How to Decode Doctor Speak (in & out of the hospital)

It’s all too common for us to spend ten minutes listening to a doctor talk about our loved one’s diagnosis and not comprehend a single thing they said. (I know, right?!) Here are some tips to help you and your family understand what’s really happening with your loved one…
Knitting-With-Hospital-Gloves1. Employ one of the “3 S’s” I talk about adnauseum, in, Knitting With Hospital GlovesYour Strongest Spine Ever! This is the time to stop being intimidated by someone in a white coat or with the initials “MD” after their name.

(Secret: They yell at their kids, text in their car and fart exactly like you and me.)

Look, they WANT to help you and your patient. They WANT you to understand what they’re saying–it helps them do their job. Your job is to say,

“Thank you, Doctor; now can you explain that to me in plain Cul de Sac Speak? Aisle 7 of Walmart Speak? School Pick Up Line Speak?” (You get the idea.)

2. Ask the doctor specific, pointed questions that will get you the answer you need to hear (you might not want to hear it but you need to). For instance:

Can/will she survive this?
Is Mom being kept alive artificially? Like, if we take her off of one of those 7 meds or machines will she die?
Can you write down the names of those medicin

es you just mentioned?
Do you not want to be her doctor any more? Because you seem kinda cranky and impatient today. Is there another doctor in your practice who’d rather be here?
What does that blinking number on the screen mean?
What does O2 mean and what number should it be?
Should she be sleeping this much?

3. The Charge Nurse is your friend. All the nurses are, really. They are the front line soldiers in the battle for your loved one’s health. But if you are having issues with a nurse’s attitude, lack of attention, TOO much attention (too personal, invasive and chatty, not leaving) or disappearing tricks, do not hesitate to seek out and talk to the Charge Nurse. Here are some questions you can and sometimes should ask a nurse:
Is there a social worker or mediator that can sit down with us and answer some questions? Can they sit in the next time the doctor visits? Can they mediate the monster fight that is about to blow up in the waiting room between my siblings?
Can you find the doctor for us?

Can you ask the doctor________?
Is it okay if we sneak in Cousin Cate’s new baby for just a second cuz Grandma’s never met her?
If we’re quiet can there be six of us in Mom’s ICU room?
Is Nurse Betty PMSing because she seemed overly cranky and impatient with mom and us today. Could we please have a different nurse?
Is there anyway you could call and find out what time they’re taking Mom down for that scan the doctor ordered 7 hours ago?
Do you have a direct desk phone number we can call when we’re at home?
Are there any extrablankets we could use? The waiting room is freezing!

We’re running to Starbucks–do you prefer lattes? Soy or Skim?

I hate that we’ve all been and/or will be in situations where we have to ask awkward, difficult questions, but please trust me when I say you will be glad you did. You’ll be glad you were accurately informed of your loved one’s condition all along, rather than being underinformed and then shocked and blindsided when a grave diagnosis is given.

On this journey with you,
Karen

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