Avoid these words when speaking to patients

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Using language with negative emotional content may lead to an increase in the patient’s experience of pain or anxiety.
  • Words such as try, pain, vomit and panic should be avoided with patients unless the patient mentions them first.

That is according to Dr Allan Cyna, an Obstetric and Paediatric Anaesthetist at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Australia who, this week, presented new research at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) on the power of suggestive language.

Dr Cyna explained that patients often go on to experience more pain if it is suggested and emphasised immediately prior to a potentially painful procedure. “Suggestibility increases when patients are highly anxious or distressed. It is also increased in pregnancy and in children,’’ Dr Cyna said.

Dr Cyna said anaesthetists and other medical specialists should talk to patients about why a procedure is being done rather than trying to predict the patient experience.
She added: “Telling patients that there are ways they can improve their comfort after surgery, not only by the use of medications, but also by appreciating that the operation is completed and that everything is settling down as healing and recovery take place, can make the experience after surgery more comfortable.’’


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