I never thought an actual patient could ask me this – and ask me seriously. The patient was a retired accountant in his sixties and he asked me, with all seriousness if we are taught in medical school how to write horribly.

I told him he was wrong, that we actually have nice handwriting though various reasons could account for our writing being sloppy occasionally, some reasons being:

1. large number of patients
2. Emergencies
3. Might not want patient to see what you are writing (eg his bill).

But being a scientific kind of guy, I set out to disprove his assertion; I checked the different case notes around me and what I saw shocked me; I will attempt to reproduce what I saw using my own artistic impression here:





By the way, one of the above is mine:)

Quiz: Can you decipher what is written? Kindly score the handwritings.

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  1. I was able to read them all, but it's not the finest penmanship, that's for sure. 🙂

    In my own defense, my handwriting was terrible long before I entered medical school. But I prided myself on writing very clearly on prescriptions. The risk of error is too great not to. I even had pharmacists compliment me. Made this messy scribbler feel proud. 😉

  2. discomfort is definitely the worst of them all, followed by cough. breathing and beautiful could be any person's writing in my opinion.

    I've never had a pretty or the neatest of hand writings but i thinks as doctors dealing with lives we should be conscious of what we write because writing that is not decipherable can cause delays or disasters in emergencies. could lead to administration of wrong medication and/or wrong dosage etc.

    But yeah i agree that the workload and rate at which you have to see patients sometimes contribute as you have to write too fast sometimes. Hence the appearance of scribbles.

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  4. Sorry Dr E – thought I had commented here. Did think yours was beautiful!

    As a teenager I worked at the PPB (Prescription Pricing Bureau) which involved reading (handwritten – no comps then) and pricing prescriptions.

    So it was that even the most illegible handwriting became legible to me.

    Anna :o]

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