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Sticks and Stones may hurt my bones, but words may ALSO hurt, too!

As health care providers we can become so busy managing multiple patients, caregivers, and family members that we often forget that our language can be hurtful. It’s so easy to refer to a patient as “the stroke patient,” or the “autistic boy.” It may not seem like a big deal to us that see patients with multiple diagnoses, but to that person, it can make them feel as though their illness or condition defines them. We should use people first language: “The person who had a stroke” or “The boy who has been diagnosed with autism.”

 As health care providers, we need to be careful how treatment ideas or interventions are presented to patients. I recently had a patient who was a retired clinical psychologist. I was working with her on her balance problems. I would often explain to her why we were doing certain treatments to decrease her fall risk. She felt my explanation was subconsciously giving her permission to fall. Also, it’s important that we provide our patients with positive feedback. Instead of saying, “no not like that,” we must point out the part they did correctly. For example, “you had great form with that exercise, just remember to keep your core tight.”

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 It is important that we accurately explain the interventions we do with our patients; however, it is equally important that we do not let their illness or condition define them, and that we give constructive criticism.

 The links below help explain these concepts better: