Improving communication between doctors and children via a card game

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insights from industryDr Victoria Rodulson Raigmore Hospital,Inverness

An interview with Dr Victoria Rodulson conducted by April Cashin-Garbut, MA (Cantab).

Can you please explain the vision behind Dr Jargon? How does the game encourage healthcare professionals to use child-friendly language?

Paediatrics challenges players to describe and guess medical conditions and treatments against the clock. Players take turns to select a card and describe the medical term on it to their teammates without using the jargon words listed on that card.

It’s a fun way for professionals and students to practise using simple, child friendly language. Players will think creatively and figure out how to explain complex medical terms without relying on complicated jargon.

Who is the card game suitable for?

Paediatrics is suitable for any healthcare professional or student who wants to improve the way they communicate with children.

What impact do you hope the game will have on the communication between healthcare professionals and children?

I hope that it will encourage healthcare professionals to reflect on their communication with children and help them to choose language which is child-friendly.

Despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals I've heard jargon used many times in hospital.

During interviews with pediatrics patients, one 14 year old girl told me: 'Sometimes when they use longer words I worry that there is something very serious wrong with me'.

By avoiding jargon we can clearly allay the fears of children and their parents, as well as give more effective treatment and build better relationships.

What feedback have you received on the game so far?

So far the game has been played by a variety of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, medical and nursing students. All of them enjoyed putting their communication skills to the test in a 'fun and interactive' way.

One student said that it was a 'useful learning tool': it prompted many of the players to think about their own understanding of the jargon and reflect on their choice of language when describing medical terms. They 'loved the idea' and wanted to buy it for their next training day!

How do you plan to adjust the game in the future?

Just as careers in healthcare promote continuous professional development, I hope that Dr Jargon will do the same.

On there is an option for players to suggest new cards and topics. We plan on extending the Dr Jargon concept to other medical specialties, including mental health and adult medicine, and to non-medical fields, such as law and IT, where professionals state that jargon is also prevalent and a barrier to effective communication with clients.

What tips would you give a healthcare professional for communicating with children?

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to be given information in a way they understand; discussions with healthcare professionals must reflect this.

It is important to consider the non-verbal and verbal elements of communication with children. Non-verbal skills include open body language, active listening and using visual aids, while verbal skills include slower pace and appropriate tone of speech, pauses to check for understanding and avoiding jargon.

How important is it to consider the age of the child patient when communicating with them?

When communicating with any patient it is vital for healthcare professionals to try and gauge their level of comprehension and speak in a common language. While the age of the child has a great impact on understanding, it should be considered as one of a range of factors.

Do you plan to release any other games aimed at healthcare professionals?

Just the other Dr Jargon titles at the moment, but watch this space!

Where can readers find more information?

To find more information on Dr Jargon you can visit or follow @drjargon on Twitter or Facebook.

About Dr Victoria Rodulson

I am a 25 year old Foundation Year 2 junior doctor based at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Scotland. I studied Medicine at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry and hope to pursue a career combining global health and paediatrics.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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