People would always throw around the lines “Don't you know that? It's common knowledge!" From my experience, common knowledge is not so common after all. What you may know is not known to another.

Basic Medical Information

You feel like the information you are providing is something known and that you are just being repetitive or getting worried that you are offending the patient by telling them something basic.

For each disease, age, lifestyle and the like, you may have your ready-made speech for your patients. “Rest your extremity, apply a cold compress, wrap the extremity with elastic bandages but not too tight to cut off circulation and keep it elevated with the aid of at least two pillows.”

However, some knowledge generally assumed to be known to most but is not include: hang over headaches to be treated with rehydration not with pain meds; an antibiotic is for bacterial infections and does not treat viral infections; diseases like dengue or Zika don't come from mosquitoes they just carry them. There are even times when patients are not aware of what the range of normal body temperature is. You would often have a patient coming in reporting a fever. Here you go noting fever on the chart and when you ask for the reading they took at home, it turns out to be normal.

Sexually related matters

The highest rate of confusion seems to be with sexually related matters like the use of birth control pills. As a doctor, I feel that this may be one of the most common encounters any doctor has seen throughout their medical career. Some women would use birth control pills only during the day of intercourse or use them only after intercourse in hope to prevent pregnancy. We ourselves as doctors must admit that we also do not read every single label. So why should we assume that our patients do? There are instruction inserts for the use of birth control pills but hardly anyone reads them.

How do I get pregnant?

Still on the topic of intercourse, comes how to get pregnant. Believe it or not but not everyone knows that penis in vagina intercourse is the only way to get pregnant aside from artificial means. On numerous counts, I have had female patients or partners of female patients ask if they can get pregnant from swallowing sperm. There are many others who don’t know that the man needs to ejaculate inside the woman for her to get pregnant.

There are patients who think that doctors have vacations. Though we do go on vacation, we make sure that we endorse patients to other doctors or give on-call schedules to someone available. Some people are unaware that hospitals do not close and that the only portions that are set to office hours are the offices for non medical personnel. Services such as laboratories and emergency rooms are open 24/7.

Lost In Translation

Usage of medical terms or anatomically correct terms: I use substitute names for certain body parts but there are some parts that don’t have layman’s terms. Oh the urethra. I had a patient come in complaining of dysuria. I went on and on talking about his urethra on how he possibly has an infection and the swelling of his urethra is causing the pain he is experiencing. After what I thought was a pretty good talk and I asked him if he had any questions he asks, “Doc, what is a urethra?"

Using medical terms more often than not can lead to misunderstandings. We studied the science of medicine and are knowledgeable in various fields. We spent years in medical school and in training and hence have the ability to save lives. Other people are engineers, lawyers, laborers, teachers, or housewives who have knowledge on other matters we are not experts on. We should always remind ourselves that information we believe to be basic is better explained thoroughly in lay man terms than assuming it to be common knowledge. MIMS

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