Label Jars….Not People

jarsAs genetic counselors we hope to make a difference in someone’s life.  Why not expand on that?  While our primary focus should be on our patients, we should also strive to utilize our skills outside of the workplace.  Not only will this have an impact on the world, it will also indirectly have an impact on our patients.  It’s a circle.

It does not have to be something that requires a lot of time, thinking power, or effort.  It can be something very simple.  There are many different ways that this can be done; this is just one example.

Labels.

You have been labeled at some point no matter who you are or where you are at in your life right now.  You have felt how degrading those labels can be.  You know first handed how it can negatively affect your perspective and other people’s perspective of yourself.  Some labels originate within the medical community.

We may use labels to communicate effectively and quickly with busy MDs.  We may have to use them in order to protect a person’s confidentiality.  However, labels should only be used when absolutely necessary.  They should not be used to form expectations of someone.  Genetic counselors oftentimes strive to use sensitive language with patients.

For instance, we may say “change” instead of “mutation.”

We try to choose neutral words when possible.  We have seen how word choices affect our rapport with patients.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the idea of making it a point that people are people first and a genetic condition is just part of who they are.  An example would be to say “people with Down syndrome” instead of “Down syndrome people.”  We should take the same sensitive approach in daily conversations outside the workplace.

This helps to prevent pigeonholing people and shows respect.

We can take what we learn from the workplace and apply it to the outside world to make a difference.  Exploring various ways to apply our genetic counseling skills outside of the workplace will only make us better genetic counselors within the workplace.  Once again, it’s a circle.

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