Part of my job is helping translate medical speak into understandable language. While simple in theory, this can be more difficult than it seems. The practice of medicine requires learning tens of thousands of new words. Some of this is critical for communicating with other physicians: precision of language is critical when trying to explain nuances. Some of it, however, is simply the terminology of a sometimes elitist in-club and a way to further separate doctor from patient.
I have often been told that if you can’t simplify something- you don’t truly understand it. And this year has certainly put that to the test for me. On my first day on the job my producer jokingly told me that if I ever used the phrase “all-cause mortality,” she would fire me. And I like to think that since that day I have grown leaps and bounds in my ability to explain medical research to a lay audience. Because honestly, this is a skill I will use constantly when speaking with patients- many of whom have limited education and may be intimidated by needlessly complex terminology.
Today I was called upon to condense two complicated medical histories into 30 second script “bites” that would be understandable for a morning TV audience. Bacterial endocarditis, infarct, PICC line, complicated sepsis… to the untrained eye these charts basically read like a different language. I worked with the producers to translate this into a more understandable narrative.
The premise of the segment was two young ladies with medical issues who were going to their first big school dance, thanks to a charitable organization called Garden of Dreams. While this wasn’t breaking news, it was exciting to hear my (hopefully simple) words read on-air and it was so great to meet these two young women and see their excitement at being normal teenagers despite their medical issues.
And hopefully, when I return to clinical care I will be reminded to, quite simply, “speak English.”