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Are you confused by ‘history’? We can explain.

By 11 April 2018Language Tips

How to use 'history'

The meaning of history

A patient’s medical history includes both events in the past but also their current and future health. It is a cause of confusion for many students who, understandably, believe history can only have a past meaning.

A better way of thinking about history is that it’s the patient’s life ‘story’. It includes things we know about but has room to include things that will happen in the future too.

When teaching students about tenses, teachers will often show life as a line. The start point, when we are born is fixed. The current date is fixed but when the line will end is not. A patient’s history is the same as this line.

Using history in your writing

This means, if the patient has been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as cluster headaches, we need to refer to this with present tenses:

                             Mrs Rodrigues has a history of cluster headaches.

The use of the present tense in this example, allows us to show this is an ongoing problem for the patient rather than something that has been treated, which is the implication of using the past tense.