Spin Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Every profession has its own technical jargon.  This is necessary in some cases because you deal with concepts that don’t come up in every-day conversation.  Sometimes it’s necessary in order to be precise, especially in communicating with another professional. It’s a lot easier to just say "intussussception" than "you know, that thingy where the bowel kind of telescopes on itself for no particular reason and causes a blockage" when you’re hobnobbing with your fellow wizards.

Of course, there are many times when it is NOT necessary.  You might do it out of force of habit, like a newly graduated doctor using the technical lingo that was required while in veterinary school.  I used to have to correct my associate (when I had one).  She would start talking about "renal insufficiency" (kidneys not working well) when a lot of people are pretty fuzzy on what kidneys do in the first place.  Most of the time, you can use common terms to explain what’s going on. 

On the other hand, jargon is sometimes used to let other people know that they are not "in the club", which is understandable, though pathetically petty.  The worst use of jargon is to cover up the fact that you don’t know what is going on.  Use enough made-up words and the other person will think that he is the dumb one.  That’s really despicable.

I just love seeing a patient as a second opinion for a long-term skin problem.  "What did Dr.X think the problem was?"  "He said it was dermatitis."  Well, he wasn’t wrong there.  Since dermatitis is a generic term for messed up skin, the client already knew that: that’s why he brought in the patient.  "We have some erythema" equals "It’s red". "Excoriation" equals "he sure has scratched this hard enough to hurt himself". "Pyotraumatic dermatitis" equals "his skin has been scratched so hard that it’s oozing pus".  These are all things that are technically correct, but are just obfuscating descriptions.  They are not telling you anything about what is really going on or why.  Sounds scientific as all get out, though, doesn’t it?

There are times when it just makes you feel better to use a euphemism.  Sometimes  it’s obvious that there is some major problem, but you can’t find anything out of the ordinary on physical examination and you don’t know what is going on.  It makes me feel a lot smarter to write up the record with "physical examination is unremarkable and diagnosis is open" than "Man, I couldn’t find anything and I have no idea what’s going on here."  In either case, my next step is to work out a plan for diagnostic testing.  However, it should be obvious that a scientist with an unremarkable physical exam and open diagnosis is going to have a better plan than some quack who couldn’t find anything and doesn’t have a clue. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *