Doctor’s Visit: Tummy Bug

Situation:

Mr. Smith, a 50-year-old male, is experiencing diarrhea accompanied by abdominal cramps, nausea, and low-grade fever. He went to visit Dr. Chen, an internist.

Dialogue:

Dr. Chen: Hello Mr. Smith. How are you feeling now?

Mr. Smith: I feel a bit under the weather.

Dr. Chen: Would you please tell me the symptoms that you are experiencing.

Mr. Smith: I’ve been passing loose stools since this morning.

Dr. Chen: Oh, you might have a tummy bug.

Mr. Smith: I’m having abdominal cramps. I also feel warm and nauseous.

Dr. Chen: Okay. Let me check your temperature first. You’re running a fever. We need to conduct a few tests on you to further identify the cause of your illness. I’ll get back to check and update you on the laboratory results once they are in.

Mr. Smith: Thanks Dr. Chen!

Dr. Chen: You’re welcome. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Vocabulary:

Under the weather Ill, sick , ailing
Got you covered Another way of saying “we’ll take care of your needs”
Tummy bug Stomach flu/virus
Run a fever To have a temperature higher than normal
Nauseous Sick to the stomach and you may feel like vomiting
Loose stool Diarrhea; loose, watery stool quickly discharged during bowel movement:

Notes/Analysis:

  • Aside from feeling sick, the phrase under the weather could also mean feeling down or depressed. It is also used as a euphemism for a hangover. This expression was said to have originated in the early 1800s suggesting that the weather affects someone’s health.

Example: She felt under the weather when her dog died. (This means she felt depressed.)

Andrew was drinking all night and now he feels under the weather. (This is another way to say that a person is suffering from a hangover.)

  • When you say you got something or someone covered, it means you will provide whatever is needed. It’s another way of saying you’ll take care of everything.

Example: When the attending physician is on a vacation, the locum tenens gets him or her covered. (Meaning: The temporary physician (locum tenens) will take care of everything while the attending physician is on a vacation.)

  • The tummy bug is medically known as the intestinal flu or gastroenteritis although it’s not caused by the influenza virus. A bug is an informal term for a virus.

Example: Mr. Smith suffers from nausea, abdominal cramps, and fever. The doctor suspects he is infected with the tummy bug.

  • When someone is running a fever, his or her temperature is higher than normal.

Example: The flu caused her to run a fever. (Meaning: The flu made her body temperature rise.)

  • Nausea is being sick to the stomach, giving you the urge to vomit (throw up/puke). When you are suffering from nausea, you are said to be nauseous.

Example: The smell of the dead rat made him nauseous. (Meaning: The smell of the dead rat is so disgusting. It made him want to throw up.

  • When you have loose stool, the matter that comes out during bowel movement is watery and it is discharged quickly. It is another term for diarrhea.

Example: The spoiled spaghetti made me pass loose stool.

 

Comprehension:

  1. Why does Mr. Smith feel under the weather?
  2. What could be the possible cause of Mr. Smith’s illness?
  3. At around what time did Mr. Smith start passing loose stools?
  4. Were Mr. Smith’s needs being attended to?

 

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Breaking the Communication Barrier in Healthcare

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Communication is vital in our daily life activities. Without clear communication, it’s so easy to misconstrue things and misunderstanding is always a precursor of conflicts. Excellent communication skills are important in any field of practice, but most especially in the medical field where there is no room for errors.

There are many reasons why effective communication is essential in the field of healthcare just as it is in other practices. Healthcare professionals must effectively communicate not only to their patients but to other members of the healthcare team as well to successfully manage the patient’s condition  and promote quality care.

One of the major communication barriers in the medical field is language barrier. Even when we all speak the same language, language barrier may still exist. It is because we were born on different generations. We either use seemingly archaic words or like kids these days we are fond of using slang that compels others to consult urban dictionary. Aside from that, coming from different regions of the country, our accents may vary or we may use terms that are local to where we come from. Another possible barrier is the use of jargons. Different professions use their own jargons. Imagine talking to a patient, discussing about his condition or a certain procedure using all these rather strange medical terms. There will be so much unwarranted confusion in that and it may greatly hurt communication.  Well, thanks to the internet. It has become easier for us to look up words or terms that we are not familiar with.

Communication is already challenging enough even when we are all native English speakers so you can just imagine the struggle for those who speak limited or no English. Limited English Proficiency (LEP) is a great challenge in the medical field for both patients and healthcare professionals. It has been found that nearly 20 million people in the US are not English proficient and this language barrier greatly affects the quality of healthcare.

Hospitals in the US, specifically in California and Texas, hire interpreters to help facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers so the medical history, symptoms, treatment and other matters pertaining to the patient’s admission can be successfully managed. However, not all institutions have their own interpreters to act as a bridge between patients and healthcare professionals.

Language barrier does not only affect the quality of patient care, but this has also led to misdiagnosis of certain conditions and even fatal treatments. These unfortunate incidences have become commonplace as the amalgamation of different cultures into one community continues.

Institutions have tried different approaches in an attempt to address the language barrier issue in the field of healthcare. The International Community Health Services per se with four clinics around Seattle, Washington, require all their medical staff to speak at least one language aside from English.  Healthcare providers have also gone to great lengths, using strategies like sign/hand language, illustrations and drawings to attend to their patients’ needs as promptly as they can because it is against the law to refuse or delay treatment due to language barrier. Patients who do not speak English are also suggested to bring along friends or family members who speak the language.  Hospitals also tried their best efforts to translate documents to ensure that the patient or family members understand them. Despite all these efforts to break the communication barrier in healthcare, errors remain highly unavoidable.

It is difficult for physicians to treat what they don’t understand, according to an article about the physician’s role as patient advocate published in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics . That is why it is very important for healthcare professionals, especially physicians, to be effective communicators so patients’ needs are better addressed and excellent care is guaranteed.