Handwriting 101... The Doctors' course

2013-11-19 21:34

Doctors are, by far, the busiest professionals who deal with the most critical issues that need urgent and well calculated decision making, that can make or break people’s lives... unquestionably, by far busier than Thuli Madosela. Beyond having to examine and treat very ill patients, doctors are also required to write the clinical notes for each and every patient they see.

They also are required to write several notes to other people, i.e. fellow doctors, in case of referral of patients, and also fill up many forms, such as in forensic cases, legal documents, sick notes, etc. Majority of these documents are handwritten, and therefore, require one to write legibly. Truth be told, the doctor's job requires more of a pen than the stethoscope.

Ironically, doctors’ handwritings seem to deteriorate far worse than the South African justice system. It is the worst handwriting amongst all the professionals on the surface of the earth. It is so bad even doctors themselves can hardly read it.

Where do doctors learn this kind of handwriting, though? Surely, no medical school offers this kind of a module... BAD HANDWRITING 101? No ways! In fact, student doctors of all levels do not write like doctors… unless if anybody has ever heard of any medical student who was ever summoned to the professor’s office to clarify on what he/ she has written in the test/ exams.

It is rather weird, though, that  after having the “Dr” title tattooed in their backs, most of the documents that are written by doctors are so not readable at all:

  • How often do we hear of doctors who are summoned to the court of laws to explain themselves because of the handwriting that neither the prosecutor nor the magistrate could comprehend, in pursuit of serving justice?

  • How often do we hear of the employers who disregard their employees’ sick notes due to the unreadable handwriting

  • How often do we hear of the pharmacists who have to call back the prescribing doctor to try and understand what he/ she has written on the patient’s prescription script?

  • How often do we find doctors having to call their fellow doctors who had referred a patient to them, just to try and understand what they have written on the referral letter?

These things happen all the times! But why? Is it by default?

I hold a different view. I refuse to believe that this form of handwriting is involuntary. The doctor’s hand writing is a simple unjust and unreasonable habit, and can therefore be controllable and refined. My argument is informed by the fact that we almost hardly see doctors making silly handwriting mistakes in their own personal activities.

  • When last did you hear of a doctor who could not get his salary simply because the pay-roll personnel could not read his handwriting? Never!

  • When last did you hear of a doctor who had his cheque bounced because the bank could not read his handwriting? Never!

  • When last did you hear of any doctor who got his application (of any sort) rejected, purely because his handwriting on the application forms was illegible? Hardly!

I personally believe that the only reason we write notes and letters to other people is to convey the message across. It is, therefore, senseless, to write something that the other person will not understand. We need to know that it remains the messenger’s responsibility to ensure that the receiver of the message receives and understands the message as intended.

If being busy can justify the doctors’ bad handwriting, then we should never blame the home affairs personnel who issue a Mushavhanamadi ID book to a white chap. We might as well accept that bank consultants may do the same mistakes during month-ends and peak periods.

Would I be reasonably justified to refer to this as “the doctors’ weak point”? Not a chance! This ain’t a weakness at all! It is simply an area of potential improvement. Surely doctors are smart enough to write things that the next person would understand. We are smart enough to expose our intelligence and not hide our not-so-smart sides.

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