He was about to conclude his rounds, an evening round, before heading back to Owerri, where he has a lucrative practice. Since the teaching hospital facility where I m trained is located in a different state, he has to leave early enough to get home early enough. But he had one patient more to review, which as a consultant Orthopaedic surgeon-on-call, he should do.
This last patient, in his middle twenties, has a fracture to the right knee. The fracture is an open, communited fracture located on the distal portion of the right femur, with a skeletal traction to basically immobilise it and aid fracture healing.
While the round was on he staged us, which is normal, with some form of viva voce like kind of question and answer. He took us from orthopaedic surgery, to general surgery to anatomy, physiology etc. This is one striking thing about being in medical school; your ability to intertwine all the knowledge you have gathered over the years, and synthesis something meaningful and logical, for the benefit of the patient. During the anatomy segment of the discussion, he asked one question that nudged all of us from our comfort zones. “What are the content of the deep compartment of the posterior compartment of the leg?” *Confusion arose* Before now he had asked for the compartments of the leg, the subdivision of the posterior compartment, and the content of the superficial compartment of the leg. A bright colleague rattled out the answer, exactly as it should be. But when he asked that question that threw us all of our balance, I thought to myself, ‘No way any of us is going to get that!!’ But, just in a split second the consultant spewed out a mnemonic, that settled the tension in the room. The consultant said, “You can remember the contents of the deep segment of posterior compartment of the leg by remembering, ‘The Doctors Are Now Here’. This is from the medial malleolus into the deep segment” “T stands for Tibialis Posterior, D stands for flexor Digitorium, A stands for Artery, N stands for Nerves, H stands for flexor Hallucis” Virtually all doctors use mnemonics in the everyday consultations in the clinic. Mnemonics have saved countless lives and is still serving it’s purpose. I know that a doctor who can remember all his/her mnemonic, which I call ‘codes’, would make a near perfect doctor. So if you think your doctor is almost perfect, or too good, you should know that mnemonics shaped him into what he is. Believe it or not!!! A word of advice please… don’t bother asking your doctor if he/she use mnemonics, because he/she MAY not agree, since it is seen as cramming a work instead of understanding it.