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Mind your language

24 February 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 4
 Ian Peate
Ian Peate

The words that we use, or do not use, carry more power than perhaps we might realise. If used in an irresponsible or careless way, they have the very real potential to silence, exclude and dismiss specific people along with their feelings and experiences. When used carefully and respectfully (by clinicians and others) language can let us hear the voices and appreciate the experiences of those who may be underrepresented, bringing them to the fore, making people feel that they are included and they are valued.

Nurses and other health professionals often use language that could exclude others. For example, terms that may be acceptable in the context of a clinical consultation may not be acceptable when discussing these issues with those to whom we offer care and support. They could lead to alienation and prevent people from becoming true partners in the care process, or even result in patients being hesitant in seeking services. Lennon (2021) addressed the use of inclusive language and discussed the importance of the choice of words. It is essential that healthcare providers think critically about how and why specific terms are chosen over others.

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