Tuesday, 16 March 2010
I am rather pleased with my constipation leaflet. This is never any guarantee of good marks, because it is always possible that the markers are looking for something I hadn't counted on. It looks particularly good because Mr A helped out - the NHS website contains design templates for all sorts of leaflets, but in formats only suitable for professional publishing software, which Mr A happens to have. So I supplied the words and the picture and he fitted them into the template.
Luckily, neither of us has ever suffered from constipation, although my research suggests that we are in a minority. There is a proper definition of constipation, but even the professional literature says this is a guide rather than a standard because it very much depends on what a person considers normal in their own experience. This can vary widely, from more than once a day to less than three times a week. Diagnosis of constipation might combine low frequency (less than 'normal') with a measure of effort, and consider quality of stools (small, hard and lumpy vs. large and soft).
I rather like the word 'stool'. One of the most interesting features about creating this leaflet was the language that could be used. In our spoken language, no matter what your background, nobody talks about 'bowel movements' or 'stools'. Yet this is the most effective phrase to use in a leaflet, and I know that because there's research on it. You can't say any of the normal words; they're either too informal or would cause offence. So if I were giving a patient a leaflet, I'd make a point of finding out the language a patient uses, and make sure that they know the official translation.
I'm sure you're interested in the recommended treatments: it depends on frequency and duration of the condition. Occasional acute episodes just need time and painkillers if necessary, or over-the-counter laxatives used for short periods of time. If it becomes chronic or bouts are very frequent, then change to diet and lifestyle is the most effective long-term treatment: more fibre, fluid, and activity. Long-term laxative use is not recommended. There are more potent treatments, and other serious conditions that start with constipation or the symptoms of constipation, so the usual disclaimer applies: go to a GP if symptoms persist.
The rest of the course and the coursework continues relentlessly. I still have five more deadlines before the end of term, and I've hardly started on two of them. I'm not the only one in the group that is reaching the limit of my endurance, but we will get through in the end. I'm having a short break from work over the Easter weekend, and then the next respite is after the exams.