hiz arms to ole man Barton's place. He sez to old man Barton, 'I'se just resuscitated yore daughter.'


ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

"Ole man Barton sez, 'Bygawd, yewer a'gonna marry her then!'"

A misunderstanding of medical terms, as in this story, is a source of humor at times, but it's also a danger to good patient communication. Recent communications from other practitioners affirm this point.

What kind of degeneration?

Some good examples have been reported to me by my friend Dr. John Muellerleile. One of his patients, when asked if he had any retinal disease, replied, "Just hemorrhoids." Another patient told him, "My mother had rectal degeneration." (Wouldn't it be less confusing if "rectus" did refer to muscles at the other end of the anatomy?)

Other examples of patients' misunderstanding medical terms in Muellerleile's office:

"The doctor says I need to make an appointment for a dilated fungus examination." And:

"My mother had immaculate degeneration."(Same comment came from a patient of Dr. Kevin Wulff.)

Another patient of his on the case history form asking for occupation, wrote, "Whorehouse foreman." While obviously a misspelling of "warehouse," one cannot help but ponder what such a job would involve.

Getting sleepy

Dr. Jerry Garber told me of an experience many years ago with a retired Brazilian Army colonel, whom he had fitted with contact lenses. He was instructed to increase his wearing time one hour each day. Three weeks later, the colonel phoned him from Sao Paulo.

He reported that he was now up to 21 hours of wearing time, but he was very tired and when could he go to sleep?

You may not know

You may not always be aware of how patients have misunderstood you. They may get words mixed up without your being aware of it:

"An article in the Palm Beach Post revealed what is the most incredible advance in medical science in the past 200 to 300 years," ophthalmologist friend Dr. Ben Milder emailed me. "They reported that St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Reggie Sanders had had acute appendicitis and underwent an arthroscopic appendectomy. Can you imagine removing his appendix through his knee? I assume they meant 'laparoscopic' appendectomy, but this is my nomination for this year's winner for malapropisms."

Only once

Dr. Bob Arner reports of having advised a patient that the frame she wanted would result in thick and heavy glasses. She insisted anyway, but when she returned to be fitted she complained bitterly about their weight and appearance. When reminded that she had been forewarned, she replied, "I know, but you only told me once!"

To be sure your message is getting through, you often gotta tell 'em more than once!!

JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@AOL.COM

 



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2005