Language changes over time and across different contexts, and we need to continually re-evaluate the words we choose. Through the Our Words Matter training, we strive to improve the language we use to decrease stigma and mitigate the transmission of bias. We envision a future in which all clinical communication is respectful, patient-centered and empowering.
Consider these core principles to reduce stigmatizing language:
- Use person-first language
For example: a person with diabetes, not a “diabetic”
- Avoid stereotypes and generalizations
For example: “non-compliant,” “poor historian”
- Assign blame to the system, not the individual
For example: “pt chooses” rather than “refuses”
- Eliminate pejorative terms
For example: convict, prostitute, alien
- Think critically and be intentional about using social identifiers
For example: race, SES and language don't belong in the one-liner
- State the facts – avoid interpretations
For example: "patient alleges/claims 10/10 pain"
- Use inclusive language
For example: "pt uses a wheelchair" rather than "wheelchair-bound"
- Use the active voice
For example: “I prescribed antibiotics”
- Don’t weaponize quotes
For example: patient is having "horrible" pain
When in doubt, ask yourself: If I were the patient reading/hearing this, how would I feel?