Explaining the medical environment and medical procedures to children and teenagers can feel very challenging for families, as well as medical professionals. With medical professionals immersed in the medical environment, the language becomes normal everyday language for them. However, children and families are receiving new information that is often difficult to understand and process. One mom described it best when she said to her school-aged son, “They speak a different language don’t they.”
How can we communicate medical information with children and families in a way that is easy to understand and helps to reduce fear and anxiety? Try making these small, but extremely effective changes in how you explain common medical information.
Common Medical Language: IV
Child/Family Friendly Language: Small plastic tube or medicine straw to give you medicine while you are at the hospital
Common Medical Language: Stitches
Child/Family Friendly Language: String Band-Aids
Common Medical Language: Leads
Child/Family Friendly Language: Stickers that go on your chest to monitor your heart rate (for young kids: your heart beat)
Common Medical Language: Tourniquet
Child/Family Friendly Language: A rubber band that goes around your arm to help your veins (for young kids: your blue/green lines called veins) to show up better
Common Medical Language: Need to stick you
Child/Family Friendly Language: Need to check your blood or place an IV straw
Common Medical Language: Give you drugs
Child/Family Friendly Language: Give you medicine
Common Medical Language: It’s going to sting or feel like a bee sting
Child/Family Friendly Language: This may feel warm and tingly
Common Medical Language: Give you a shot
Child/Family Friendly Language: Give you medicine under your skin
Common Medical Language: Incision or cut you open
Child/Family Friendly Language: The doctor will make a small opening to help your body and then close it
Common Medical Language: Put you to sleep
Child/Family Friendly Language: Give you medicine to keep you asleep so you don’t feel anything or remember anything when the doctor helps your body.
As you use these child and family-friendly words and phrases you will begin to see the positive impact they have. Consider what other medical words and phrases you can adjust to be softer and more supportive for children and families.