Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Talkin' The Talk

A blog that I read sometimes (MothersInMedicine.com) had a post a while ago from a couple physicians describing what they would have done differently in medical school if they could go back.  I think I've done some things right so far in med school (with the exception of locking my keys in my car twice in the last 6 months)- and one of my best pieces of advice to any upcoming med student would be to live with other medical students for as long as possible.  Here's one reason why:

Medical professionals have their own words for everything- which are generally no more specific or useful than the patients words.  The patient says 'bruise', we say 'ecchymosis'.  They say 'short of breath', we say 'dyspnea'. They say 'tomato', we say 'You put a tomato, WHERE?!'.

As a med student, talkin' the talk lets people around you know that you're worth being taken seriously, and it also covers your butt when you have no idea what's going on.   If I have NO CLUE why my patient's kindeys aren't working, it sounds a lot better to say, "At this point, I can't define the pathogenesis of his renal insufficieny" than "His kidneys won't work, and I don't know why".  The big words are like the castle at Disney World-  if you get someone to look at the castle, there's a decent chance they won't notice the puke by Magic Moutain.
But it's not just a new language- it's learning to be fluently bilingual depending on your audience.  There's nothing worse than a patient who misses half of what you say, ends up taking their meds wrong and also thinks you're a pompous jerk.  But it's just as bad than having an attending who thinks you can't speak Medical-ese, and stops listening to you.

My advice to anyone, in any field where they have to learn a new language, is to LIVE WITH OTHER STUDENTS!  My roommates and I speak 'doctor talk' constantly to one another (which has consequently made our boyfriends very good at Wii) and I don't know how else I would make it at the hospitals. There's no Rosetta stone for Medical-ese. Medic-lish?

Also, there are some words that patients just don't like to hear (see cartoon)!!


  1. Your disney training is coming in very handy. Distract the guests with the beauty of the castle, so they don't focus on the puke pile.
    :-) Love your perspective on need for docs to be bilingual.

  2. My advice would be: Date a doctor, not a med student. Wait until they're making the big bucks, and then hearing them talk about pleural effusions and binding with the beta II whateverthehell all day wouldn't seem so bad!!! Just kidding of course!

  3. Mom- I've found the whole "Look at the castle!!" technique of distraction to be helpful in almost any situation!! Hopefully, when I run the marathon at Disney in January, the castle will adequatly distract me!

    Danny- You'd better watch it mister; or else you'll never make it to dating a doctor. Love ya, babe!