April 19, 2014

Spelling: Don’t look stupid. Use your smart-phone.

Report writing is one of the most important things that we do as EMS professionals. IV starts, intubation skills, assessments and ECG interpretations are vital parts of our jobs, but as far as anyone else is concerned, nothing happened unless you documented it. Patient care reports paint a picture of what happened years down the road. It affects the perception of the care you provided and you as a professional. You may be the best paramedic to ever step foot inside an ambulance, but you will look like an idiot if your report is full of spelling errors.

While electronic reporting has introduced the luxury of spell-check to EMS professionals, it often doesn’t include medical dictionaries. Keep in mind that bad spelling of medical terms can affect continuity of care, and be grounds for serious questioning in a court of law. Fortunately, with the evolution of mobile-technology, looking up regular words and medical terms has never been easier.

There are 3 main tools on my phone that I use when I need to lookup the proper spelling of a word. The easiest, and the quickest is the built-in Google search. If for some reason it doesn’t find the word I am looking for, then I either use the “Dictionary.com” Android app for regular words or the “Medscape” app for medical terms. Both of which are quick and easy to use.

Google Search

One of the beauties of the Android operating system is the Google integration. One of the features that I use the most is the instant search. I use it to look up phone numbers, addresses, maps, medications, diseases, websites and of course, spelling. For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to using it for spelling. The easiest way to access the integrated Google search, simply hit the “search” button on your Android phone. This will bring up a search dialog. When you start typing the word, it will start to bring up relevant search terms. Most of the time, you will find the desired word in this list. If not, enter the word with your guessed spelling and the actual search should say something like “did you mean [word with correct spelling]”. It will also bring up search results from sources like Wikipedia and dictionary.com and the link title will contain the proper spelling. Another way to accomplish this is by using the voice-input feature so that you don’t have to try and guess the spelling.

Dictionary.com

For the most part, Google’s search utility will show you the correct spelling for anything that you are looking for. However, the built-in thesaurus is great for choosing appropriate words when writing narratives. The standard dictionary is also nice for checking the definition of a word that you may not be 100% familiar with. When you start up the app, the search bar shows up on the top of the screen for an instant search.

Medscape

This is great for searching for correct spelling on medications and diseases. All you have to do is open the app, and start typing into the search bar. All you need is the first couple letters and the app will automatically start brining up relevant results. The more letters you add, the more you narrow down the search results. Having this available is essentially like having a medical dictionary and drug reference, only 100-times faster.

Between these 3 free resources, there is simply no reason to write a report without being 100% sure that you’re spelling everything correctly. If you happen to use any other resources to aid in spell-checking, please e-mail me or comment below!


About Sean Eddy

I'm a paramedic in North Texas. I have been working in EMS for over 10 years now. I enjoy the outdoors, music, shooting, computers and fitness. I currently run DroidMedic.com, and MedicMadness.com . You can e-mail me at sean@medicmadness.com.