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Words admitted to the ICU

June 25, 2011 - Brad Siddons
The world is full of words, and yet we never seem to have enough. Each year a bunch are added to the supply, with dictionaries seeming to be the “official” repositories of new words.

A couple of words in one of our Page A1 stories this morning caught my eye. They were medical terms used in the story about Lewistown Hospital and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville using today's technology to provide medical advice from specialists in Danville to staff in Lewistown intensive care unit.

Hey, that's all well and good. As someone who has benefitted from wonderful care in both of these hospitals, I welcome anything that makes that care even better. But I do wonder where some of the words they are using came from.

Take “intensivists,” for example. The New Oxford American Dictionary in my computer doesn't list that word. So let's search the Internet. defines the word as “a physician who specializes in the care of critically ill patients, usually in an intensive care unit.” Well, duh. Common sense would lead to that definition.

Then there are “hospitalists.” People who work in a hospital? Doctors who do? Are nurses included? Search in for this simple description: “a hospital-based general physician.” OK. Fine. But, well … DID WE REALLY NEED NEW WORDS HERE? Sorry, getting a little excited there. It's very late.

Anyway, I really don't want to make a big deal out of this. But as one who cherishes the American version of the English language, I take every bit of it very seriously. Nothing should be put in or taken out, or changed, without careful thought. However, if these two words — or any others — make a doctor's life any easier, or an ICU patient's life easier to save, by all means proceed. And I hope NOT to see the inside of your ICU anytime soon.


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