Patient vs. Client

Hello everybody,

I learned something very interesting last week:  A pregnant woman is not considered a “patient” at Grace Children’s Hospital, but rather a “client”. The rationale for this is that a lady who’s pregnant must not consider herself “sick,” which the term “patient” connotes. Certainly now you are digging in your head to understand more or less what this really means in a social context. So many questions are popping up in my head about this distinction and the way women here understand it.  Miss Jocelyne Arnoux, head nurse at GCH, was the one to explain it to me, and she is a nurse with 17 years of experience; certainly she knows what she is talking about, so let’s dig into this concept for more clarity.

At the C2C maternal health care and women’s clinic at Grace Children’s Hospital we are facilitating services to a lot of ladies from near and far, old and young, for a range of services: prenatal care, gynecological check up or follow up, family planning with complications and some other related cases.  As far as I was concerned – as the de facto manager of the clinic – all of these women were “Patients.” Now this concept of pregnant woman visitors as “clients” isn’t innate to me, so I ask myself: what is the condition and situation of most of the pregnant ladies I’m seeing at the clinic? They don’t feel good, especially if they don’t know yet if they are pregnant; they are seeing some changes in their bodies; they are worried about their increasing body temperature; they just did not have menstruations for the past months or weeks … The reasons are various.

Some of our visitors, when they come to the clinic they are very anxious or are in a rush to meet the doctor. Sometimes they act like a dying person who wants to enter an emergency room. “Don’t worry Madame, you are not sick, you are just pregnant”, I would like to tell them. But how would they understand it?  How would they feel it, if I tell them that they are just client, so they have to act as client? A privileged client who have paid less than $1 for a very good quality service in a high quality structure. I see the value of teaching women that pregnancy is not a sickness and encouraging their positive feelings toward it. Unfortunately, women here don’t often see it like this.  I can understand the logic in it, but they cannot, which – I think – is a manifestation of poor education, starting with basic health ed. The problem here beings as fundamentally as women “clients” not knowing their age or health histories. So it’s no surprise that when something feels slightly off (as in the case of pregnancy) they consider themselves sick, and nothing or no one can put something else in their head since they were not educated for it. Someone who feels sick, thinks sick and will normally act sick. The medical system can consider them as client until it’s blue in the face, but those ladies I’m seeing and questioning everyday will forever consider themselves “patients” for a long time if we don’t start teaching that pregnancy is not a sickness, but certainly something new to be managed about their personal health.

At the end of the day, the best reward is that at C2C’s clinic at Grace Children Hospital, however the women are labeled and whatever they’re feeling, the staff will do the best to provide them the services they need in a secure, well-resourced space. “Patient” or “Client” is just a difference of words.

This entry was posted on by Allison Howard-Berry.