Sunday, April 26, 2015


It's metoprolol.


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 metalazone, 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. 


Bob Fenton said...

Thank you for this. I sincerely wish more doctors would learn how to communicate and not leave us as patients wondering what the heck was just said. The say take this medicine and see me in three months. This then leaves me the task of asking many questions of the pharmacist who is also busy, but required by law to explain prescriptions.

Anonymous said...

As a medical transcriptionist, I deal with mangled pronounciations, wrong dosages, patient data mix-ups each and every day, and speech recognition makes them even worse. My fellow workers and I are ever so grateful for doctors like you who invest the extra minute or two to be clear and concise. You make our day.

Never Again said...

I love this one. On my blog I talk about medical vocabulary a lot. NO doesn't mean "no", amnesia is what you get while you are sleeping or unconscious, pain free means you have amnesia, (so does awake and alert) Versid instead of Versed will get you Versed etc. It's absolutely amazing. Then *I* get in trouble from medical types for parsing.