Instructions after a surgical operation
Jane Lamprill is a freelance health writer and owner of Please Read CarefullyTM. Jane wrote a draft alternative version of the instructions below, as part of her Plain English Diploma. It has not been reviewed by a dermatologist, due to the pandemic. Other examples are available.
The lump: Jane once needed a small operation to remove a lump on her leg, in case it was cancer. The procedure went well, care was good and there was no health problem. Unfortunately, the aftercare information was poor quality and confusing. For example, a member of the public might not understand:
Important considerations when writing for patients
Target readership: The hospital serves a wide range of people from different ethnic backgrounds, whose first language may not be English. Medical information needs to be safe, accurate, clear, readable and easily understood.
Patient-centred information: Because patients are often anxious about biopsy results and scarring, Jane addressed these issues first (please see below). Readers can then focus on the instructions when they are less stressed. It also helps if the information doesn’t look a mess!
User testing: Before publication, it’s a good idea to test the aftercare instructions with a representative group of patients. Are they able to read, understand and find important information quickly?