Plainly and Simply

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A self-important writer at another publication once accused your friendly neighborhood editor of “dumbing down” a feature story by substituting a simpler, more economical word for one usually reserved for a Rhodes Scholar spelling bee. I argued that the vast majority of readers might not know his chosen word’s meaning. He snorted: “They can look it up in the dictionary.” I offered that the dictionary was certainly far more interesting and better written than his article and shared my doubts that those sent to “look it up” would ever return. Ahem.

I can’t claim never to have been guilty of that sin myself, but I try to remember the look on his face as he stomped off … and find a less expensive synonym for all or most 50-cent words. With all of the acronyms we throw around in nursing (URI, CVSICU, HCV, HIPAA, UTI, etc.), it’s difficult enough to keep the narrative flowing. (And just so you don’t have to look them up, that’s upper respiratory infection, cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit, hepatitis C virus, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and urinary tract infection, etc.) Nursing is its own colorful language.

So what do we do about newbies to the profession who don’t yet know their ACLS’s (advanced cardiac life support) from their elbows? Or the patients we serve, especially those who not only don’t speak nurse but do not speak English? Whenever we can, we should speak and write simply and plainly. When we cannot, we should provide translation.

And that’s really what the Spring 2015 issue of Johns Hopkins Nursing is all about. We’ve got a report on what the fairly vague expression “big data” really looks like in practice (“Big Data’s Bottom Line”) and a Spanish class for nurses who could one day bridge gaps at the bedside (“There’s a Word for What They Do”). There are PhD grads showing new students the ropes (“Been There, Done That”) and even a profile of a returned Peace Corps volunteer—that’s RPCV to us–eager to practice her Spanish in Guatemala who landed, instead, in the only predominantly English-speaking country in South America, with a local dialect all its own (“Key Word Is Flexibility”).

All of it translates to what we think is another informative, readable issue (oops: see letter here).

Thank you for giving it a look.
Steve St. Angelo

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