Hide the Children? by Pat Conrad MD

Honestly, I had to look it up.  I had never heard the term “trigger warning” before, but a bunch of weenie medical students – pardon the redundancy – seem to be all twisted up about it, so herewith:

“A statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).”

An online publication with the odd, safe-space name “Campus Reform” has a piece detailing how a large portion of med students at Ohio University support the use of “trigger warnings” in medical education.  This includes one creampuff “student who said they should be used before discussing ‘very deep issues that potentially could cause an emotional rise in someone.’”  Is my tone contemptuous?  I certainly mean it to be.

“Conversely, only 29 percent of the students who were surveyed rejected the use of trigger warnings in the classroom entirely, citing concerns that they enable students to avoid difficult topics or inhibit the academic freedom of instructors.”  So less than a third of the students have actually begun adulthood.  Lovely.

Study author Prof. Elizabeth Beverly:  “Research is needed to test the effectiveness of using triggering warnings in the classroom with both subjective (e.g., reflective writing, interviews) and objective measures (e.g., stress, depression, anxiety, empathy, knowledge questionnaires),” she explained, adding that “if future research shows trigger warnings improve knowledge, empathy, and wellbeing, trigger warnings would be a positive addition to the medical students’ curricula.”

Additional research might show that pointless academicians, the sort that get paid for these sorts of studies (and develop MOC guidelines) make me want to drink hard liquor straight, scream uncontrollably, and set random structures on fire.  What sort of trigger warning would have helped with the necessary discomfort of my psych rotations?  Should the chief surgical resident have issued a trigger warning before opening up a peri-rectal abscess that nearly killed everyone in the OR?  There are hygienic horrors from late night pelvic exams that I will spend all my life repressing.

Every single med student and physician encounters patients and clinical scenarios that are horribly uncomfortable.  Rare is the clinician, if he exists at all, that has not had some clinical exchange that recalls for him some moment of his own or family past that he would rather take to the grave.  That’s just the human condition, and we physicians often happen to be jammed into it a little deeper than most.  This topic has nothing to do with reimbursements, lousy government regulations, or why we all hate insurance companies.

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This has to do with the plain fortitude that it takes to face up to the nasty, grisly side of our physical beings, and the perplexing, maddening, sometimes terrifying reactions within and between human beings.  Coddling fearful baby med students won’t help them or the patients.

The study authors speculate, “Trigger warnings may represent teachable moments for professors to offer insight and techniques on how to handle challenging situations in future patient encounters.”  My first ever breast exam was as a third year med student, performed on a pair of hair-covered D-size mounds, attached to a bearded, former female impersonator.  I can’t imagine how a trigger warning would have improved the experience.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  7 comments for “Hide the Children? by Pat Conrad MD

  1. Mamadoc
    August 30, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Just… WTF?

  2. Ben
    August 26, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    We have sunk so far as a society that no one will be able to accomplish anything.

    But when will I get a trigger warning from the unrealistic patient, that ignored all my discussion of the risks and screams at me about their outcome.
    Nor is their a CPT code for extra compensation for dealing with said individuals. Let alone a trigger warning.
    Or a trigger warning for being dumped on by the emergency room. Or hundreds if not thousands of interactions in my medical career that were at best unpleasant and more often, stressful, anxious, and unpleasant.

    I am still waiting for my check for my 5000 night of unpaid ER call, my 100 hour work weeks, and my year without a day off.

  3. Sir Vicks
    August 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    How many times have I been disgusted and offended by a patient?

  4. Randy
    August 26, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Trigger warnings typically are used to give people a heads up that whatever is coming may be offensive to them, generally something that us viewed as racist or misogynist. I’m not sure that is how it’s being used in this study. Certainly in the actual practice of medicine you don’t get any trigger warnings, and if you think you require them probably should find something else to do.

    In the context of education though I do remember lectures on child abuse where the lecturer would say up front “some of this is going to be tough to see”, “this next slide is a hard one to look at”, etc. In that way the warnings are reasonable. if medical students are expecting trigger warnings like the kind in many universities though they’re probably in the wrong field.

  5. Private Doc
    August 26, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Just another bunch of intolerant liberals claiming censorship is being tolerant. This will be one tool to use to avoid guidelines and treatments based on genetic or sexual predisposition. Might as well we have already compromised so much that even most intake forms now incorrectly ask for gender instead of sex. I don’t care about your gender I just want to be able to know what ailments you are subject to and screenings you need. Sex gives me information gender gives me useless information but we fell right in line with the masses like the lemmings we are.

  6. Ben
    August 26, 2017 at 7:22 am

    I don’t see the purpose, but maybe they can have a recorded announcement that goes off everyday with their alarm clock warning them about life and to pay attention in medical school so they might learn to expect the ordinary, but to always be prepared for the completely extraordinary.

  7. Sir Lance-a-lot
    August 26, 2017 at 6:31 am

    What’s the trigger warning for a parent begging you to save their grey, stiff baby?

    People like these academicians are so far beneath my contempt that I have no words for it.

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