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Nursing News: Nurses Translate Language So Patients Understand

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, May 23rd, 2013

As part of their jobs as patient education specialists, registered nurses translate medical jargon into plain language for instructional documents.

When they receive a document from a doctor detailing best practices before a procedure, they work to simplifying the language for a patient. Based on the number of words per sentence and syllables per word, they calculate what reading grade level a patient would be to understand the document. If the grade level is too high, they eliminate complex words, usually aiming for a fifth to eighth grade level.

A recent wave of software has emerged to automate the process, quickly identifying complex words and lengthy sentences and suggesting simpler alternatives.

The word “hyperlipidemia” in a document for patients with the condition would be changed to “high cholesterol” or a definition “when the levels of fat in the blood are too high” to simplify the document.

More than half of the U.S. population today has difficulty understanding health material, not just non-native English speakers or the elderly, but even for those who are highly literate. The language of the material and the stress of the illness affect the patient’s ability to understand.

This is just another way that nurses meet the needs of patients.

To learn ways to care for the nurses who so benevolently care for patients, strategies on nurse recruitment, nurse retention, bringing self care to your facility and how to increase work life balance for nurses and healthcare professionals, go to SelfCare for HealthCare. CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing this powerful program for your employees.

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