A book about how workplace culture impacts the patient experience.

Health Care—Should It Be One Word or Two?

As time passes, we’ve noticed that the term health care is increasingly being closed up to form one word: healthcare. Of course, this observation reflects a larger trend in the English language, with modern writers and editors tending to prefer one-word forms of many compound nouns, like schoolteacher or takeaway. Healthcare hasn’t made it into Merriam-Webster yet, and although it may one day, we prefer the two-word version.


Why? Because, as two words, the term properly highlights the critical role those of us in the profession play in looking after those who need our help.


The “health” part is pretty self-explanatory. As leaders in this field, we clearly care about the health and well-being of our patients. But what does it mean to “care”?


To us, caring is a very important word that connotes love, kindness, and compassion. And it’s our belief that just about everyone demonstrates that they care, in many ways throughout the day—whether that comes from caring for your family members, for your coworkers, or for the patients assigned to your ward.


Here’s how Ron Swinfard, CEO of Lehigh Valley Health System, put it:


“I participate in every new employee orientation. I use a presentation to show people my background, the one-room schoolhouse where I went to school. The slide says small-town values. This is the new paradigm for CEOs.”


We wholeheartedly agree with Ron. Isn’t any hospital community really like a small town, made up of all sorts of different people who know one another, see one another, and work with one another every day, for years on end? When you are able to consider someone else as a neighbor in a small town, you will find it easy to care about that person’s well-being.


That’s the sort of caring we need to make sure our employees sense from us—because that sort of caring reminds them that they, too, must be caring in their jobs. None of us ever know what kind of impact we may have, at any moment, on the patient experience, and the caring we show could change someone’s life.


When it’s separated into two words, health care illustrates this dynamic in a subtle way. So, until we’re forced to do otherwise, we’re resisting the one-word trend.

1 Comment
  1. Dear Paul and Britt,

    I was just talking about this very issue with our developmental editor. As our name implies, we too believe Health Care is two words. I appreciate how you have articulated this.