The Secret Language Of Doctors
Why I Wrote The Secret Language of Doctors?
When I was a resident, I was first introduced to hospital slang. I enjoyed the feeling of learning the secret handshake. More than that, I found that slang words like “social admission” and “slow code” helped me cope with unpleasant situations and the unspeakable human tragedies health professionals experience as part of the job. To use those coded words and phrases – and to share them with my colleagues – made me feel a great kinship to my band of brothers and sisters.
Today, with more than a generation practising in the ER and observing up close the culture of modern medicine, I look at slang terms quite differently. There are many terms used to describe elderly patents, those with dementia, obesity, chronic illness, not to mention addiction and mental health issues. Collectively, they’re the patients the system wishes it didn’t have to deal with.
Often, the problem is lack of training, and lack of proper equipment to care for these patients. Sometimes, the problem is a lack of empathy for our patients, our colleagues and ourselves.
I don’t see slang as the problem; I see it as a symptom of some fundamental issues in medicine.
I don’t use hospital slang as much these days, but I’m keenly interested in learning how it’s used, who uses it, and what the slang tells me about the local hospital culture. I don’t believe it’s practical or even desirable to eradicate slang, since doing so will only drive it underground.
I believe that observing and commenting on it can help deal with the underlying problems in health care, and make it more empathetic and safer for you. I also think this sort of information will help you and your family get the best care possible.