- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (April 29 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1443416010
- ISBN-13: 978-1443416016
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #141,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Secret Language Of Doctors Hardcover – Apr 29 2014
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“Goldman’s fascinating book is also a relentlessly honest one.” (Toronto Star)
“A veritable dictionary of verbal shorthand used by many physicians, nurses and other health professionals to discuss—and often diss—various types of patients and even their own colleagues.” (National Post)
“Disturbing and hilarious, sometimes concurrently.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
“A rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of Canada’s healthcare system.” (Chatelaine)
“The Secret Language of Doctors takes us behind the curtain and, in doing so, reveals fascinating insight on the practice of medicine, warts and all.” (André Picard, Health Columnist, The Globe and Mail)
“Essential for all of us who depend on doctors (quite literally) to help us live longer and better. Goldman writes in a fun, brisk, accessible style—and the tales he recounts are both funny and sobering. Goldman is, without qualification, the most interesting doc around.” (Warren Kinsella)
About the Author
For more than thirty years, Dr. Brian Goldman has been an active participant and keen observer of the culture of modern medicine. Since 2007, he has hosted White Coat, Black Art, a multi-award-winning show on CBC Radio that reveals what goes on behind a hospital’s sliding doors. Goldman is the author of the bestselling The Night Shift and The Secret Language of Doctors. He lives in Toronto with his family.
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So let's tackle this book from a couple of perspectives: how it reads, and how the information is conveyed. As a book, it's a fun read. The pacing is good, the explanation of the field is well done, and the introduction of the reason we use funny words is well handled. There's a sense of humor (almost tongue in cheek at times) that makes the book more engaging for the layperson. This isn't surprising: the author has often appeared on radio trying to demystify the field, and does it well. The book is educational without lecturing, which is often the hallmark of a good writer in the science fields.
As for the information, well, first and foremost, it is accurate (which you would think we could take for granted in today's publishing world, but alas there's a ton of misinformation out there, especially when it is taken from that oracle of all accurate knowledge, the Internet). Goldman covers off the terms you'll hear doctors and nurses throw around, in private practice and in the hospital, in a gentle manner, explaining their meaning (and why we use those terms and not the generic descriptions) in many cases. Doctor's don't use obtuse words just to keep things between ourselves (OK, yes, we do, but sometimes for the reason of masking information from the patients and others around us), but we use them because they are descriptive. It's a lot easier to use one Latin word than ten English words that may be more vague in meaning. (Plus, it makes us feel cooler!)
If I have one complaint about the book, and the reason for the dropped star, it's that the book sometimes drags a bit in parts. There's a lot of information presented here that could have been left out without affecting the narrative. There's quite the complete history of the use of buzzwords (argot) in medicine, and while as a medical professional I found it interesting to trace the origins of these usages, I can imagine most readers would find the level of detail quite boring. There's also a lot of statistics. Most consumers don't care about so many statistics, as they won't be remembering any of them and they are not needed to explain the context of the word usage. Also, when you actually finish the book and track how many terms have been explained, there's not as many as perhaps I would have expected. There's a fair bit of verbiage thrown in, in other words. If you approach this book as a list of the words used in medicine, each explained, then you'll be disappointed. But, if you approach the book as a history of the argot, and learn a few terms along the way, you'll find it much more approachable.
Still, this is a book I'll be recommending to others. My typical litmus test is whether I'd give the book to my mom to read and understand what I'm talking about, and the answer in this case is a resounding yes. So, recommended for mothers, sons, daughters, and anyone else looking to understand the terms we throw around without thinking, but keep in mind this is not a simple list of buzzwords explained but an examination of WHY we use those words and the history behind them.
I’ve recommended it to all my colleagues and would also recommend it to pretty much anyone interested in medicine or who is a patient from time to time (i.e. everyone) so they can be a more active participant in their treatment.
The book is generally divided into sections of different focuses of slang: a chapter on obese patients, one on patients who commonly return to the hospital ("frequent flyers"), even one on medical professionals' references to one another. There's an entire chapter on obstetrics & gynecology jargon, the group I'm least familiar with; this was one of the few "outsider's views" I was able to take from the book, and it remained as fascinating to me as the discussion of terms I knew well. There's no question patients and families will benefit from and be intrigued by this book, not only obtaining the knowledge of some otherwise misunderstood terms, but recognizing the culture which leads to their creations.
I am most amazed, however, by Dr. Goldman's ability to describe that culture to fellow healthcare workers, and in doing so to encourage self-reflection among those of us in the field. From the interactions we have with one another describing patients to those complaining about colleagues, the easy recognition of the professional and systemic problems prompted by Goldman's book was more insightful than I'd ever have imagined. I will be a better surgeon for having read it.
I expected a humorous look at terms I hear every day---but was left with a description of medical culture that has led me to rethink relationships with patients and colleagues. I look forward to re-reading this book, and always to Goldman's next one.
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