Whatever the case, 20-plus years later, I sometimes find myself unable to hold back from performing my own rendition of his tutelage. I can’t imagine I do it with the style he did—being fair to myself, I still probably have 15-20 years before I’ll be as old (and hopefully wise) as he was at the time. I imagine that he’d started acting as a Sentinel of Syntax before he got to that age, and maybe even he wasn’t as refined or diplomatic about it when younger.
So, for instance, when I recently noticed that some patients’ imaging studies were being accompanied by documentation describing them as “endorsing” certain signs and symptoms, it, at first, just caught my notice as an odd quirk, maybe a careless slip of someone’s pen. But, then, it happened again and again.
Was the author someone for whom English was a second language? Or had someone gotten ahold of some terminology and misunderstood how to use it? Thought it made him/her sound sophisticated? Was it, indeed, one person, or was the misused word spreading like a virus? Hey, that nurse said the patient endorses fever. I didn’t know that turn of phrase. Maybe it’s a new thing. I’d better start using it if I don’t want to sound like an idiot.
I wanted no part of it. I certainly didn’t want to go ahead and dictate this nonsense into my reports’ clinical histories and, well, endorse this misusage of “endorsing” by even digitally signing my name to it. But, was it my role to selectively edit the clinical information I was given? Better to nip this in the bud and maybe prevent this verbal-virus from spreading any further.
So, I took a couple minutes away from generating RVUs, and shot a message over to one of our physician-extenders: Hey, if you’re not too busy, can we find out who wrote down that this patient “endorses constipation?” Because, unless the patient is actually declaring public support/approval of not being able to defecate, this turn of phrase is wrong.
And please, if we do find out who’s writing this word, encourage him/her to get on the phone with me so I can make this a gentle correction rather than an ego-bruising affair—or, if there is a legit explanation for this turn of phrase, let them educate me about it. Far be it from me to claim I know it all.
I have no idea if the extender ever did have the time, or if the endorsement-happy individual was ever tracked down. So, I don’t know if or how my message was received. I guess I’ll find out the next time I get an imaging study regarding a patient “endorsing” something.
Is being a self-appointed Sentinel of Syntax a complete waste of my time and effort? Lord knows CMS won’t be assigning it a dollar-value anytime soon or even rolling it into any of its “Quality Measure” initiatives. But, if any physician is to take this on, who better than a radiologist, who arguably churns through more written words in a typical day of work than any other specialist?