Why Doctor Can't Write (Yet Again)

Michael A. Kowal, PT
JAMA. 1985;254(1):57-58. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360010063023.
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To the Editor.—  May I bring to the attention of those who read this journal an irksome, significant, and correctable problem: illegible handwriting. I am a physical therapist practicing at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Milwaukee, a large teaching institution. Other staff members and I waste considerable time trying to decipher illegible orders and notes written by doctors. As a result, care of the patient is usually delayed and encumbered. Why should this be the case?(1) Doctors have not attended grammar school and, as a result, have no training in handwriting skills. (2) Doctors are supposed to write illegibly. (3) It is not important for doctors to communicate with staff. The chart serves only as a device for papercompliance with regulations. (4) Doctors are not really confident about what they are doing or writing. People are less likely to criticize and judge them, or less likely to lose


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