“If you’re going to do anything in communication, you need to know your audience; even if they have PhD’s, that might not be their reading level,” said a communications consultant from the Mayo Clinic at a September 29 presentation.
Margaret Mester has been a writer and editor in patient education at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for the last 20 years. Mester has come to realize that her words are just as important to patient care as the physical treatment of patients, “Our goal is to never let them stumble.”
Mester said clear language makes the difference when handling patients because their understanding of medical documents, especially instructional documents, is crucial to their very health. She said, “If they can’t understand it after one reading… then I have failed on my part.”
Mester works with a team of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to help fine tune how information is presented to a patient. Mester makes the argument to her team that if their suggestions are not clear enough for her own great-aunt to understand, it’s not plain language. “I have never, ever lost that argument,” Mester added.
Mester made clear to the students, the importance of being flexible in their writing, “What makes you the best is your flexibility.”
Mester encouraged students to expand their own flexibility by working on tonal writing, expressing that it’s a way to show compassion through the written word, “It’s the ability to put a hug on a paper,” she said.
Mester concluded her presentation with advice to students on how to prepare for success after graduation and for writing in a job setting. Mester emphasized the need for students to read for pleasure, to try different writing styles, and to know AP Style. She said, “You go to shake it up and be willing to do things in a different way.”