A linguistics professor of mine once said, "Our field is filled with TLA's. Three-Letter Acronyms."
Of course, so is the field of medicine.
If you're talking to an MD, their PA, or an RN, you're going to hear acronyms. (PA's are physician assistants. I don't watch medical shows and didn't know that one before.)
My mom needed a particular number checked that is known by both an acronym and a short-hand phrase. Neither of these sounds like the other, yet they are used interchangeably by medical people. And the three-syllable acronym (INR) is slurred together so it sounds like a two-syllable word that could be the name of a Star Wars character or a hipster child ("Eat your kale, Ahnar, and then report to the Federation").
At one point, I asked a doctor to stop and explain these terms, and I still didn't grasp what I was hearing. Turns out the acronym stands for three words so generic they do not communicate anything: International Normalised (spelled with an s 'cause it's, you know, international) Ratio. International Normalised Ratio does not explain the measurement; it only states that we all agree on it.
The short-hand phrase does explain the measurement, but only to doctors. Prothrombin Time, it's called, sometimes shortened to "Pro-Time" or "PT," just to keep it interesting. All used interchangeably by various people in scrubs.
It's kind of important to know this number and to keep it in check. It measures how long it takes your blood to clot. You know where I learned that fact? Web MD.
Why couldn't a human explain that to me?
You know that professor I quoted? He was part of a master's program. That's right, I have a graduate degree in linguistics. And my mom, the patient, is a retired nurse. Without either of those, I wouldn't have picked up as much Hospitalese as I did. How are we humans with our meager non-medical ears supposed to grasp all of this?
One day a PA was throwing so much jargon at me that I stood blinking at her, tears streaming down my face. I knew I couldn't even put words together to ask what I didn't understand. And she stops to say, "It's a lot, isn't it? You need a hug?"
Stunned, I realized what she meant was, "Wow there's a lot going on with your mom, huh?" as if I had understood everything and was merely overwhelmed by the volume of medical issues. When actually, my unarticulated inner dialogue was more like, "Yes, there is a lot coming out of your brain right now that my brain has no folder for, and if you could just make me some English labels I could do some filing and maybe deal with the fact that yes, my mom is going through a lot and yes I do need a hug, and maybe a dictionary, and possibly another degree, but definitely some tissue and I think some wine".
I took her TLC and kept the IDK to myself. She never knew what I didn't know. SMH.
What experiences have you had learning Hospitalese?