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Numerology in Obstetrics Presentations

March 19, 2014 8 comments

A warning to all – this post is really for the docs out there.   If you are not in the medical profession, you might find this humorous, or you might find it completely unintelligible – so read on with that warning.

When I was a medical student and resident, we routinely presented obstetrical patients in a common format:

Age – Gravity (how many times pregnant) – Parity (how many children delivered) – gestational age  extra information.

For example, this patient is a 24 year old (age) G2 (gravity) P1 (Parity) at 29 6/7 weeks with a history of a preterm delivery in her first pregnancy (extra information).

To me, this format makes sense and when I am listening to a presentation it is easy to hear and process.

Unfortunately, things have changed.  We seem to have adopted a new system that incorporates all the extra information into a numerical abbreviation system.  Now we do this:

Age – Gravity – Parity Full Term – Parity Preterm – Miscarriages/Abortions – Live Children – gestational age – extra information ( which may not be required any more)

For example, the previous presentation would be “this is a 24 year old G2P0101 at 29 6/7 weeks”.  

For some reason, this just doesn’t work for me.   Inevitably what happens is that the resident quickly says all of these numbers and my brain freezes.  I now have to spend the next 3 or 4 seconds of my attention processing these numbers into some actual meaning that I can interpret.  During those 3 or 4 seconds the resident has continued their presentation, but I have not heard what they said because I was trying to figure out what they said before meant.

The problem here is over-abreviation.  Abreviation is good when it improves efficiency, but there can be too much of a good thing, and I think we have that right here.  

And so to all you med students, residents, and docs, I encourage you to set an example by extinguishing this extended numerology from your obstetrical presentations.  Just say it in plain English.  We will all understand you better.

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