The danger of assuming

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Category : Medical Rants

Recently I have spent much time listening to linguistic podcasts. They have triggered many thoughts about how we take histories from patients. Linguistics represents a very complex science of language.

One concept that has intrigued me involves the meaning of words. When we hear words or read words, we automatically assign a meaning to those words. Too often, especially when we are students and residents, we make assumptions about meaning. However, with experience we learn that words mean different things to different persons.

Experience teaches us that certain words have different meanings amongst patients. Thus, we have to practice our questioning skills to determine the story with precision. Some examples that come to mind include: diarrhea, pain, weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Patients often use these words to describe their symptoms

, but further questions reveal a wide variance in their meaning of the words.

For example

, when a patient claims diarrhea, we should not start ordering tests without further characterizing the symptoms.

Learn to not make assumptions from the words patients use without spending the time to further specify the symptoms. Assuming definitions without clarification will often lead to over-testing or misdiagnoses. While it takes precious time, we have a responsibility to understand what is bothering the patient. We should not assume that we know just from single word complaints.

Comments (2)

Good article and the same type it looks more informative. I suggest this blog for all my friends who want to know more about health care industry. Thanks for sharing such a informative article and keep providing the same articles

I feel like theres so much danger in assuming, and like having expectations, can result in let downs at the end of the day.

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