Tag Archives: words

A confusion of words?

Confusion_of_Tongues
The tower of Babel (engraving by Gustav Dore)

I am fascinated by the use of words. Well, I should say that I am fascinated by how people use certain words to present a desirable image of themselves. An everyday example is the obvious one of politicians – you can see them deliberatel pausing several times in an interview to think carefully about what words utter from their mouths.
Rightly so. We all know how easily people can be insulted over a few words (ask Mr Clarkson from Top Gear about this) and so choosing our words is vital.

Using the wrong word can spell doom. I recently marked an assignment where a student ‘psycho-educated a patient on holidays abroad’. Yes this could be psycho education before someone comments but in the context of the essay it clearly was not. Put simply, if you do not know what a word means, then don’t use it as incorrect use sends a very clear signal of the level of your knowledge on the subject!

One phrase that irritates the hell out of me is ‘1:1 intervention’. I saw a football match the other week where the result was 1:1 so if a nurse says they had a 1:1, does this mean they played football? What is so wrong with saying ‘I spoke with…’ or heaven forbid whats wrong with saying ‘I chatted with…’? I am extremely proud that I have never conducted a 1:1 intervention with a patient but I am equally as proud that I have chatted with many over the years. I think that the meaning of ‘1:1 intervention’ has been lost/warped over time, this is evidenced by a student seeing me and explaining how they had a 1:1 with a patient and their family. I explained that one to one means a private chat between two people but this was lost on the poor soul because his mentor (a nurse in practice) had informed him that this work was indeed classed as a’1:1’.

We also ‘ob’ patients. The phrase ‘observe’ has been lost or to be precise the meaning has been lost. To ‘ob’ someone is simply to aimlessly follow someone around with the bizarre belief that this helps. What is wrong with chatting anyhow? Chatting with someone allows for the assessment of memory, orientation, delusional ideas, concentration, anxiety, paranoia – well the list goes on. It is the skilful nurse who uses these informal opportunities to gather information and to develop the greatest tool in a nurse’s armoury – the therapeutic relationship.

So why do we use these words? Well, I believe it comes to us as nurses losing our sense of self pride. What is wrong with saying I chatted with Fred? Answer – it simply doesn’t sound professionally credible. Are we scared that other health professionals may say ‘but talking isn’t really work that a professional does’ and so we disguise it by saying we conducted a 1:1 intervention? Perhaps those who are familiar with a previous post “Registered Nurse Plumber” may already know the direction that I am going.

Who do you want caring for you and your loved ones – the nurse who conducts 1:1 interventions with patients or the nurse who chats with you?