Friday, August 5, 2011

Ridiculous mnemonics

Hey everyone! It's my revamped blog! I figured since medical school consumes my entire life now, I'll make this blog about medical school.

There are a lot of things to memorize in medical school so students and doctors come up with mnemonics to help remember them. However in my experience, some of them don't actually help you remember whatever it is you're supposed to remember. Furthermore, clinicians tend to publish papers introducing their mnemonic as if it's the greatest thing ever. This I find ridiculous.

HEADSSS is supposed to help pediatricians remember important questions to ask adolescents. However, all I could remember was that it was sort of like the word "head" but with some extra letters but I couldn't remember which letters, let alone what each stood for. I had to Google it when writing up this post.

H: home
E: education/employment
A: activities
D: drugs
S: sexuality
S: suicide/depression
S: safety

PPQRST has the honor of being the first ridiculous mnemonic I learned back when we were all bright-eyed first semester students. It's purpose is to help clinicians thorough assess a medical complaint. The problem is that we can't phrase the question to the patient the way the mnemonic is. We are supposed to ask questions simply and directly. Words like "palliative" and "provocative" are out so we have to remember to ask what makes the pain better and what makes it worse.

P: palliative factors
P: provocative factors
Q: quality of the pain
R: radiation
S: severity
T: temporal course
T: treatment

An internal medicine resident told me that for Step 2, PPQRST doesn't cut it because the student has to elicit a lot more specific information about the complaint. He has many more mnemonics for that. Yikes.

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