Medical terms

Since I’ve been spending a bit of extra time in the hospital this week I’ve become aware of the amount of specialized language that is a part of health care. Most of unfamiliar language comes from scientific and technical terms. The names of medicines , for example, tend to be a bit difficult for a lay person pronounce. The doctors and nurses have practiced, so they can reel off Cardizem, Lovenox, Digoxin, Metoprolol, Tikosyn, Eliquis and Amiodarone like they were everyday language. When I try to take notes on my cell phone, my spell checker doesn’t know any of those names. And there are all kinds of acronyms and letter combinations. TEE is not a beverage, but rather a diagnostic test: transesophogeal echocardiogram. NPO means “nothing by mouth,” but the letters come from a mix of Latin words: Non per oral. As I have been hanging out at the hospital there have been new words and phrases every day and for someone who enjoys words, it is a fun new learning curve.

Being at the hospital is a mixture of a few challenging, and sometimes frightening moments mixed in with a lot of waiting. A new medicine can take an hour or more to become metabolized and it can take 24 hours or more for a medicine to leave a body when it is discontinued. Some treatments require patience. In addition the hospital staff are serving a lot of patients and though they rush from room to room, the patients need to wait at times. This hospital has a continuously open kitchen so patients call to order meals off of a menu. It takes about 45 minutes for the meals to arrive and patients learn to anticipate the delay while they anticipate when a procedure or visit from a doctor might occur. Sometimes it works and they get a hot meal delivered and are able to eat it in peace. Sometimes the tray arrives at the same time as a person from the lab or a doctor or a procedure and the tray sits and the food gets cold while other events take precedence.

Even though I have a computer and work to do and a book to read, I find my self sitting with my mind wandering more while I’m at the hospital than is the case in my usual daily life. Yesterday I began to think of “new” hospital terms and their definitions.

I’ve been using my PED to track my HIEP to offset the PWA and CWB. My PED is my personal electronic device or cell phone. My HIEP is the “hospital induced exercise program.” Since the room I’m visiting is on the seventh floor, that is six flights up and six flights down each visit. The hospital has elevators, but I use the stairs because I ned the exercise and I feel better when I’ve had some physical activity to offset the hours spent sitting and waiting. According to my cell phone I climbed a total of 36 floors yesterday. I take a medicine that keeps my heart rate from going too fast, so I get a bit winded on the stairs and usually stop to catch my breath after three or four floors, so it take a bit of time for me to get up and down. PWA is “Physician waiting anxiety.” Since we don’t know when a doctor will make rounds, we spend quite a bit of time waiting to talk to the doctors. I want to be present for doctor visits as much as possible, but I also need to take care of things at our office, so I do quite a bit of running back and forth and then waiting for the doctor to arrive. CWB is “clinical waiting boredom.” There is a lot of waiting in the hospital. It takes time for lab tests to be processed. It takes time for the pharmacy to deliver medications to the floor. It takes time for different procedures to be performed. The term “patient” is appropriate. It requires patience.

Most of the time I consider waiting to be a gift. I have a very busy life and sometimes I fail to take time to reflect and meditate. If I end up in a waiting room, I try to take advantage of the opportunity to think and pray. But the balance of waiting and acting is thrown off by spending extra time at the hospital this week. I seem to be either rushing or sitting with very little in between. As a result my mind wanders in strange directions as I sit.

I’ve been remembering my mother quite a bit this week. One reason is the simple fact that the room I’ve been visiting happens to be a room that my mom occupied briefly more than a decade ago when she was receiving treatment at the same hospital. Another reason is that she was a nurse and when we were children she taught us a few medical terms. In her days as a nurse medical schools used a lot of Latin and doctors and nurses loved the specialty language. I studied Latin in high school, so we had a few shared words. Neither of us became fluent in the language, so it it wasn’t a private language, just a few words and phrases that we could use from time to time.

Learning a bit of the hospital culture is helpful when you end up spending a bit of time there. It can be frightening and intimidating with all of the activity and the processes of quick decisions and actions, but learning about what they are doing and the reasons for the decisions can help to ease anxiety. I’m grateful that I have a capable cell phone with internet access and a son who is a medical librarian to help me lean all of the necessary terms and concepts. Doing a bit of research has been very helpful for my understanding.

And who knows, perhaps I’ll add something to the medical literature. I’m hoping HIEP sticks. I think I’ll start using it whenever I’m around doctors or hospitals.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!