Words Matter! Mind-Body Language in the Clinical Setting
Clinician’s word choices matter. They are in a constant state of communication with patients and families, have to think on their feet, frequently perform painful or frightening procedures, and often need to deliver bad news. Ideally, in every interaction they would convey a sense of hope, encouragement, and expectation that the patient can meet the challenges ahead. But this is a tall order, and despite the clinician’s best efforts, often misses the mark. Good communication does not mean avoidance of the truth, but finding words that fill the patient with realistic reassurance and a sense of support. This can be of significant benefit to those in our care, and may also have potential to reduce clinician’s stress and burnout risk. Similarly, skillful language use in mind-body medicine can help patients tap into inner resources such as optimism, hope, determination, and courage. The tone and pace of the voice can be also modulated to encourage calm confidence in the patient. People perceive pain and stress in many different ways, therefore skillful use of language can leave the door open for the patient to have a successful experience and avoid preconceived expectations of pain or distress. It is especially important to avoid inadvertently planting seeds of doubt, fear, or medical hexing.
Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP is Board certified in pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine, and integrative medicine. Dr. McClafferty writes and speaks nationally on physician well-being, resiliency, effective stress management and coping skills in medicine, and collaborates with colleagues on national research initiatives on physician well-being. She has authored two books: Mind-Body Medicine in Clinical Practice and Integrative Pediatrics: Art, Science, and Clinical Application. Dr. McClafferty is a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Medicine, Founding Director of the Pediatric Integrative Medicine in Residency program, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Associate Professor, College of Medicine University of Arizona (through 2018), and Medical Director, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, at Tucson Medical Center, Tucson, Arizona.
Author, Marianne Woods Cirone, MS, MFA, CYT 500, is a writer, wellness educator, and advocate for people affected by cancer. She has been teaching yoga for people affected by cancer for since 2003. She is the co-author of From Alignment to Enlightenment: Using Props to Achieve Stability and Ease in Yoga Poses and founded the online journal, Integrative Cancer Review (www.integrativecancer.org). For eight years, Marianne served as the Wellness Coordinator for the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, a part of Northwestern Medicine, and she has a background in healthcare finance and administration.