Case : a doctor wants his pregnant patient to turn her belly toward him.

Sentence A : "Please turn your belly around toward here"

Question : please reword the sentence above into a politer one, and what would a native english speaker would say in this case ? especially correcting the phrase : "turn toward here"

  • 1
    In England and the rest of the UK, people would use towards, not "toward".
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


In medical practice it is defined as 'lateral position'. So she's in supine position and doctor will say left lateral or right.


Maulik describes the technical language employed by physicians in talking or writing to each other. However, it is unlikely that your patients will be familiar with that terminology, so using it will not produce the action you desire—and it may intimidate your patient, or annoy her.

I have consulted my wife, who not only has been such a patient but also taught medical students examination skills for many years, and she advises against the use of technical language. Do not say "assume a lateral position"; say "roll onto your left/right side". Do not speak of "auscultating"; say "listen to".

She further advises that you treat your patient as a colleague in the process, not as the mere occasion for you to practise your skills. Be courteous and precise about what you want and why. Don't just say "turn this way, turn that way"—say something like

Now: if you could turn to face me [or "to your left" or "your right", or "roll onto your left/right side"], that will help me [do whatever you are going to do next]. That will give us ["us", not just "me"] a better idea about [whatever it is you are trying to find out].

"Long-form" language like this will help build rapport with your patient, demystify the process, and dissipate her anxiety. It will also make her an active and knowledgeable participant in the examination, which will greatly facilitate your future collaboration.

  • I called a spade a spade and answered what the OP was concerned about in the shortest way! If we consider this case as building rapport we could probably start right from welcoming patient. This profession certainly asks for politeness but then every sentence not necessarily should have a laudatory remark. Also, Lateral (excluding as the medical term) does mean side part of something, side to side or the like. And yes, I'm a healthcare provider.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 2:05
  • @MaulikV What OP asked was not what is the term of art but how to address the patient--which requires speaking the patient's language, not the profession's. I see no "laudatory remarks" in what I sketched, merely an acknowledgment of the patient's central role. Does this violate medical decorum? It was not felt to do so at the medical school where my wife taught. Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 2:35

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