Person-first language: are we practicing what we preach?
Person-first language is taught in most health professions programs and mandated by scholarly journals but is often not practiced by health care practitioners. The disconnection between academia and clinical practice is significant. Students and new practitioners are often faced with the challenge of holding to their training or falling in line with the status quo. While the use of person-first language should be the norm in all health care settings, unfortunately, often the opposite is true. The person-first language movement began in 1974. Since that time, the culture of disability has drastically changed. There is greater integration of individuals with a disability and with that integration has come greater understanding and acceptance. Increased community integration has allowed for greater opportunities for advocacy and has also forced a shift in how the community at large views people with a disability. This shift in how individuals with a disability are viewed has resulted in a change in language. A change in semantics is not enough. Health professions educators need to ensure that students understand why this change has taken place and why it is essential. The power language can have not only on patient care but also on patient outcomes is profound and should be understood by both educators and practitioners alike. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the factors surrounding person-first language and its integration into health care, including the difference between what is taught and mandated, and what is practiced.