Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Patients Do Not Endorse Their Illnesses

Do medical schools teach their students how to write proper histories and physicals anymore? Some of the notes I've been reading from these new young doctors suggest that they are medically brilliant, but grammatically catachrestic. (You think I'm Shakespeare? I had to look that one up.) I've been seeing more and more medical students and residents write in their H+P's that their patients "endorse" their past medical histories. They'll say something like, "The 49 y/o WF endorses h/o HTN and DM." To my aging ears, that just sounds wrong.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of endorse is, "to publicly or officially say that you support or approve of (someone or something)," or "to publicly say that you like or use (a product or service) in exchange for money." Michael Jordan endorses Hanes underwear. Tiger Woods endorses Buicks. Whether they actually use the products they are promoting for large wads of cash is debatable.

But patients don't support or approve of their diabetes or coronary artery disease. They certainly don't receive any monetary compensation for suffering from these problems. Back in the day, we used the more proper phrase, "Patient complains of X, Y, and Z." Or "Patient has history of X, Y, and Z." We would never say the patient endorses something. That would imply they had a choice in accepting their diseases and that they received some sort of compensation for getting them.

Maybe I'm just turning into an old fart who thinks he knows what's best for the young 'uns out there. I don't approve of some of our younger anesthesiologists who wear their white iPod ear buds pushed deep into their ear canals while monitoring a patient in the operating room. I cringe when I see doctors and nurses posting on Facebook when they should be giving all their attention to the patient on the operating table. Since hospitals have converted to electronic medical records, penmanship is no longer a running joke about physicians. Now that their words are legible, it looks like doctors need to go back to finishing school to get their printed words to look appropriate for people who have had at least twelve years of post high school education.


  1. Thank you for defending the English language! Word abuse must stop.

  2. i read histories and physicals all day long and having been noting this use of word endorse. it started about 14 months ago in the teaching hospital where i work and is on the rise. wondering where this use originated. at best it implies that history taker presented a previously obtained history to patient and they agree. at worst, it makes it appear patient gets some monetary sum for stating their history. i have been at the medical game for 4 decades, and bad constructions come and go, just like buzz words in every profession. i endorse the meteoric rise and hopeful demise of this tortured use of a word

  3. I think it sounds like the patient is at a bank cashing a check. I endorse teaching our residents not to use the term endorse anymore.

  4. Could not agree more. I have had business cards printed and will started presenting them to people who misuse the word endorse. The business cartds have the two correct definitions of the word!