Why "Client" and not "Patient"?

  1. Why does it seem like a growing number of nursing professors insist that their students call patients "clients" instead? I worked as an ER Tech for a few years, and none of the nurses I worked with (even the new grads) ever referred to people they cared for as "clients." This practice seems rather strange to me. Unless EVERYONE across all health professions starts referring to "the client," I don't see how I could ever get used to referring to someone in my care as such. Lawyers, accountants, and social workers refer to the people they serve as "clients." I'm not in law school, nor am I in school to become an accountant. Neither am I studying in a school of social work. Therefore, I don't see why I should refer to the people I will take care of as "clients." Any arguments supporting either term are more than welcome.
    Last edit by edogs334 on Dec 16, '07
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  2. 10 Comments

  3. by   Jules A
    I use both but will say I prefer client because imo it sounds more like we are working as a team toward the goal. Hopefully as we become more educated as a society people will realize the value in being their own adovacates in health care rather than waiting for the professionals to make all the decisions so I guess thats why I like client.

    I have a friend who feels that the term client isn't appropriate and thats cool, its surely not something we need to argue about.
  4. by   KungFuFtr
    Yeah, I'm not too fond of "client" either. It sounds too cold, very business-like; like some sort of transaction is taking place.
  5. by   DutchgirlRN
    It doesn't make any sense to me. I think it may be like other terms that have changed over the years

    Recovery room = PACU
    DON = CNO
  6. by   caliotter3
    If you do a search on the board you can find a recent thread on this topic where many people posted their opinions. Most said that they prefer to use the term "patient". I was taught in nursing school and on the job it was required that I use the term "client", because the individual is a consumer of health care services and we are to be giving them good services. The term "patient" is considered in a negative light by many because it implies that the patient must be "patient" and not be an active participant in their own care.
  7. by   DutchgirlRN
    Quote from caliotter3
    If you do a search on the board you can find a recent thread on this topic where many people posted their opinions. Most said that they prefer to use the term "patient". I was taught in nursing school and on the job it was required that I use the term "client", because the individual is a consumer of health care services and we are to be giving them good services. The term "patient" is considered in a negative light by many because it implies that the patient must be "patient" and not be an active participant in their own care.
    Thanks for the explanation caliotter3. I'll have to agree that client seems cold and impersonal. I, personally would rather be referred to as a patient. Even if to some it seems that I am being forced to be patient because... when sitting in the doctors office...that is the truth! :spin:
  8. by   caliotter3
    Quote from DutchgirlRN
    Thanks for the explanation caliotter3. I'll have to agree that client seems cold and impersonal. I, personally would rather be referred to as a patient. Even if to some it seems that I am being forced to be patient because... when sitting in the doctors office...that is the truth! :spin:
    Heh! Heh! Heh! You're right about that one Dutchgirl!
  9. by   babbz
    I only prefer terms like "resident" for long-term care facilities and "patient" for acute-care or other medical facilities. The whole "client" term is not something that I think will work out. It doesn't suit at all.

    I was in the hospital for a month and I "knew" I was a "patient". I wasn't offended by it at all. I think it has something to do with finding a more polite (for lack of a better word) term but it just doesn't work.

    I wish these people who are spending sleepless nights finding new terms for nurses (& other med staff) to use would spend that time and energy on other, more crucial nursing issues-especially those issues that nurses have had to deal with for sooooooo long, ie: patient-nurse ratio, etc.
  10. by   caliotter3
    Quote from babbz
    I only prefer terms like "resident" for long-term care facilities and "patient" for acute-care or other medical facilities. The whole "client" term is not something that I think will work out. It doesn't suit at all.

    I was in the hospital for a month and I "knew" I was a "patient". I wasn't offended by it at all. I think it has something to do with finding a more polite (for lack of a better word) term but it just doesn't work.

    I wish these people who are spending sleepless nights finding new terms for nurses (& other med staff) to use would spend that time and energy on other, more crucial nursing issues-especially those issues that nurses have had to deal with for sooooooo long, ie: patient-nurse ratio, etc.
    Have to agree with your last thought on this subject. The writers of textbooks and those who do inane studies could be contributing useful ideas to the profession, even if they did nothing more than go and work the floor somewhere.
  11. by   MiaKeaRN
    We were told we should refer to patient's as "clients" during the first few weeks of clinicals, but I don't think I called them clients once during the semester. Any time I had a question, I referred to them as "my patient". Didn't get hand smacked or told about it from my clinical instructor, so unless someone is going to write me up I'll continue to call them patients.
  12. by   elkpark
    The use of "client" rather than "patient" started in mental health (my specialty area) -- not nursing -- in the '70s, with the growth of humanistic psychology and lots of changes/reforms in psychiatric treatment. The idea was that "patients" are people who lie in beds and have things done to them (and, in the first place, most mental health clients don't lie in beds), while "clients" are people who engage and collaborate with professionals (us) to accomplish desired outcomes -- and, while the professionals make recommendations and provide services, it is the client who directs the care and makes the final decisions. Words have a lot of power, and the change of terminology was purposely intended to get mental health professionals to start thinking of clients as people we worked with, rather than people we did things to. While that philosophy of client/patient-centered care has now worked its way through the entire spectrum of healthcare, most of the medical community is still resistant to the term "client."

    I use "client" consistently, but am certainly not staying up nights or putting any energy into trying to figure out how to get others to do the same if they don't choose to. It's no skin off my teeth either way.

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