The nurse on the other end of the phone sighs as she tolerates my tirade regarding pronunciation. They all know that I am particular about such things. For metoprolol is neither metoclopramide or metolazone, and the difference could be life altering.
I live in a world of words. Trained in a language created to parse pertinent details. Dysarthria or dysphagia? Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, dyspnea on exertion, or orthopnea?
Each variant a spectrum of flavor. A morsel chewed, swallowed, and digested into its basic parts to be rattled off in staccato sentences between physicians. A meaning conveyed to bring like minds to similar conclusions. A common language among colleagues to convey a story, to solve a mystery, to make a plan of attack.
And my patients words carry similar weight. The accent on a particular syllable drawing significance unconsciously to a hidden meaning. An atypical descriptor pushing the diagnostic engine toward a nefarious path. The absence of content, words carelessly unspoken.
My patient’s future becomes precariously perched on such ambiguities. My ability to interpret separates durable medical care from chaos.
So you will have to excuse me if I occasionally get caught on words. If I become stuck on pronunciation or am a stickler about meaning.
I gently correct the cardiologist as we pass in the hall.
It’s Rothberg not Rothschild. R-o-t-h-b-e-r-g.
And she died two nights ago.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion. Watch his talk at dotMED 2013, Caring 2.0: Social Media and the Rise Of The Empathic Physician. He is the author of I Am Your Doctor: and This Is My Humble Opinion.
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