Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Author Beware: Use of Medical Equipment

I'm an avid reader. Don't you have to be as a writer? I have to admit, there are a few authors I lean toward. Generally, I'll read most of what they publish.

I also have an issue. I know that it can be very hard to get medical details right in a manuscript. I faced this challenge when I wrote an OB scene and had an OB nurse review it. To put it mildly, she was displeased with what I wrote. I was actually relieved to find that out during the editing phase rather than have a whole lot of obstetrical nurses throwing my novel into the trash because they were offended at something I'd written.

Usually, I'll give a little leeway to those I read... a little. For instance, using EKG instead of ECG is okay... not great but I generally peruse by without much thought.

I was reading one mega-bestselling novelist when he began to write a hospital scene. The character had been beaten up fairly well and there was a description of the medical equipment that was attached to his body. It read something to the effect that, "He had nasal cannulas in his nose."

A nasal cannula (nasal prongs) is an oxygen delivery device. It's very common. The correct way to note the use of this piece of equipment would have been to say, "He had a nasal cannula in his nose."

The way the writer phrased it immediately brought an image to my mind of two of these stuck up his nose. Now, my story bubble has burst and I'm re-reading this sentence to be sure that's what he really said.

If you're unfamiliar with medical equipment, run the scene by someone familiar with its use to avoid simple mistakes like this one.


  1. Another great example by Jordyn! You have a nice way of putting it. As a medical professional, I too can breeze past a few little things, but find myself annoyed when its too obvious that the author didn't double check the details. And since Jordyn is so available online at her blog, there is no reason not to run things past her if you don't know a medical professional.

    Its nice to ask Jordyn because she's both author and nurse. For instance, sometimes I ask my husband about guy perspectives for my books, but he's not an author and sometimes just doesn't "get" my question or what I need from him.

    So ask Jordyn! :o)

  2. Thank you Jordyn. We need people like you to keep us straight.

  3. Thanks so much for your support, Anne! It means a lot.

    Sharon-- so great meeting you at the conference. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I'm always amazed how fast they get the patient back after pulling them directly out of a house fire. It's like, ten chest compressions and some O2, and the patient is conscious, coughing black phlegm and talking again. Tee hee. Authors are funny like that sometimes, to the chagrin of us profs! Good post, Jordyn!

  5. You're so right, Bethany. I just saw a Grey's Anatomy where the patient had three neck surgeries as wasn't even wearing a neck brace post-op!! So ridiculous.