Anatomy: my big mistake

I had a little giggle to myself while charting the notes of a patient with shoulder pain the other day. Specifically, I was thinking of this post of yore, and my belief that I could get by just knowing what anatomy looked like, and not necessarily its various descriptions and qualifiers.

Boy, was I wrong. (And young. And obstinate.)

Image via

Back then I thought it was enough to know more or less where organs and muscles were, but not essential to know which arteries and veins accompanied it. (It almost scares me a little that I managed to find my way through med school in this fashion.)

Dear Past Me: This is why you should have paid more attention in anatomy lectures…

  1. When learning to do C-sections, keeping track of the various layers of the abdomen was the easiest way to keep track of my progress;
  2. It’s kind of useful to know which structures to avoid when slicing through someone’s skin;
  3. Knee pain, shoulder pain, any joint pain;
  4. You save time if you don’t “quickly” have to look up the name of a structure;
  5. You save time if you can describe something in two words rather than ten;
  6. Knowing anatomy helps you to put things back where they belong, like putting an abdomen that has been laparotomy-ed back together again;
  7. Strokes and spinal injuries;
  8. Interpreting imaging studies;
  9. Describing what you see to another healthcare worker on the phone;
  10. Not sounding ridiculous when referring a patient to another clinician;
  11. And it sometimes even keeps imposter syndrome at bay.

Nowadays, anatomy is actually the one thing I use most to explain things to my patients. Not everybody can or wants to understand science, but everybody has a body, and so often my terrible anatomical sketches become the foundation of explaining their condition to a patient. And my own anatomical knowledge has grown in leaps and bounds, albeit a little later than it should have.

And if you’ve seen my Pinterest boards or – gasp – my tattoo, you’ll know that I quite like anatomy, these days.

Eh, the errors of our youth…


1 Comment

  1. Robyn says:

    I still dislike anatomy, though I understand it’s usefulness. Most of the time I can get by with the bare minimum knowledge, especially with the bones and joints and major muscle groups. I still firmly believe that detailed knowledge of all the small muscles (and their accompanying blood supply/innervation) is only necessary for Orthopods. Lol but I can never remember all of that.

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