I Do Not Endorse the Word Endorse

Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend popping up in progress notes of students and residents.

They use the word ‘endorse’ to describe what patients tell them. As in, ‘the patient endorses diarrhea’, or ‘the patient endorses chest pain.’

Endorse means “declare one's public approval or support of”.  You can endorse a candidate. You can endorse a particular type of ketchup. No reasonable person endorses diarrhea.

I know that language changes over time, new words are introduced (wanna take a selfie?) and old words are appropriated (do you have the blues?). In the 1990s Michael Jackson and others tried to make the word ‘bad’ mean ‘good.’

I get it. But I don’t like it.

This July, my newly minted medical 3rd year medical student wrote that his patient ‘endorsed shortness of breath’. He saw this word in the ED visit note. This is the misappropriation of a word handed down by the apprenticeship of medicine.

Think of it this way. You can receive a paid endorsement for a brand of cars. You can receive a paid endorsement for a political candidate. You would never receive a paid endorsement for diarrhea. (Imagine if it were so: Diarrhea, brought to you by the council of enterotoxigenic E.Coli.…)

Patients can have diarrhea. Patients can report diarrhea. They do not endorse it.

I do not endorse the word endorse to mean what it doesn’t mean!!!!

Who else endorses this?