Say what, now?

I was chatting with the boss yesterday about communication. She’d mentioned that recently she’d seen a talk show on TV with Alan Alda as a guest. Alda was talking about how he’s been working with human med school students about how to speak to people so they understand what’s being said. The boss and I disagree a little about how technical we can be without overwhelming a client, but she made an important point: sometimes we forget how alien medical terminology can be.

Interestingly, the site I host the blog with (WordPress), gives me a lot of data from search engines that people use to find the blog and/or the topics of my posts. I can see what some of the common search terms were that led people to the blog. This ties in because the posts that have gotten the most hits are the posts in which I explain more about particular diseases or detail out terms or concepts.

The short list below is a selection of things that came right to mind as being confusing items. I hope it’ll help get you thinking about other things that just don’t click for you. Ask away!j

•A heartworm test is done with a blood sample.

•A fecal exam / stool check / parasite check is done with a poop sample and looks for intestinal worms. (Hookworm, roundworm, whipworm.)

•A Distemper shot doesn’t have anything to do with a dog’s temperament. It’s also referred to as a DHPP or DA2P vaccine. The abbreviated letters indicate which diseases are in the vaccine. Distemper, Hepatitis (Adenovirus type 2), Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus.

•The kennel cough vaccine comes in 2 forms: injection and a liquid squirted into the nose. The full name for the vaccine is Bordetella. (Bore-duh-tell-uh) We often hear “bordello” vaccine, which is … a term we wouldn’t cover on a family blog. 😉

•Heartworm prevention products all cover pets for heartworm prevention, AND some of the intestinal worms that they can get. The different products cover a different selection of intestinal parasites. We decide which product is best by looking at a pet’s lifestyle and activities.

•When we find a lump/bump on a dog, we’re likely to call it a tumor or a mass. These words do NOT indicate that that we know whether it’s cancerous or not. A lump or mass is an easier way to say “neoplasia,” which means “new growth.” In order to know whether a mass is cancerous, we need to take a needle sample or a piece to send to a pathologist.

•With those tumors, a sample that we take with a needle is called a “Fine Needle Aspirate.” We poke a needle and syringe into the tumor and suck out some cells. We squirt the cells onto a glass microscope slide and then examine it under the microscope. We can sometimes tell what a tumor is based on how the cells look. When we surgically take a chunk of the mass and send that off to the pathologist, that’s a biopsy.

•When we remove the ovaries and uterus of a female dog or cat, that’s a spay. The full name is ovariohysterectomy. The past tense version would be spayed, which sounds like ‘spade,’ but a spade is a shovel. We will often abbreviate the surgery as OHE or OVH.

•When we remove the testicles from a male dog or cat, that’s called a neuter, or orchiectomy. That surgery is often abbreviated as an OE.

I think that’s a pretty good start. What has your vet said that just wasn’t that clear? We can work on making it more understandable.



Filed under communication, human interest, practice

7 responses to “Say what, now?

  1. It’s always helpful to review the basics. It’s nice to know what we do have a handle on and what needs further clarification. Good job 🙂 And as always, if I have a question, you will be the first to know!

  2. Sue and John Foster

    Very nice, thanks!

  3. I’m all ears for questions, anytime! 🙂

  4. dr. Hutch, I will have to take some of the blame for you using more technical terms. When you come home to visit and on our frequent phone calls, we use more medical terms. I am a nurse, so we usually use more “medical lingo ” than most people. At my job in human medicine, I answer the phone, answer many questions my patients ask, is post is a good reminder that I too, need to communicate in terms lay people can understand. Many of my patients are elderly and are very concerned about their cardiac (see, I should say heart) conditions. Thanks for the info,as always helps more that just the animal world. See you on Sunday. MOM

  5. In my experience, -any- communication has to be effective. It’s just as bad to speak in layperson’s terms when the one you’re speaking to has a background in the subject area. I’ve got a few human medical professionals as clients, and they get upset when I put things too simply. The hard part is judging how to say something so that you walk the fine line between being condescending and effectively communicating. Time and practice help.

    I will let you take the “blame” for always asking, “Do you understand me?” Put in slightly less intense words, it’s always helpful to check how effectively you’ve said something. “Did I explain that clearly?” puts the responsibility back on my shoulders, so if I’ve done a bad job explaining, a client can feel comfortable saying “Nope, you didn’t.” I can then back up and try again, which is exactly what I want and need to do. 🙂

    Good thoughts, mom! Thanks for chiming in!

  6. And kudos to Dr. Williams for suggesting this post. As your mom points out, we need to be effective communicators in all matters. As I have told my daughter hundreds of times, “Language is power.”

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