Control: What is in a name?

The British Medical Journal has sporadic articles under the theme ‘what your patient is thinking. In November 2018, the article was about control, and it was written by a woman called Judith Hendley, who has diabetes.

The article shows us how language in the consulting room can reduce patients to being their condition, a diabetic, a sufferer from diabetes, an unhealthy person, whose job in life is to control the only thing of interest to the clinician, their HBA1C.

She says ‘any kind of open question that allows me to feel understood and supported and not judged for the choices I make about how I manage my condition is more helpful. For example, “How are you feeling about your diabetes at the moment?”, “What is most important to you right now?”, or “What ideas have you thought about for how you could handle that?” ‘

This is where I think we are heading when we move to ‘House of Care‘ – shifting our focus to a style of working where the patient teaches us about their condition, and we help them deal with the important issues and problems that they bring to us.

In a small community, this is probably a bit easier, as we know our patients well as individuals, but the years of QOF have made us slaves to the check-list, the need to get in our questions about control early. Time to break that mould and bring in the new.

The article includes this wise guidance:

  • Listen to the language patients use and try to reflect it back to them in your observations or questions
  • Take the time to find out what matters to your patients—the things that they are worrying about might not be obvious to you
  • Think about the language you use when you are referring to or writing about people with diabetes or other long term conditions—would they find the language you have used empowering or disempowering?

You can read the article here: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3119

Published by

Dr Kate

I am a GP in Benbecula, with interests in patient safety, human factors, and data.

One thought on “Control: What is in a name?”

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