Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Do Doctors Have Such Bad Handwriting?

Why do doctors have such bad handwriting? Many people think most docs have atrocious handwriting. Why? Did they always have this condition? Do they teach it in medical and dental school? Being a dentist, I think I know the answer. Firstly doctors do not have bad handwriting, they just choose to write badly. This is not a conscious decision to confuse people, but an unintentional consequence of viewing other things as more important or urgent in the moment. These are the same people who have developed fine motor skills for precise surgical procedures. They CAN move a pen and write well.

Why? From personal experience, I have three writing styles. One is artistic and legible, the second is legible but occasionally a little more messy, and finally I have the doctor chicken scratch. Why do I "choose" to write messily? Like I mentioned above, we may be in a time crunch, usually not rushed, but mentally, writing takes on less importance than other things going on at the time. Even if we are not in a hurry, we immediately place the importance of a legible signature, etc. below that of a patient's time, the patient waiting in the next room and the much more important (to us at the time) of putting all our energy into diagnosis and treatment concerns.

As an aside, in the past there was a certain shorthand used for prescriptions that would mean, say three teaspoons that would be just a squiggle that the pharmacist would understand. These days it is still important the pharmacist and other health care professionals understand orders, prescriptions and notes. Thank goodness for the development of paperless solutions and computers. Oh, and spell check too!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL!!! Great post! I'm not a doctor but I think I would describe my handwriting as a cross between cursive and print.

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Dentist Stillwater MN said...

Haha. This is very true. Everyone at our clinics has bad handwriting.

ahmed the dentist said...

looool great note i solved this problem by writing in a separate letters.

KateGladstone said...

To prevent or remediate "medi-scrawl" (poor physician penmanship, oftem caused by the speed and stress of medical school and a medical career), one of the newest tools for learning to write properly has come from the world of mobile phones.
An emergency medicine physician named Harvey Castro (owner of the medical software firm Deep Pocket Series) has released an iPhone app called Better Letters -- a multi-featured handwriting course on the iPhone, so doctors can take it anywhere and practice without embarrassment. (As Dr. Castro points out: if it will work on physicians' handwriting, it will work on any handwriting.)

This app is attracting many users -- not only doctors -- and today it reached #132 in the iPhone App Store's list of Top Medical Software.

For more information, see the company's informational page about the app --
http://bit.ly/BetterLetters --
and vist the app's App Store page at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/better-letters/id335485938?mt=8

Vagan said...

Nowadays it could also be that we simply don't get to use our penship that often, this being the digital age. I honestly can't remember the last time I had to physically write more than a few sentences.

-Vagan
DDS/PhD Student
manicmolar.blogspot.com

denture adhesive blogger said...

i write my description on my lap top and print it for the patients to avoid the sequel of this bad handwriting

cure adult acne said...

Dr. Dean, this is a great trivia! We actually have a saying that when your writing is messy, then you are a doctor. Lol! Thanks to those pharmacists who can understand these writings. If not, a different medicine will be given...

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Dentist Santa Monica said...

Lolz!! Oh Mr. Dean this question is one of the most asked questions. I myself have bad handwriting, sometimes patient gets confuse that it is written in some other language. But the reason you said for this is really great.

Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe because its secretly a love letter or a practical joke to the pharmacy?

C.Jin said...

I've concluded now that "not enough time" is the definite answer to this question.

HOWEVER, I don't like this answer at all. I get that doctors are busy, but is there really ANY excuse for making regular work impossible for fellow professional like nurses and pharmacists? These are people's lives you're toying with. Yes, doctor's CHOOSE to write chicken scratch, but this conscious decision isn't only from being stressed and busy. A lot of it has to do with the fact that doctors think they're better than everybody else. They think they're too important to waste THEIR time for anyone else. Cause in the end, they get to do their job while someone ELSE has to waste their time to try and read their garbage.

If you don't have the time to WRITE words on paper like an adult, then just don't write. Do something else. Seriously, it's not even bad handwriting. It's how a disabled person would write if they were pretending to write chinese.

Anonymous said...

How about teachers? They write almost the same thing every year. They write on 'big prescriptions' (chalkboards/whiteboards) and they also think simultaneously. But most of them has a real good handwriting.

And besides, what if the patient read the prescription wrong? Most seniors cannot remember what the doctors have told them. So, they will rely on the written prescription. What if instead of 3 times a day, they've read it as 8 times a day?
Just what ifs.