by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
My oldest son has a slight hearing difficulty from serving more than once in a war zone. While the situation is not funny at all, the things he thinks he hears has been a source of laughter during family gatherings. Often, he is close to the actual statement, as when he heard, “You should buy a flute” instead of “Your dog is cute.” Other times he isn’t even close in interpretation. While visiting Michael in Colorado some years ago, I commented, “I’m feeling lethargic — going to blame it on the lack of oxygen.” Imagine my surprise at his response, “Mom, they don’t have Jack in the Box in Colorado, and you’re a vegetarian.”
Being familiar with our family, Michael usually knows when he didn’t understand words exactly right. When he is among people outside his normal circle, it is harder to interpret the messages heard. He understands the need for clear communication.
Recently, an e-mail thread between a few RDH columnists and our editor not only provided many laughs, it also highlighted the fact that words can be misunderstood. A conversation that started as a discussion of what constitutes acceptable research ended with a fun description of a wedding where fellow columnist Dianne Glasscoe Watterson sang.
To anyone outside the group reading the exchange it would be easy to come to false conclusions of the humor shared. There was discussion of Red Bull drinking habits and a revelation that Mark Hartley is buying me a Mac — along with a qualified tutor. How Mark worked my wimpy 95-pound dog into the thread still baffles me.
The end result of many e-mails and accusations involved a retreat for RDH columnists. While the Waikiki Spam Jam won one vote, the timing did not fit our schedules or desired weather pattern. We settled on Napa, Calif., in the spring at a place called Mini Mango, where both vegetarian meals and steak abound. Try as she might, Lynne Slim could not convince us to try the cuisine served at her house on the carpet — an acorn-eating rodent that tragically encountered Lynne’s dog, which apparently is more courageous than mine.
The e-mail thread also served as a reminder that many of my best friends are in the pages of RDH magazine.
In our profession, we assume that other dental professionals understand our lingo. Charting notes are sometimes so full of initials that only the writer can truly know the content. While temping a few years ago, I came upon a chart entry which read, “pt poor with HC, ignored POI, reviewed OHI, dispensed TB, FL, ET, PB and RT, next appt. PM, XR, DC and NOHI.”
Depending on how long a person has been practicing and where we reside, some or all of this is confusing. I will add there was no key in the office to help with interpretation and even the assistant couldn’t tell me what DC and NOHI meant. I wrote it down because I found it amusing and knew I’d find all the answers someday.
While a list of key acronyms used in the office is helpful, I believe a better practice is to write out entire words. It doesn’t take much longer and could be very helpful if the patient’s chart is required for any matter outside dentistry. We all hope to never get a call from law enforcement asking for a chart to confirm identity or help with an investigation, but it does happen. When all charts become digital, standard formatting will probably become the standard of care.
Some details are meant to remain private, or at least less than obvious. When sharing information with a small group of intimate friends, feel free to use language and puns known only to those intended to understand. If your desire is to inform an unknown reader or educate those outside your circle of friends, please consider the whole story.
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.