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Person-centered Language

by Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, PhD, CNM

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    00:01 Because of their biomedical education and training, healthcare providers may use language that focuses on technical practices and care procedures, rather than the person-centered aspects of the health care relationship.

    00:14 Objectively discussing people as bodies could be for a variety of reasons.

    00:19 It could be a defense mechanism that protects providers from the emotional trauma that may occur when providing care to persons in crisis.

    00:27 This language however objectifies people as bodies or medical cases rather than unique individuals.

    00:34 Unfortunately, these language patterns can hurt both the provider and the person receiving care.

    00:41 Person-centered Language is a communication method that focuses on the person rather than her diagnosis or condition.

    00:50 It is a way of speaking and writing that is respectful, inclusive, and empowering.

    00:56 One of the most impactful areas where person-centered language is important is in the care of persons who are differently abled.

    01:04 This population is one of the largest minority groups and is inclusive of all ages, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations and socio-demographic levels.

    01:15 Persons who are differently abled are also those who experience some of the highest rates of discrimination in the workplace, community and in the healthcare environment.

    01:26 Person-centered language involves using words and phrases that put the person first rather than their condition or disability.

    01:34 For example, instead of referring to someone as diabetic, you would say a person with diabetes.

    01:41 Other examples of person-centered language includes using words like accessible instead of handicapped, and differently abled instead of disabled.

    01:51 This shows that you recognize the person as an individual and not define them solely based on their health condition.

    01:59 We realize that shifting your communication style can be challenging.

    02:03 It can feel like it takes more words and more time to say and consider and that would all be true.

    02:11 But when you stop to consider the impact of the word choices you make, you are more likely to convey your genuine interest in communicating with another individual rather than focusing on their medical condition.

    02:24 Begin to develop your person-centered language communication skills by asking individuals for their language preferences.

    02:31 Some people prefer identity first language such as an autistic person rather than a person with autism or blind person rather than a person who is blind.

    02:42 Asking someone their preferred salutation.

    02:45 For example, Mr., Mrs., Dr. or their gender pronouns, rather than making assumptions about how they identify is another example of using preferred and respectful language.

    02:58 Use descriptors that emphasize a person's strengths, opportunities or characteristics they find value in instead of their perceived weaknesses or conditions that may be challenging.

    03:09 If a provider needs to share that a person uses mobility equipment, for example, a wheelchair, they can say, "John uses a wheelchair to get from his home to his vehicle." instead of, "John is wheelchair-bound." Another example of strength-based language is to avoid terminology that is stigmatizing.

    03:29 For example, when a client does not take their medications as prescribed, or they do not participate in exercise or dietary changes as recommended, it is more useful to use the term non-adherent rather than noncompliant which implies the client isn't following our rules.

    03:47 Model person-centered language in as many areas of your life as you can, your work, community activities and especially around younger children and persons you supervise.

    03:58 Eliminate the word handicap from your vocabulary and make a concentrated effort to emphasize strengths over perceived deficiencies.

    04:08 Person-centered language is a way of promoting respect and dignity and can help reduce the stigma and discrimination that some people with health conditions or disabilities may face.

    04:20 When providers use these approaches, people express that they feel more engaged and empowered in their own health care.

    04:27 When person-centered language is consistently used, research shows an increase in satisfaction for both providers and patients and clients.

    04:37 Also, it reduces compassion fatigue, and promotes better communication between providers and persons.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Person-centered Language by Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, PhD, CNM is from the course Shared Language.


    Author of lecture Person-centered Language

     Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, PhD, CNM

    Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, PhD, CNM


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