It isn’t often that I write about a peeve of mine, but I’d like any nurse or other care provider to listen up. Your patient is NOT a diabetic. He is not an asthmatic. She is not a leper. He is not an amputee.
Don’t get confused...I’m not implying your patients do not have disease processes such as diabetes or asthma. In fact, over 10% of your patients will have diabetes and 8% will have asthma. They have been diagnosed with a disease and must manage this disease on a daily basis. They do not, however, wish to be identified by this disease.
Nursing in 2021 is arguably one of the most challenging professions in the world. Facilities are struggling to maintain safe levels of staffing and nurses in all areas are frequently tasked with more to do in a shift than ever before. We spend less time at the bedside and, as a result, we are losing the human connection with our patients. Even further, due to strict privacy laws, we frequently refer to our patients as room numbers, initials, or other nondescript methods rather than using their names. This is effective in preserving privacy but at the same time can result in viewing our patients as something less than human.
Still, our patients are our number one priority and it is our role to advocate for them on all levels, including preserving their dignity. Your patient may be a competitive swimmer, a mother, or an author...all identifiers they would be proud to be called. Few people would appreciate being labeled or identified by an illness and, as such, we as nurses have the responsibility to empathize that a disease process does not define the person.
I enlist the help of all nurses in changing the way we address our patients, steering away from labels such as “diabetic”, “asthmatic”, or “schizophrenic.” Rather, these are patients that have diabetes, asthma, or schizophrenia. This is not a plight to continuously refine our levels of political correctness; this is a request to see our patients as people first and their disease processes second. The language matters! Keep your patients human.