Last night we spent a couple hours at The Hospital for Sick Children. Elli is going to be fine as it was mostly a precautionary measure but I was somewhat boggled by a nurse we ran into there. Nearly everybody we ran into there seemed great except for that one person who made me wonder if she had any place in the profession. Here is the story:
The nurse was telling us that we needed to get a urine sample the next time Elli went to the bathroom. Getting urine samples from adults is a fairly straightforward process but doing so from a six year old who is feeling utterly rotten is another matter entirely. Thankfully (?) I am familiar enough with this process that it works out all right.
The nurse turned to Wendy and began to explain how to go about getting the sample. Wendy told her that I would in fact be the one collecting the sample so I should be the one getting the explanation. The nurse looked at us like we were crazy and got us to repeat the assertion that Daddy would be collecting urine from the little girl instead of Mommy. This incredulity would make some sense if the hospital had single gender washrooms but because it is a kids hospital they don't. The explanation continued and concluded with "you use this wipe to uh... clean her thing."
The word is vagina.
Elli is a girl, and like most girls she has a vagina. I should note that I don't have one but that doesn't mean I don't know the word or that I will somehow be offended by the use of a proper medical term. Hell, I fathered a child... I presumably have some kind of familiarity with vaginas! I totally get that giving this explanation to a male is not the norm - the mothers are going to be the ones doing this 99 times out of 100. The nurse wasn't at a dinner party trying to avoid offending dear old Auntie's delicate sensibilities though - she was, and is, a medical professional in a hospital.
There are several good reasons to make sure medical terminology is precise. First off, regardless of who nurses are talking to they need to make sure instructions are clear and unambiguous for purely medical reasons. You really don't want parents guessing as to how to perform a procedure and accidentally doing things wrong. Secondly, declining to use the proper terms for female genitalia contributes to the demonization of female sexuality and one would hope that in a hospital that sort of thing would not occur. Sadly that is not always the case.