For the New Year: The Power of Language
Sorry for the delay, but a time-out for re-charging was a much-needed priority. I was under the weather, especially after cross-country travel. Speaking of weather, this year started out great, with a trip to Miami for speaking engagements for the Advanced Renal Education Program (AREP) and the Renal Research Institute (RRI). The former was the latest in a number of talks I have been giving around the country (see my Events Page), and the latter was the 18th International Conference on Dialysis featuring cutting- edge research in the field..
I am very gratified to speak at RRI, because it demonstrates the organization's commitment to the message I share, and this is one of my target audiences. It is wonderful to speak directly to people who live with dialysis--and I do that as often as I can, both in groups and individually--but I feel the way I can be of service to the maximum number of people to improve outcomes is to reach out to medical practitioners. Doctors, nurses, renal professionals, internists, and, especially to the specialists-in-training, The Renal Fellows.
My talk to the physicians this year was directed at expanding the vision of medical professionals in looking at patients, not just as "Patients" or statistics, but as "People." I urged them to provide more education and communication with people, especially those new to dialysis. The term "Patient" becomes counter-productive as it can easily feel like "Victim" and that's of no help to anyone. I was asked, "Then what would you suggest?" When it comes to managing an ongoing health condition, the "patient" has to continue being a "person." I believe engaging the person to take responsibility for his care to the greatest extent possible, is key.
Here is a snippet of my talk in which I highlight negative messages contained in typical nomenclature: in this case, ESRD, or End Stage Renal Disease:
Other entries in the "Power of Language" that I discussed include "patient" (see above) "chronic illness", and "compliance", all among my favorites. "Chronic illness" connotes, "Forget about it, your life is over, you are a permanent sick-y." NOT TRUE. I like "ongoing health condition." "Compliance" connotes "BAD boy! BAD girl!" Do what I say!" I like "adherence". These alternatives convey the positive message that you have something that you can manage successfully and continue to live a good life.
I may never be able to change my kidney function, but I can control how I manage the therapy that, to a certain extent, replaces it. I can control how I bring meaning and purpose to my life. Broadening that concept, you can see that it applies to any life obstacle that must be addressed.