Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Tubular Request

By no means is this meant to poke fun at people. My intention is to illustrate how terminology in various specialty areas - whether it be scientific, technical, or business related - may be common place for some people but foreign to others.

I have worked in the medical field for 35 years; therefore, I find medical terminology routine. However, start talking about rollpans, shift boots, rucks and mauls, or a Helmholtz resonator; the most intelligent word you’d hear from me would be, “Duh.”

I’ve never needed to know that, Sabine absorption is A = 0.921 Vd /c. Hell, I wouldn’t even know what subject area you would be referring to. Just recently, someone mentioned my typeface and my response – “oval I guess.” I later found out he was referring to my font. Even when we write, we tend to gravitate towards personal experiences and special interests.

This just goes to show that we all have our areas of familiarity and should never feel less of a person for having to ask for clarification. With that said, here’s my story.

Many moons ago, I was working in Centenary Hospital’s outpatient department. My duty was to obtain pre-operative ECGs (electrocardiograms) and to collect blood and urine samples. On one particular morning, a tall, husky man – approximately 25 years old, sat in front of me - his wife, by my side. After collecting two vials of blood, I handed him a specimen container and asked for a urine sample.

Ten minutes passed, but he hadn’t returned. At first, I didn’t feel that it was anything out of the ordinary. After all, it’s not always easy to void on demand. After another ten minutes, my curiosity was heightened when his wife started to pace. I decided to knock on the washroom door.

“Are you alright?”

His response, “Ya, I’m okay. I’ll be out in a minute.”

When he appeared, I immediately knew what had taken him so long - so did his wife.

One must remember that in some hospitals, urine containers are in the shape of test tubes (as was his).

He proudly handed me the container, jam packed --

I still can’t figure out how he got it into that narrow tube. Without missing a beat and to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment, I picked up another tube and asked for a “pee” specimen.

He appeared agitated. “You should have asked me the first time. I don’t know if I can go again.”

Little did he know that I did. The young man didn’t understand what I meant by the word, “urine.”

Eventually, after four glasses of water, he was able to give me the needed sample. I’m only sorry that I had to discard his first donation.

As they were leaving the laboratory, I heard his wife chuckling. Seconds later, he said, “shit” and she responded – “exactly.” They both burst out laughing, as did I.

Now, regardless of who the patient is, I approach this situation differently. If you ever happen to appear in front of me for a pre-operative workup - you will hear me ask, “Can you “pee” in the container for me?” Yep, that’ll be me.

This experience reminded me that just because the terms; urine, void and micturate are common, every day words to me; they are not necessarily routine for others.


  1. I think we get so caught up in the world of our own profession that we forget it makes no sense to the rest of the world. When I worked for P&G and General Mills we spoke in acronyms. POS, POP,BOGO, and UPC were everyday phrases. Unit sales, trucks, resets, shelf schematics and shelf management were part of my day.

    I like to know what makes things tick and when I started using computers I became a geek. I can flash the BIOS, I know my way around DOS and when we put together our last computer I looked at a lot of cpu's and mobo's before buying. I just installed a EVGA e-GeForce 8500 GT.

    Doesn't everyone talk like that?

  2. What are you talking about? Hahaha I read something about ECG's and the vials and test tube? Are you doing some experiments here? Oh the urine, no you can't have my urine, I'm saving it to water the plants.


  3. Oh, AL, you just made me laugh so hard!! And SQ, I also get so used to computer terminology I forget that some people don't know what I mean when I am explaining what to do and tell them to hit enter. If the keyboard says "return" they don't put it together.

    Susan, that is a really funny story. Poor guy! I hope they could laugh about it together as one of those things that happens now and then. But that was really priceless! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Susan,

    The CPU is central processing unit, it's the brains of the computer. It fits into the MOBO or Motherboard which holds all the components. The 8500 GT is a video card so I can play my favorite high powered FPS (first person shooter) video games.