The Language of Doctors

Anyone who has ever spent enough time in the hospital has a good story about it; Perri Klass, in her article “She’s Your Basic LOL in NAD,” tells about her medical jargon experience. It seems like, for many centuries, doctors have been honing their skills of turning their both written and spoken language into a code that is incomprehensible for any layperson, and for a good reason. Nevertheless, doctors’ communication methods are excellent, since they help them work efficiently, allow patients to remain calm in critical moments, and enjoy a healthy barrier between them and the doctor.

Time is critical for doctors, they constantly have to work under extreme pressure and deal with multitasking; this is why communicating clearly and in a concise manner is essential for them. In her article, Klass describes how doctors in her hospital replaced the word admission with “We’ve already had one hit today”; this surely shortened their sentences and facilitated their work. One time as a child, I had to attend the dentist several times a week; after the first visit, the personnel started to call me a hero because I sat still and did not cry. This story can also be considered an instance of when doctors switched to a simple word to make their communication easier.

Avid use of jargon and initialisms can also help in critical situations when patients should not experience any additional stress. Klass tells a story of how she “had to put down three NG tubes”; probably, if a person in a dire physical and mental state heard the word “nasogastric,” their condition would worsen. One of my friends told me that when he went for a body checkup, doctors mentioned that he had minor PVCs; tubes instantly came to his mind, so he did not pay any attention. Later, it was explained to him that this stood for premature ventricular contractions, attributed to a lack of sleep and energy drinks consumption. Luckily, he has learned his lesson and no longer follows such a dangerous lifestyle. This proves that doctors’ specific use of language can help them avoid imposing additional stress onto their patients in certain situations.

Medical jargon also serves as a useful barrier between the patient and the doctor, which lets the former ignore unnecessary professional terms, and the latter choose information that is relevant only for the patient. Klass calls it a “linguistic separation”; its existence is justified because it allows everyone to stick to their roles, doctors must treat, and patients must rest. Personally, the last time I had to stay in the hospital, I concentrated on recovering my strength and not on trying to decipher all peculiar words my doctor used talking to his colleagues. Moreover, spending much time researching the words overheard in doctors’ conversation can hardly be a good strategy for recovery, especially after severe illnesses.

Interactions with doctors always spark a mix of fascination, confusion, and curiosity in people, especially due to their speech; Perri Klass, in her article, promptly points out the intricacies of the medical jargon. Despite the occasional misunderstanding, the language of doctors remains an extremely efficient tool that assists doctors in their work. Through the use of their professional language, doctors can help patients stay calm in stressful situations and let them safely recover without paying much attention to the specific terms used by medical personnel. It forms an excellent linguistic barrier between patients and doctors that seeks to spare the former from excessive information that can otherwise cause them additional stress.


Klass, Perri. She’s Your Basic LOL in NAD.

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