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The Secret Language of Doctors, Dr. Brian Goldman


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http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04/28/the-secret-slang-of-hospitals-what-doctors-nurses-call-patients-behind-their-backs/

 

TORONTO — For anyone who’s been a patient or a family member attending a loved one in hospital, the expectation — or at least the hope — is that doctors, nurses and other care providers are empathetic to what ails them and respectful of their needs.

But away from the bedside, perhaps in hallways or at nursing stations, there may be quick and quiet conferences among hospital staff that suggest they are anything but.

In his new book, The Secret Language of Doctors, Dr. Brian Goldman reveals a veritable dictionary of verbal shorthand used by many physicians, nurses and other health professionals to discuss — and often diss — various types of patients and even their own colleagues.

Doctor slang:

Here is a partial list of slang terms used by some medical professionals in Canadian and U.S. hospitals:

Status dramaticus: A patient who loudly and dramatically magnifies symptoms to get quicker medical attention.

Horrendoma: Refers to a horrendous medical condition.

Beemer: A patient with a high body mass index (BMI), obese.

Yellow submarine: An obese patient with jaundice caused by cirrhosis of the liver.

Swallower: A term used for certain psychiatric patients.

Frequent flyer, cockroach: A person who turns up repeatedly at the emergency department with a variety of ailments.

FOOBA (Found on orthopedics barely alive): A patient who has had a joint operation, but has developed heart failure or another critical internal condition not recognized by the orthopedic surgeon.

GOMER (Get out of my emergency room): A patient frequently admitted to hospital with incurable conditions.

Circling the drain, PBAB (pine box at bedside): A patient who can’t be saved and death is imminent.

Hanging crepe: Preparing family that patient is dying and cannot be saved.

Discharged to God or discharged to heaven: Patient has died.

From The Secret Language of Doctors

Patient-directed slang includes such terms as: “Yellow Submarine,” referring to an obese patient with cirrhosis of the liver; “frequent flyer” or “cockroach,” for a patient who repeatedly comes to the emergency department with one health complaint after another; and “status dramaticus,” used to describe patients who noisily magnify their symptoms to get quicker medical attention.

Despite its title and contents, Goldman maintains the book isn’t meant to be just about the jargon that medical personnel trade amongst themselves.

“It’s a book about what the language reveals about the culture of modern medicine and what’s inside the heads and hearts of physicians and allied health professionals, but also the problems that they face, the challenges,” he says.

Goldman, a longtime emergency medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says disparaging slang used by some doctors and nurses often reflects the frustration they feel when faced with certain types of patients.

For instance, bariatric patients, who could weigh anywhere from 400 to 800 pounds, can pose difficulties for health providers who don’t have size-appropriate stretchers or mechanized lifts to transfer obese patients from the bed to a surgical gurney.

“And I didn’t know until I spoke to surgeons how challenging it is to operate on a patient who is morbidly obese,” he says, explaining that it takes more time to get through layers of fat to reach an organ or other operating site, there are higher complication rates, and patients often need to recover in hospital longer.

Goldman, host of the CBC Radio program White Coat, Black Art, interviewed doctors and nurses across Canada and the United States for Secret Language. He found slang was often used about certain groups of patients — the economically disadvantaged, those with a psychiatric illness or addiction, the chronically ill, the frail elderly, and people with dementia.

“I have never heard in the hospital where I work a phrase like ’cockroach’ used to describe somebody who comes back again. If I did, I would stop that person immediately,” says the 30-year ER veteran.

‘I didn’t know until I spoke to surgeons how challenging it is to operate on a patient who is morbidly obese’

“And pejorative slang about seniors? I come from a hospital where we treat seniors with respect and dignity,” he says of Mount Sinai, which includes trained geriatric management nurses among staff.

“So I was really surprised to hear that in some institutions that kind of slang still exists.”

Still, Goldman admits he has favourites when it comes to medical argot.

“I like witty slang — and I’m getting into dangerous territory here — because I love puns,” says the bearded physician-author. He thinks he may even have invented one term — dyscopia — referring to a patient or family member who has difficulty coping.

“Code brown” is another. A word play on the drop-everything, come-running emergency “code blue,” code brown is hospital-speak for feces that needs cleaning up on the ward.

Doctor-patient dynamics: About that other brain in the exam room …

Earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, medical ethicist Robert Truog wrote: “Until about 1960, most codes of medical ethics relied heavily on the Hippocratic tradition, framing the obligations of physicians solely in terms of promoting the welfare of the patient, while remaining silent about patients’ rights.”

The key here is that it was the physician who made the call about how best to ensure patient welfare — not the patient. Then patients began to take notice. Take the strange history of radical mastectomy, detailed in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The surgical technique was described in 1894 by the Baltimore surgeon William Stewart Halsted, founding chief of the surgery department at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Read more…

Another one he learned during his research from an obstetrician is “caesarean-section consent form,” which is slang for a multi-page birth plan presented to birthing staff by a woman prior to delivery. Such a plan may comprise inclusion of the woman’s midwife or doula, certain music in the delivery suite, instruction that there be no epidural but all-natural child birth, and even no fetal heart monitoring.

“And the last thing that would ever be on the birth plan is a caesarean-section,” Goldman says half-mockingly.

“On the one hand, I should be outraged — it’s a terrible thing to say — but it reflects a certain truism. It reflects that when it comes to a meeting of minds between a woman in labour and her family and the health-care team, there may be differences of opinion. And one of them is about birth plans.

“A birth plan is a misnomer, because you can’t plan everything that’s going to happen.”

That’s not to say that doctors aren’t the subjects of slang labels among their own colleagues: surgeons are often referred to as “cowboys,” internists as “fleas,” and ER doctors such as Goldman as “referologists.”

“It means that somebody thinks that the only thing emergency physicians do is refer [to other specialists],” he explains. “On one level [we] do, but they don’t see all the patients we assess thoroughly and send home without ever referring.

“It doesn’t bother me because I have a thick skin and I’ve learned to laugh at myself.”

Goldman hopes the book will spark discussion about how to fix the problems that generate the slang in the first place

Goldman suggests much of the slang involved in inter-specialty criticism may be part of hospital culture, arising from an individual’s sense of personal responsibility for a patient’s well-being and the often hard-driving, high-striving personality traits that help get a person accepted to and through medical school.

There is a movement afoot, called medical professionalism, that would try to stamp out the use of often-disparaging slang. But Goldman believes that would only send the patter — and the problems in the health-care system that it reflects — underground.

“It’s a clue to issues that must be addressed and that’s what I’m much more concerned about,” he says, citing the lack of adequate primary care that results in some patients using hospital emergency departments as a stand-in for a family doctor.

While he concedes there may be some colleagues who will knock him for pulling back the curtain on doctors’ jargon, he hopes the book will spark discussion about how to fix the problems that generate the slang in the first place.

Goldman hopes such discussions would address such issues as medical errors, patient safety, how to keep empathy in health care, and how to train the next generation of health-care professionals to “like treating the patients in increasing numbers that some people use slang to talk about.”

He also hopes “Secret Language” helps humanize medical professionals for the public.

“If you’re a patient or a family member and you’ve stood eyeball to eyeball or sat down with a physician and felt tongue-tied and didn’t feel you could challenge what they were saying … [if] this will somehow help to put you on a level playing field, then I think that’s a really good thing.”

“If exposing [slang] gets rid of it because we’ve solved the problems in medicine, I think that would be a good day’s work for me.”

-The Secret Language of Doctors: Cracking the Code of Hospital Slang, published by Harper Collins, will be on bookshelves Tuesday.

WARNING THIS WILL BE LONG
Had a car accident in 85
Codeine was the pain med when I was release from hosp continuous use till 89
Given PROZAC by a specialist to help with nerve pain in my leg 89-90 not sure which year
Was not told a thing about it being a psych med thought it was a pain killer no info about psych side effects I went nuts had hallucinations. As I had a head injury and was diagnosed with a concussion in 85 I was sent to a head injury clinic in 1990 five years after the accident. I don't think they knew I had been on prozac I did not think it a big deal and never did finish the bottle of pills. I had tests of course lots of them. Was put into a pain clinic and given amitriptyline which stopped the withdrawal but had many side effects. But I could sleep something I had not done in a very long time the pain lessened. My mother got cancer in 94 they switched my meds to Zoloft to help deal with this pressure as I was her main care giver she died in 96. I stopped zoloft in 96 had withdrawal was put on paxil went nutty quit it ct put on resperidol quit it ct had withdrawal was put on Effexor... 2years later celexa was added 20mg then increased to 40mg huge personality change went wild. Did too fast taper off Celexa 05 as I felt unwell for a long time prior... quit Effexor 150mg ct 07 found ****** 8 months into withdrawal learned some things was banned from there in 08 have kept learning since. there is really not enough room here to put my history but I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things especially any of the drugs mentioned above.
One thing I would like to add here is this tidbit ALL OPIATES INCREASE SEROTONIN it is not a huge jump to being in chronic pain to being put on an ssri/snri and opiates will affect your antidepressants and your thinking.

As I do not update much I will put my quit date Nov. 17 2007 I quit Effexor cold turkey. 

http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1096-introducing-myself-btdt/

There is a crack in everything ..That's how the light gets in :)

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I did not read any of the related links can't comment on them.

WARNING THIS WILL BE LONG
Had a car accident in 85
Codeine was the pain med when I was release from hosp continuous use till 89
Given PROZAC by a specialist to help with nerve pain in my leg 89-90 not sure which year
Was not told a thing about it being a psych med thought it was a pain killer no info about psych side effects I went nuts had hallucinations. As I had a head injury and was diagnosed with a concussion in 85 I was sent to a head injury clinic in 1990 five years after the accident. I don't think they knew I had been on prozac I did not think it a big deal and never did finish the bottle of pills. I had tests of course lots of them. Was put into a pain clinic and given amitriptyline which stopped the withdrawal but had many side effects. But I could sleep something I had not done in a very long time the pain lessened. My mother got cancer in 94 they switched my meds to Zoloft to help deal with this pressure as I was her main care giver she died in 96. I stopped zoloft in 96 had withdrawal was put on paxil went nutty quit it ct put on resperidol quit it ct had withdrawal was put on Effexor... 2years later celexa was added 20mg then increased to 40mg huge personality change went wild. Did too fast taper off Celexa 05 as I felt unwell for a long time prior... quit Effexor 150mg ct 07 found ****** 8 months into withdrawal learned some things was banned from there in 08 have kept learning since. there is really not enough room here to put my history but I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things especially any of the drugs mentioned above.
One thing I would like to add here is this tidbit ALL OPIATES INCREASE SEROTONIN it is not a huge jump to being in chronic pain to being put on an ssri/snri and opiates will affect your antidepressants and your thinking.

As I do not update much I will put my quit date Nov. 17 2007 I quit Effexor cold turkey. 

http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1096-introducing-myself-btdt/

There is a crack in everything ..That's how the light gets in :)

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Oh, I am sure I have gotten alot of labels from doctors, with many not too flattering.  No doubt about it.

 

By the way, I have heard this guy speak before and I really admired his honesty.

 

 

CS

Drug cocktail 1995 - 2010
Started taper of Adderall, Wellbutrin XL, Remeron, and Doxepin in 2006
Finished taper on June 10, 2010

Temazepam on a PRN basis approximately twice a month - 2014 to 2016

Beginning in 2017 - Consumption increased to about two times per week

April 2017 - Increased to taking it full time for insomnia

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What I find interesting is he says he did this to change the system... any change I find interesting. 

WARNING THIS WILL BE LONG
Had a car accident in 85
Codeine was the pain med when I was release from hosp continuous use till 89
Given PROZAC by a specialist to help with nerve pain in my leg 89-90 not sure which year
Was not told a thing about it being a psych med thought it was a pain killer no info about psych side effects I went nuts had hallucinations. As I had a head injury and was diagnosed with a concussion in 85 I was sent to a head injury clinic in 1990 five years after the accident. I don't think they knew I had been on prozac I did not think it a big deal and never did finish the bottle of pills. I had tests of course lots of them. Was put into a pain clinic and given amitriptyline which stopped the withdrawal but had many side effects. But I could sleep something I had not done in a very long time the pain lessened. My mother got cancer in 94 they switched my meds to Zoloft to help deal with this pressure as I was her main care giver she died in 96. I stopped zoloft in 96 had withdrawal was put on paxil went nutty quit it ct put on resperidol quit it ct had withdrawal was put on Effexor... 2years later celexa was added 20mg then increased to 40mg huge personality change went wild. Did too fast taper off Celexa 05 as I felt unwell for a long time prior... quit Effexor 150mg ct 07 found ****** 8 months into withdrawal learned some things was banned from there in 08 have kept learning since. there is really not enough room here to put my history but I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things especially any of the drugs mentioned above.
One thing I would like to add here is this tidbit ALL OPIATES INCREASE SEROTONIN it is not a huge jump to being in chronic pain to being put on an ssri/snri and opiates will affect your antidepressants and your thinking.

As I do not update much I will put my quit date Nov. 17 2007 I quit Effexor cold turkey. 

http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1096-introducing-myself-btdt/

There is a crack in everything ..That's how the light gets in :)

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