The Power of Words

Talk Bubble
By Kim Stamp

I am a firm believer in crafting the best possible scenario to facilitate a patient’s healing journey, and that starts with the words we use to describe the process.

For a patient to heal successfully, they need to be actively engaged in the process. Disengaged patients are not usually inclined to do their home exercise programs, or for that matter, even prioritize showing up for their appointments. When we use phrases like “We will fix that shoulder for you,” we take the patient out of the equation and relegate them to being a passive observer. When we take our car to the mechanic, we expect to hear a phrase like that and we generally don’t want to be a part of the “fixing” process. Not so with physical therapy. A simple change in our verbiage to something like “We will work together to get you feeling better” invites the patient to actively participate in their rehabilitation.

For optimal outcomes, take the time to draw a patient into the process by asking them about their goals for rehab and what they are looking forward to doing once they feel better. The words we use can greatly impact how engaged a patient is in the healing process. And an engaged patient is much more likely to be present for their appointments and compliant in their home care. Sometimes, one small adjustment to the way we do or say things can make a big impact on our practice. Take the opportunity to observe the language you use with your patients and then evaluate if your words invite connection or encourage passivity.

Kim Stamp

Kim Stamp is a PPS Certified Administrator and the Regional Business Manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy. She also serves as president of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at

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