Say what? quantifying and classifying jargon use during inpatient rounds

Victoria Charpentier, Rachael Gotlieb, Corinne E. Praska, Marissa Hendrickson, Michael B. Pitt, Jordan Marmet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Although plain language is recognized as essential for effective communication, research reveals that medical providers regularly use jargon terminology that may be misunderstood by patients. Little is known, however, about the types and frequency of jargon used in the pediatric inpatient setting. We aimed to quantify jargon use by medical team members during inpatient family-centered rounds (FCRs) and to identify the most common categories of jargon used.

METHODS: One of 3 trained medical students audited FCRs on a general pediatric service once weekly for 12 weeks, recording and categorizing jargon used with a published classification framework. Jargon usage was classified by category and quantified by using descriptive statistics. Rates were calculated by patient encounter and per minute. Feedback was provided to rounding teams after each observation.

RESULTS: During 70 observed FCR patient encounters, there were a total of 443 jargon words or phrases spoken, of which 309 (70%) were not explicitly defined to the patient or family by the health care provider team. The mean number of undefined jargon words or phrases used per patient was 4.3 (±1.7), with a mean of 0.4 (±0.1) uses of undefined jargon per minute. The most common categories of undefined jargon used include technical terminology (eg, bronchiolitis), medical vernacular (eg, cultures), and abbreviations and acronyms (eg, NPO for "nothing by mouth") at 34%, 30%, and 17%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Undefined medical jargon was used frequently by health care providers during pediatric FCRs. We found it was feasible to measure provider jargon use and to use a jargon classification scheme to provide real-time, concrete feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-410
Number of pages5
JournalHospital Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


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