Blog: “‘Patient’ is an Unhealthy Word”

April 19, 2016


The word patient, when used as a noun, means “somebody given medical treatment.” When used as an adjective, it means “capable of waiting.”  Combined, you have the perfect definition: “somebody who is capable of waiting for medical treatment.”


Recently, I attended a presentation by worksite wellness guru, Dee Edington.  He discussed his new book “Shared Values Shared Results – Positive Organizational Health as a Win-Win Philosophy.”  Following his talk, Dr. Edington took questions from the audience.  A physician friend of mine asked a question that referred to employees at work as “patients”.  Edington questioned whether my friend was a doctor, given his use of the term “patient.”  While he was not critical of the term, Edington left the audience with the impression that the use of “patients” is unhealthy.  In my opinion it is, because it perpetuates our “sick care” system.  We live our lives without regard to the consequences of our lifestyle behaviors, and then become dependent upon a medical fix when sickness or disease surfaces.  It’s like expecting your car to run forever without regular maintenance - no oil changes; no new tires; no preventive care of any kind.  And, when the car breaks down, depending on a mechanic to make it operable again.


Dropping “patient” from our medical lexicon is a small step, but an important one in changing our mindset about health.  Call me a “customer” when I show up for an annual physical or flu shot.  Or, if I need ongoing care, refer to me as a “client”.  Should I require hospital services, I prefer the term “guest.”  I promise to make my stay as short as possible, knowing that the cost of it will add to my pain and suffering!  


Live WELL!


M. J. 


M. J. White is the creator of “LEAN Wellness”, a radically different approach to transforming health and wellbeing at work. It is inspired and supported from the top-down, but driven from the bottom-up by continuous learning and improvement. The result is lasting behavior change in people and a more productive work environment. To learn more, visit the website at: or email M. J. directly at:



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