Are you writing in geek? What do I mean?
Imagine you are an attorney who has hired a legal nurse consultant to summarize and analyze complex obstetrical medical records. You don’t understand medical terminology and you know that the information in the record is crucial to understanding the case.
You give the records to the nurse with the expectation that you will receive a coherent, analytical summary of the chart, a description of the standards of care, and an analysis of the deviations, if any, from the standard of care.
The legal nurse consultant submits his report, and you read this:
Assess fetus in distress via continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM). Evaluate FMR tracing noting:
a. Uterine activity
1. Tachystole – hyperstimulation (greater than 5 UCs in 10 minutes or closer than q 2 minutes)
2. Polysystole – coupling, ineffective labor pattern
3. Hypertonia – palpate for uterine relaxation following contraction
4. Absence of uterine tone – uterine rupture
5. Tetanic contractions greater than 90 seconds long or greater than 70 mmHg in strength (IVPC)
Huh? This LNC is writing in geek
Geek, better known as medicalese or nurse talk, is highly technical language. It is too obscure for the intended reader, in this case, an attorney.
Writing in geek ignores the knowledge base of the attorney and assumes a level of understanding of medical terms and abbreviations. It can result in frustration for the attorney and loss of future work for the legal nurse consultant.
No, I did not make up this example of writing in geek. This wording comes from the website of a legal nurse consultant as a sample of work product. In this example, only one abbreviation is spelled out. The terms describing abnormal labor are not all defined, and the non-obstetrical reader is left in the dark – not what you want.
How to avoid writing in geek
1. Write for the reader. Remember that attorneys are not healthcare personnel.
2. Avoid overestimating the knowledge of your reader. Few people are offended by simple language.
3. Spell out abbreviations the first time you use them.
4. Explain medical terms the first time you use them. Consider adding a glossary at the end of your report.
6. Do not write as if you are charting. Use full sentences.
7. Ask a non-medical person to read your redacted report before you submit it. Is the material comprehensible? If not, rewrite and edit your work until it is simplified.
Gain more valuable tips on how to improve your writing by getting the digital download of a course taught by Pat Iyer, Angie Duke Haynes, and Dana Jolly, three experienced legal nurse consultants. You’ll learn how to improve your writing and have the chance to put your skills to the test by analyzing a long term case. Get details about Polish Your Writing Skills here.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC is the former owner of Med League Support Services, Inc, an independent consulting firm founded in 1987. She has written or proofread thousands of reports written for attorneys. She is one of the editors of Nursing Malpractice, Fourth Edition, and the chief editor of Principles and Practices of Legal Nurse Consulting, Second Edition and the editor, coeditor or author of more than 800 chapters, books, articles, online courses, or case studies. She works hard to avoid writing in geek.