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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.

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