Throughout nursing schools and nursing exams, more often then not, terminology changes are being made when addressing a patient, and they are now being referred to as clients or customers.
"A client comes to the emergency room complaining of..."
"A nurse assesses a client with..."
This has been put in practice to emphasize the consumerism in healthcare, where patients are encouraged to "shop" for health care, and hospitals are turned into retail.
I am fully aware they are "paying customers" (for the most part). Using this business derived terminology may add financial value to the person, but I believe it also diminishes their importance and the need for actual critical and crucial care for their illnesses and conditions. I believe using terms such as consumer, customer or client make the interaction between caregivers and those receiving care sound purely economic rather than clinical.
When speaking of patients, the word itself invokes the idea or feeling that they are in need of medical attention, in the acute setting or office setting, the word's connotation can be more important at times than the definition.
In the text "Would your patient prefer to be considered your friend? Patient preferences in physician relationships." in the Health Education & Behavior Journal Magnezi et al. points out that "A business model for the doctor-patient relationship does not do justice to its complexity. The relentless drive to provide more care in less time is inconsistent with the need to develop a real, complex, intimate, caregiving relationship between doctor and patient." This also points to a conflict in case that a healthcare provider may need to withhold a treatment if they deem risky or unnecessary, but within a business plan model, financial motivation will almost always dictate the plan of care.
Using business terms to refer to our patients, in general, does not describe the relationship we engage in and the responsibility we take on as nurses and physicians while providing medical care to our patients.
Patients view their relationship with their providers and caregivers as unique, and according to Magnezi et. al, those same patients that seek autonomy in their care also want a caring relationship with their providers. In the Journal of Clinical Nursing, Peters and Cunningham state that "there is little evidence to suggest that people seeking health services who are identiﬁed as ‘clients,' ‘consumers,' ‘customers,' and ‘service users' are any more empowered than those identiﬁed as ‘patients.'
I believe those seeking medical care should be addressed as patients by those providing care, it holds a higher respect and regards for our relationship as caregivers. I believe we should continue educating our new nurses throughout school using the term "patient" when referring to those being treated, the root of the word, the meaning, and idea it involves holds more ground for the work we do, and how we should care for them.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN