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Medical Terms Patients Have Misunderstood

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As patients we sometimes misunderstand terms that you guys as medical profesionals use. I am sure there are some funny stories of these misunderstandings.

My story. A few months ago I was having an MRI because I had not been hungery for a few months and had been getting sick. My specialist wanted to make sure it was not a tumor since I have Neurofibromatosis. I stopped by to say hi to her NP before it and she happened to come in. At this point I was wearing a patch over my eye because I could not wear my prosthetic eye for a little while.

She turns to me, "Oh no you have that metal in your head don't you?" and I said yes. She realized since she had had an MRI just 3 days prior that might be a problem. She paged my plastic surgeon who calls her back. He says it is ok and then aparently asks why I need it, because she states, "Oh, she has anorexia and vomiting"

I FREAKED!!!!!!! I did not know what to say. I did not realize that anorexia is a medical term for not eating and anorexia nervosa is the eating disorder. I have known this doc for 12 years and was (until I understood the misunderstanding) upset that she thought I would do that to myself.

I said nothing to her but came home and told my mom (who used to be a nurse). She informed me of the misunderstanding. Man was I embarrassed that I had gotten upset.

What are your stories of patients misunderstanding terms that had been used.

Hospice Nurse LPN, BSN, RN

Specializes in LTC, Psych, Hospice. Has 15 years experience.

I have a dear friend whose dad had lung CA. He was getting worse and one day Bruce called to tell me that his dad was terminal and the doc had called in the "hostile people" What he meant was the "hospice people"!:banghead:

As patients we sometimes misunderstand terms that you guys as medical profesionals use. I am sure there are some funny stories of these misunderstandings.

My story. A few months ago I was having an MRI because I had not been hungery for a few months and had been getting sick. My specialist wanted to make sure it was not a tumor since I have Neurofibromatosis. I stopped by to say hi to her NP before it and she happened to come in. At this point I was wearing a patch over my eye because I could not wear my prosthetic eye for a little while.

She turns to me, "Oh no you have that metal in your head don't you?" and I said yes. She realized since she had had an MRI just 3 days prior that might be a problem. She paged my plastic surgeon who calls her back. He says it is ok and then aparently asks why I need it, because she states, "Oh, she has anorexia and vomiting"

I FREAKED!!!!!!! I did not know what to say. I did not realize that anorexia is a medical term for not eating and anorexia nervosa is the eating disorder. I have known this doc for 12 years and was (until I understood the misunderstanding) upset that she thought I would do that to myself.

I said nothing to her but came home and told my mom (who used to be a nurse). She informed me of the misunderstanding. Man was I embarrassed that I had gotten upset.

What are your stories of patients misunderstanding terms that had been used.

Your experience points out how we have to be very careful in what we say to patients, and make sure they understand the meaning too. Too often the lay (or common) definition doesn't equate to that of medical terminology.

I used to work on a psychiatric consultation-liaison team in a large teaching hospital. For reasons that were never explained to me, this particular hospital did not refer to us as the psych consultation-liaison team (or service), like every other hospital in the world, but called us the Behavior Assessment Team. We were referred to (affectionately) throughout the medical center as "the BAT nurses." It was v. common that, when a consult had been ordered, the staff nurse would tell the patient to stay in the room and not go anywhere, "because the BAT nurse is coming to see you."

Well, since the term "BAT nurse" meant absolutely nothing to any of the patients, they typically interpreted what the nurse had said as, "the bad nurse is coming." It was v. common that we would arrive, review the chart out at the desk, and then go into the patient's room to introduce ourselves -- and find the patient lying in the bed, trembling in fear, terrified of what "the BAD NURSE" was going to do to her/him when she arrived!! :chuckle

kakamegamama

Specializes in MCH,NICU,NNsy,Educ,Village Nursing.

I had a relative who spoke about her epesioshgesti after the birth of her first child. I kept asking her "what?" and she kept saying epesioshgesti. I FINALLY figured it out after she explained the procedure the doc had done! I decided that she hadn't heard the term too clearly when the doc had told her what he was doing.

Laughs-a-lot, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg/Tele. Has 3 years experience.

I had a pt that just came up from the ED with abd pain, they were thinking gall bladder. So the house doc went in to see her, it was about 4 am, and he probably explained the possibility of surgery, depending on what the test results were. I wasn't in the room at this time. When he came out to the nurses staton, he handed me the chart, I said thanks. Not much more went on. I went in the pt room explained to her that she was going to have some x-rays taken, and NPO, and that we were going to start her on some IV antbx, and hang some IVF with KCl and which is common, etc...and that as soon as pharmacy had everything prepared that I will bring it in, and use the call light if you need anything meantime. So 20 mins later, she calls me in there and she's furious and yelling at me about how I'm too lazy to walk my *** downstairs and get her IVF and that something that important should be kept on stock here on the floor, and that she is goig to surgery anytime now, and nothing is ready. I'm like WHAT??? I said who told you were going to have surgery.? She's like well the doctor told me I've got about 2 hrs to try to get some sleep. I said well that's because radiology starts doing x-rays at 7AM, and reassured her that the dr said nothing to me about surg at this point, and there were nothing in his progress notes and we would see what the tests showed first and then go from there. I did ot mention that If pharm were a little quickerI would be more that willing to march down there and get her IVF, and Yes let's pre-mixed bags of potassium on the floor, better yet, let's keep vials of K in the fridge next to the insulin and we can quickly prepare the fluids ourselves so that you don't have to wait. Instead I just smiled and left the room with the warm reminder of "If you need anything, please don't hesitate to use the call light."

jessiern, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg.

We are no longer allowed to document or use the term "SOB", shortness of breath because I nurse told a doctor the patient had SOB, patient overheard. Patient heard nurse telling doctor he was an SOB.

nrsang97, BSN, RN

Specializes in Neuro ICU and Med Surg. Has 20 years experience.

I posted the comment from a phone repair man at work in another theread. He saw my computer charting progress notes, that the pt was SOB with exertion. He thought I was calling pt a SOB. I had to explain the terminology to him.

Also I have had a pt father call and ask "Is she still on the breathilizer?" I had told him that the pt was extubated and not on the ventilator at this time. I had to try hard not to laugh at that one.

My mom told me this story, and I wanted to share. When her hospital went to computer charting they had their set computers that were on desks and they also had mobile laptop type computers that they could roll into patient's rooms for admissions and such. Since they were "computers on wheels" they were calling them "COWs". Until one nurse asked another "where the COW was?" and the nurse answered "room xxx has the COW" well the patient in room xxx overheard that, and didn't really apperciate being called a cow. Needless to say they now call the computers "WOWs" (workstations on wheels) to avoid anymore confusion. :lol2:

nelcoy4

Specializes in Rehab, Neuro, Travel Nurse, Home Care. Has 18 years experience.

I had a patient tell me about one of the nurses that took care of him. He was saying positive things about her and when I asked her name he said a name of somebody that doesn't work on the floor. I had him describe her because maybe he got her name wrong. Then it dawned on me that she was a pool nurse. I said that to him. He looked at me like I was crazy. I had to explain what a pool nurse is.

I know this is not a medical term, but the patient looked so confused.

I also get the confused look if I say a med is a prn.

Once I had a patient tell me they wanted some "stat" (it wasn't anything medical needed). I told the patient they have been watching too much ER.

Hey JustaPatient, never be afraid to ask questions!!! If you don't fully understand something (or if you misunderstand something), you have every right to ask, and I'm sure that NP would have said, "Oh, sorry!" and explained it to you!!! *All* patients need to ask questions!!!!!!!! Sometimes we forget that we need to simplfy, or we use medical terms/abbreviations without realizing it!!!! Just say, "wait, what?", and we'll be glad to 'splain it to you! ;)

AngelfireRN, MSN, RN, APRN

Specializes in med-surg, psych, ER, school nurse-CRNP. Has 15 years experience.

At the hospital where I used to work, dietary would put a card with the diet type on the tray. One day, we had a 14 year old with stomach issues, and dinner had just been served. The call light went on, I went in to see what was up. The patient was in tears, Mom was fit to be tied, and wanted to know WHO thought her precious baby was a brat.

Took some digging to get through the hysteria, but finally determined that the kid was on a BRAT diet, and that the card had just said "BRAT".

Once I explained it, all was well, but you can bet dietary stopped writing that on those little cards.

november17, ASN, RN

Specializes in Ortho, Case Management, blabla. Has 9 years experience.

I once had an older lady with dementia as a patient that just grumbled about everything all the time. She was really melodramatic about everything...I'd guess that she was probably a bit of a diva in her younger days. She was pretty fun to take care of though for the few days that I had her.

She'd throw her hand up to her brow and say, "Doctor! Doctor! I am so happy to see you. I'm so miserable. I don't know what to do!" Not in a way that she meant she wanted me to do anything, she knew we were doing everything we could, but just that's how she vented her feelings. I'd say, "I'm not a doctor, ma'am." She'd say, "I know! But to me you're my doctor! I never ever seen the doctor here. That doctor was here for 5 minutes earlier and didn't say a word to me. You should have been a doctor! Why don't you go back to school and be doctor??" Repeat this conversation every other time I'd go in her room.

Anyways, this one night she was doing her super-dramatic "I'm so miserable" schpiel (I think she liked playing the role of patient). Anyways, she threw her hands in the air and said gloomily, "Oh Doctor...I can't live like this forever! I don't know when this will stop! Sometimes I think it would just be better if someone circumsized me..:pntlft:" (she meant to say euthanized, I think). I said, "Oh Ma'am, I don't think anyone would ever circumsize a sweet lady like you!" And I had to run out of the room and laughed my butt off.. :lghmky:

Hey JustaPatient, never be afraid to ask questions!!! If you don't fully understand something (or if you misunderstand something), you have every right to ask, and I'm sure that NP would have said, "Oh, sorry!" and explained it to you!!! *All* patients need to ask questions!!!!!!!! Sometimes we forget that we need to simplfy, or we use medical terms/abbreviations without realizing it!!!! Just say, "wait, what?", and we'll be glad to 'splain it to you! ;)

Thing is she was not talking to me. She was talking ABOUT me on the phone to another one of my doctors with me sitting there. lol

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