Doctors told to adapt their language around diabetes patients

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 15 Jun 2017
Doctors told to adapt their language around diabetes patients
Doctors have been warned to watch the type of language they use around people with diabetes as it could impact their health.

A specialist committee board which presented a report at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 77th Scientific Sessions, said healthcare teams should try and avoid words like "uncontrolled" and "non-adherent".

The Joint Consensus Statement on the Use of Language report also said that many people with diabetes do not like being called 'diabetic'.

Dr Susan Guzman, who is a clinical and research psychologist at the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in San Diego and wrote the report, said: "Language conveys meaning and can reflect bias that will affect outcomes, even when you're not aware of it.

"If you're talking about a patient as 'non-compliant,' even before you go into the room, I guarantee you that they feel that from you, even if you’re not calling them that to their face."

The committee has released a series of suggestions for doctors to use when treating people with diabetes. It is recommended they try to use neutral and non-judgmental language which are based on facts and words that are 'respectful and hopeful'.

When talking about a person's blood glucose levels the words "good", "bad", or "poor" should also be avoided and instead safe and unsafe levels should be explained. They have also suggested diabetes healthcare teams should try to use 'language that encourages collaboration' and find words that are 'free from stigma'.

Jane Dickinson, a certified diabetes educator and nurse at Teachers College Columbia University in New York and committee chair, and Melinda Maryniuk, director of clinical education for the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, presented 'Why Language Matters' at the American Diabetes Association on Sunday, alongside Guzman.

Maryniuk said: "It's not about being the word police. Think about the meaning, and the whole patient, and the conversation you're having with them."
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