Richard G. Petty, MD

Medical Terminology and Clear Communication

During the Second World War, there was so much worry about the possibility that Axis spies had penetrated the United Kingdom, that there was a whole campaign entitled, “Careless Talk Costs Lives.”

We sometimes see a similar problem in medicine, and in particular in psychiatric practice when we use terms that may cause great and unnecessary distress.

When somebody is unwell, it is hard for them and for their family to take everything in. research has shown that people only remember accurately 30-40% of what a doctor, nurse or therapist says to them. That is why I recently wrote the piece on clarity of communication.

Another problem is vocabulary. It is calculated that a medical student has to learn aorund 6,000 new words during his or her training. Young doctors and nurses often forget that what they mean by a word is often very different from what a non-medic may mean. That is why we try hard to define eveything on this blog.

You might be interested to look at an example on the Psychiatric Resource Forum blog. This one discusses paranoia. It’s an important word, but one which means something diferent to the specialist from its common use in conversation.

I think that it is valuable for you to be armed with as much information as you can, and I plan to continue highlighting terms that can lead to distress and misunderstanding.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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