Occasion for this declaration–this came up on my RSS feed today. “A Decoder for Common Medical Terms.” [so jarring that I wanted to write another entry less than twelve hours from my last one! aiyah]
Back in my still-human days, when I would shadow at hospitals or dental offices and semi-understand the jargon that doctors often use, I would get frustrated because I knew the patient probably had no idea what his or her provider was saying. But I’ve realized I’m quickly losing that ability. It’s not to say the general population can’t understand what “cardiovascular” or “past medical history” means, but just…who talks that way?!
Certainly not anyone who isn’t in healthcare. First it’s innocuous words like that, next I’ll be telling my patients about HbA1c’s and PSA’s, periodontitis and malocclusion without thinking twice. Reading that decoder felt like uncovering the translation book from a different world, a different civilization than the one I’ve been immersed in for the past nine months. I.e., I’m an alien now!!!
But the Vulcanization process is so tricky! The term ‘code-switching’ in linguistics (best explained by this NPR article and this Key & Peele skit) refers to the ability that bilingual or bi-dialectal people have to switch between languages or dialects when the setting is appropriate. We all do it; the way you talk to your friends is not the same as the way you talk to your professor or boss or parents.
The problem with medicine though is that your friends, sometimes your parents, your superiors, and your colleagues all speak the same language day in and day out, and–it’s technically English. So the normal triggers to code switch totally melt away, and then the second phenomenon of language mixing happens–if you don’t use it, you lose it, “it” being the ability to talk about health like a layman.
Thankfully I think the solution is the same as what I do when I feel my Chinese tones getting approximate–practice! Now, the only question is…where to find some non-medical people to talk about medicine with? =P