In the hospital one night as a new nurse and being trained in the Emergency Department (ED) one of the seasoned nurses gave me a lesson in word usage that is the exact opposite of every thing you will probably ever read.
First to get the setting, it is a small rural hospital with a small Emergency room. Small does not mean less quality. One of the State Inspectors said it was one of only two hospitals in the eastern part of the state that they enjoyed coming to. It was because they seldom found problems to deal with, the care was excellent, and almost no complaints. Never any thing they needed to correct.
That excellence care obviously included the ability of the nurses and doctors to correctly communicate with the patients.
Never Call Patients Honey or Dear
One thing we were taught in nursing school that we were never to do is call patients honey or dear. It was demeaning and disrespectful. At least the book said so. Our grade being based on it was a strong motivator as well.
Yet here I was, talking to a little gentle woman in the ED who I could hardly understand and worse, she couldn’t understand me.
My articulate correct speech, my proper pronunciation, and my trying to assess the patient was of little value. Basically I was getting no where.
The most profound moment was when I asked if she was a diabetic. It was as if she had never heard the word. Not a clue as to it’s meaning. My colleague noticing my floundering, in effect, being the verbal fish flopping around out of water. This nurse walked up and first captured the attention of my patient.
"Howya doing honey? You’re not feeling so good are ya?" The patient perked up and gave a fluent response, “Well, no I’m not."
The nurse then asked in the local colloquialism, “Do you have sugar?” To which the reply was yes. Further queries revealed a host of ailments. However, not in the correct speech of medical terminology learned in school.
It was the terminology of the locals. When they are sick and need help, and in their 70’s and 80’s, well, it is not our purview or prerogative to change them. Our failure to adapt could indeed hinder our ability to communicate and in this case, treat the individual. Correct speech is relative.
And one more thing regarding the college professor who wrote the book stating never to call someone honey. Perhaps she never lived in a culture where terms of endearment are a part of the local culture. People know if they can trust you by your use of words. Especially the words used in local culture. So honey, if you wrote it, well, your advice may apply to your world, but it doesn't apply to all cultures.
Always remember, languages are alive and constantly changing as are cultures and the people that live within them. Use the rules with discernment, and tact, always affording your audience their dignity. Since they live with the language, should they not have the right to choose their word usage? Correct speech to the text book may not be correct speech to a geo-local native speaker.
And as to calling the locals honey, I may never go that far. However I will never forget one difficult night at the hospital when one of my colleagues called me honey. It was at that moment, during that crisis that the nurses I was working with became something more than just a health care team. She was talking to me as though I were her brother.
If you’re a nurse, you can appreciate just how bad this night was. Two post operative patients with chest pain and a third with altered levels of consciousness that was a change from the day shift. It turned out she had a pulmonary embolism. These three were all part of my assignment of patients. This all happened at the same time. There were other things going on with the other nurses. It was a rare night indeed.
So if you’re a nurse and you want to call someone honey, I won’t say a word. If you have a problem with it ask which is more important, what you think and feel, what the book says or the needs, feelings, and desires of the dear patient. In the end, who should decide what correct speech is?
Correct is relative to circumstances you find yourself in.