What's in a name?

29 March 2016

I know raising this topic will be controversial with some however I would like to talk about stopping use of the word 'patient' and instead using 'person'.


Using 'patient' allows a combination of words and meanings that create a sub-group of people who are defined by the health system and are then subject to the requirements of it.

What am I talking about?

When we use 'patient' we tend to define people by the disease or condition they have. For instance we talk about diabetics or asthmatics. The disease becomes the focus.

This fails to recognise the wide range of other issues the person may have which makes them an individual, as opposed to the common characteristics and treatments for a disease. Our care can then be constrained.

Another example is when we talk about acute, chronic or infectious patients. In doing so we parcel them up, sub-group them and this is designed to make the system easier to apply to them. But who is in control?

What do I suggest?

Every Hauora Tairāwhiti staff tries not saying patient (or client or service user), instead says person. It’s tricky and it makes you think what it is you are trying to convey about this person or group of people. However, isn’t that what care is about? Each person or people as a whole? What better way to show awhi/compassion in your daily practice?