Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Client" vs. "Patient"

Here you go, a non-you-know-what related post.

So my studies are going, well, just okay. I tend to get easily distracted by the you-know-what, and of course all of the great television there is to watch. I loves me some good television, particularly when my studies are less than engaging, which one particular course is. Not. Engaging. (cough) I absolutely despise the textbook. It screams make-work project for some overly bureaucratized institution somewhere. It's outright obfuscatory; if there is a convoluted way to relay the simplest Nursing concept, they find it and beat it to death with a confusion stick.

Anyhoo, as a way of distracting myself from a particularly dry chapter (in which I thought I was going to find out what RN's actually do, but no luck, just more words like "needs theories" and "simultaneity theories" that I'll have to memorize for the final), I started a debate on the general discussion board. And if you have time, I'd like to know what you think. You know, as General Public types:
I take issue with the term 'client'. I always have, ever since I heard that's what we're meant to call patients. It makes absolutely no sense to me. To me, 'client' always has, and always will, imply a financial transaction for professional services. Lawyers have clients. Realtors have clients. Doctors have patients. Psychiatrists have patients. Now which category should we be in?

I bring this up now because it's being addressed in Week 10 of Potter / Perry: "By the 1960's, professional leaders recognized that nurses did much more than simply care for hospitalized clients. Because of this, nursing theorists started to use the term *client* rather than *patient*, to refer to the person at the centre of any nursing process." (p. 66 under "Client and Person).

Essentially, it's the argument that the term 'client' offers patients more respect. Well, if the patient is at the centre of care, and people in the general populate are more comfortable with the term 'patient' and think 'client' is just plain confusing and weird (ask someone, anyone, they'll think it's weird bureacratic-speak), then shouldn't we, as a patent-centered profession, respect the patient's chosen terminology? Doesn't that lead to better communication with said patient, as determined by the patient? And if we put it to a patient vote, I bet they'd chose patient. 'Client' is a nurse-chosen word. Worse, it's a 'professional leaders' chosen word. Where is the patient in that?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word patient, nor do I believe it affects peoples' perception of nursing. The act of nursing affects the perception of nursing.

Anyway, it's a pet peeve I can't get passed and I'm going to use the word patient until convinced otherwise.


[UPDATED: I realized after writing this that Psychologists may also use the word 'client', but again there is generally a financial transaction. Social workers are the other field I can think of that may use 'client' (also use the term 'case'?). Still, this doesn't change my perception that people are comfortable with the term 'patient' in a health care setting. As a patient, it kind of makes me feel cared for.]
Thank you.

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Blogger MK ~ 1:42 PM

Hmmm. I guess I'd have to say that I think of the word "patient" as referring to a client in a health-care setting. And calling a nurse's charges "clients" feels like the same kind of corporate-speak that causes big-box retailers to call their customers "guests."  

Blogger Brika ~ 3:39 PM

Until our health care system as a whole ever works well enough that I *feel* like a (paying) client wherever I go, I will find that word awkward and euphemistic.

Let me know when I'll stop having to spending so much time waiting for medical care and I'll stop being "patient". :)  

Blogger Brika ~ 3:40 PM

spend. Can't type today but I do know some grammar. Just saying.  

Anonymous Anonymous ~ 5:04 PM

Don't forget prostitutes have clients as well.


Blogger Naomi ~ 7:55 PM

I find it interesting that these comments seem to find "client" a more positive word than "patient" if that's what the comparisons to "guests" and euphemisms mean. To me, client is negative because it reminds me of the American health system, where patients are indeed clients - that is, they get health care if they can pay for it. Those who can't? Suffer.  

Blogger Naomi ~ 7:56 PM

What I mean is, client is a positive word for those who can afford to pay.  

Anonymous Marnie ~ 8:52 AM

I don't know if this helps, but the term "client" is really only used when you are in school here in Regina, so once you're done with NEPS and transition to The RQHR, if you choose to work here, "patient" is all anyone will understand as that's how we refer to our patients in the real world!  

Anonymous Anonymous ~ 10:48 PM

Client implies that the person has some choice in the matter, when I don't feel we really do here. Its nice to think you could switch doctors if you don't like your care or would like better customer service, but honestly, you are lucky to have someone take you on at all. Nurses you have no control over - you get who is on shift don't you?

My orthodontist treats me like a client, I don't have to go there and he appreciates my business, going out of his way to book me in when convenient for my schedule. My oral surgeon treats me like a patient - I should be grateful for his help and if he says jump I better or he won't do my surgery and he doesn't care to get my name correct either. Our health care system isn't up to "client" standards in my mind so I'll remain a "patient" for now thank-you.  

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