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OBJECTIVE. The goal was to investigate pediatric residents’ usage of jargon during discussions about positive newborn screening test results.

METHODS. An explicit-criteria abstraction procedure was used to identify jargon usage and explanations in transcripts of encounters between residents and standardized parents of a fictitious infant found to carry cystic fibrosis or sickle cell hemoglobinopathy. Residents were recruited from a series of educational workshops on how to inform parents about positive newborn screening test results. The time lag from jargon words to explanations was measured by using “statements,” each of which contained 1 subject and 1 predicate.

RESULTS. Duplicate abstraction revealed reliability K of 0.92. The average number of unique jargon words per transcript was 20; the total jargon count was 72.3 words. There was an average of 7.5 jargon explanations per transcript, but the explained/ total jargon ratio was only 0.17. When jargon was explained, the average time lag from the first usage to the explanation was 8.2 statements.

CONCLUSION. The large number of jargon words and the small number of explanations suggest that physicians’ counseling about newborn screening may be too complex for some parents.


Published version. Pediatrics, Vol. 122, No. 2 (August 2008): 243-249. DOI. © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics. Used with permission.

Stephanie Christopher was affiliated with the Medical College of Wisconsin at the time of publication.