Hello! I am a Physiotherapist and Lecturer with an interest in words, language and communication. Over the past 18 years it has become apparent that at times we can be unaware of how our communication with the person in front of ushas longer lasting effect. We think we are saying something loud and clear, unyet often what we think we said isn’t exactly what that patient heard.
I think this is most evident when someone returns to the clinic having merrily been doing an exercise completely wrong for the whole week, I often think ‘I didn’t tell you to do that’, but that was their interpretation having done the exercise in clinic with me, gone and done some shopping, picked the kids up from school and cooked the tea then devised a completely different exercise. But that’s what they THOUGHT I had said! Lesson learnt, always document instructions even if they say they don’t need it, because often after a few hours what you said morphs into something else entirely.
Same thing can be said for appointments with other Healthcare Professionals, there are so many occasions when I have heard ‘he said I had a glass back’, ‘my joints are crumbling’ or ‘you’ll probably end up in a wheelchair’. Some people hear a load of jargon about what’s happened but have no idea what it means, its relevance or how to move forward. Can you imagine the visual links that go with a crumbling joint, hand in hand with the fear, emotion and catastrophisation about the impact this may have on someones future/work/family?
As Professionals we need to be careful of our language, our education of patients taking note of their levels of Health Literature understanding and the wider psychosocial impact this may have. Let’s not be complacent, we might see these things daily, we might hear these worries every hour but lets remember that each person that walks through our door represents an individual with different concerns, goals and understanding.
The goal of this blog is to bring to life some of the things I hear people say in clinic to raise our awareness of how words can have a greater impact on the wider social and psychological context of the person in front of us. It will introduce some Neurosciencce thoughts on memory formation, ignition nodes and synaptic connections in the brain, thought processes and emotion. Our words can be painful not only in an emotional context but can contribute to actual pain perception. Let this self awareness be our first step to being better.