* * Anonymous Doc: Spellchek

Sunday, February 12, 2012


My intern can't spell. Or type. I don't know which one. Probably both.

This seems like a silly problem, and, indeed, I've spent weeks trying to persuade myself that it's a silly problem, not even worth mentioning, except that when I'm asked to explain a patient note that details our treatment for an "erotic anorism," it becomes a problem.

I feel like a jerk to pull someone aside and tell them that the patient came in with the flu, not the flew, and that it's herpes, not herpees. But if anyone ever reads these notes, they're going to close this hospital.

I've been going through and correcting things-- often having to sound them out just to know what he's trying to say-- saroses? Oh... cirrhosis! Right?! And somehow this person got through college, and medical school (I hope). In this country, even.

He's not stupid. And if it's a learning disability of some sort, dyslexia, something like that, then I certainly don't want to call attention to it that would make him uncomfortable. But cholesterol doesn't start with a K, and diabetes only has one D, and no Z, anywhere in the entire word.

It will serve him well that doctors are expected to have poor enough penmanship that no one will even know what he's writing, let alone be able to notice the spelling. But, gosh, I didn't realize that part of the job of a resident is copyediting.

"Patient is obeast."



  1. Whoa. That is nowhere near the realm of normal. I'm wondering how he got through medical school too.

  2. Take him aside and ask him in private what's going on. Could be he had one of those liberal educations where "spelling doesn't count". Could be he has some kind of disability (and should know what aid he needs). Could be he can't function on little sleep. Could even be some kind of ... erm... substance.

    He is surely setting himself up for serious public shame, if not legal action, if he continues like this. Can you see a malpractice lawyer with that in court?

  3. Friend and colleague of mine is dyslexic.

    Runs all the "Doctors Letters" through a spellchecker, but that doesn't catch everything.

    Got the medical vocabulary down pat though and only rarely makes mistakes in that area. Took a lot of effort and training, but was worth it.

  4. I'm just a transcriptionist but I'd be fired for errors like that. As stated above, a lawyer could have a field day with that. Something should be done.

  5. Wow. I am just beginning nursing school and in the anatomy and physiology class I am in now, and the one last semester, spelling counts. If it is spelled wrong, it's wrong. I'm really surprised that someone who in theory should be way more trained than me would make such mistakes. I do have a daughter with dyslexia but I'd think if that was the problem for him it would be up to him to figure out a way to adapt or find a strategy to help him with the spelling.

  6. His med school must have used scantrons. :)

  7. Those are not errors made by someone who is dyslexic...it's either someone who doesn't care to spell correctly or someone who doesn't have an education. Even the worst spellers wouldn't make those errors.

    Did someone check his credentials?

  8. I just read your first post in 2009. Man, you have changed. You sound way more mature in your writing than you you were 3 years ago.

    How is your personal life going? Have you been dating anyone? Your first couple posts were a little depressing. I hope you found someone to go home to everyday. If not, no worries. I am in the same boat as you.

    1. I don't know if I'd ever have the guts to ask a blogger about their non-blog-subject life, but I'm so glad you did.

      Yoohoo, Anon Doc, you can totally come home to my house whenever you want! There's no yelling here, or door-slamming, and I like to bake cookies on my days off! Yesterday I made a fort on the couch and movies all day. It's fun here. And the weather is nice. You should totally move in.

    2. Captcha comment: wameturd. Guess I can only take that as a rejection.

    3. To address the personal life comment. Not a lot to say. But I will make an effort to write a post about it soon. I find it interesting that (at least a couple of) readers are interested. Thanks for asking, certainly.

    4. I agree, that would be an interesting post! I always enjoyed your thoughts on dating and residency that you used to post--very interesting for me to read as a non-medical person dating a medical resident (although not anymore, sadly. Damn you, 80 hour weeks!!).

  9. Thanks, man. Your first post came across a little depressing. I was concerned for you back then, and I am concerned now. Looking forward to that post.

  10. I went to high school with an otherwise high-performing student who had a legit learning disability that rendered her spelling entirely erratic (and your intern's spelling reminds me of my classmate's). But at this level, your intern needs to develop coping strategies that don't burden (or endanger) others, and calling him on it and making him take responsibility.