So there was a big kerfuffle on twitter about doctors using terms labia wards and birthing sheds and cabbage patch in such a public fora such as twitter.
I wanted to muse more about this here. Although I did miss most of the spat on twitter I did see one “labia ward” tweet from a doc I follow and I did query the term as I did have a gut reaction to it. As usual no reply but you can’t reply to everyone so fairy nuff I suppose. (but no surprise he was one of docs also involved in this ranty post from me– although to be fair he used to be the one I had more respect for than the one I can’t stand. Should probably unfollow them both- doesn’t do my blood pressure any good!)
Now I am a teacher- I have a public persona and professional twitter account. I am very careful what I write there. I also have a personal account which is often full of complete nonsense but I try not to let the two meet- I try not to discuss teaching stuff from my personal account for example. That said I think all professions have a right to a private life and a space to vent- heck just reading TES forums sometimes may get eyebrows raised about the state of the education system in Britain! But that’s the thing Twitter is such a public forum and anyone can follow anyone, so I do wonder if it is a suitable space for such comments to be made, as it is so public. Vent away in the staffroom or even in medical forums online but the problem with twitter is anyone can follow anyone and your patients maybe following you (like my pupils may follow my pro account- eeep!).
I am a big fan of black humour as a coping mechanism as my blogpost on humour attests to, but I think you need to be incredibly careful when your black humour can upset such a huge number of people. Eg. in my case brain damage jokes about munchkin etc were only really going to upset me and close family and we were the ones dealing with the situation and it was a survival strategy for me. If a doctor had made any inappropriate brain damage jokes about munchkin then I would be furious if I was within earshot or found out- they wouldn’t have the right to do that because they don’t have that emotional investment in munchkin or could be feeling as traumatised by the situation as I was- so any black humour on their part would actually be cruel, insensitive and inappropriate.
In terms of my gut reaction to the term “labia ward” I was a little upset by it (more so by terms “cabbage patch” for ICU* and “birthing sheds” which I read about later) although for further reflection see **. A large part of my PTSD from childbirth comes from being treated like a piece of meat on a slab, I was shown very little human kindness during the labour – no-body smiled at me, reassured me, told me I was doing well or it would be okay (apart from Midwife with a Halo who had to leave- as described in my birth story). I had a meeting with the head of the delivery suite recently (which I shall blog about shortly) who was incredible, lovely and wonderful and said”what you need is for people to be kind to you this time”. And bingo- that’s it! Being looked after, being cared for- that’s exactly what I need (and what I am getting from my current hospital). So reading medical professionals using such terms about their work did upset me. I don’t want to know that medical professionals view their patients as labouring mooing farm animals, I want to know that medical professionals treat women in labour with kindness and respect for a very very painful scary time in their lives. I appreciate (well I hope anyway) that the actual professional doctor patient interaction would never be so callous and that it was just doctors letting off steam, but the thing is a veil has been lifted. I don’t want my doctor to “fake” caring I actually want him or her to care. And I know that that is a lot to ask, and I know you have to “fake” it just like I have to pretend to actually like the complete little shit in my worst class of the week, in order to attempt to get him to work, but knowing that there are doctors who really do have such little regard for women by talking about them in such a way- well I just really really hope I don’t get one of you in my next labour, or if I do- I really hope you are a fucking good faker and make me feel safe and secure in your medical care before bitching online after your shift about how much I screamed . 😦
* P.S Musing some more on this- out of all the terms used I found “cabbage patch” to actually be the most offensive and upsetting of the whole debate (although to be totally fair see comments for where term originated). Maybe it is because I am oversensitive to brain damage jokes due to Munchkins HIE (though she is fine now I am painfully aware of how badly brain damaged some babies can get during labour) but I don’t think it is that. I just think it is incredibly distasteful to joke about people who can’t respond or give as good as they get. Yes the labour ward stuff was unfunny and made me not respect those doctors but at least I can rant about it on here and on twitter and let my feelings be heard about that, people on ICU can’t at that time. The peculiar flipside of that is I would probably giggle a bit at the thought of a doctor stating a preference to work in ICU where it is nice and quiet rather than the rather noisy labour wards. I mean I’d prefer to listen to machines bleeping than women screaming their heads off any day. But I think the key is how that preference is stated, personally I wouldn’t be offended by tweeting something as I have just written it (although others maybe -so again it is a tricky one) but using terms such as birthing sheds (interpretation- women are cows), cabbage patch (interpretation dealing with vegetable patients) etc is just really horrible and is directly about the patient with a negative view on them rather than actually about a doctors preferred ward to work in- which he or she is entirely entitled too.
** On reflection of all of the terms I probably found Labia ward least offensive and in a different headspace/context most amusing – I love a punning linguist me. However interestingly I think I would have found the term “labia ward” used by a female doctor (who also has labia obviously!) to be much less offensive than when used by a male doctor who has previous form for slightly misogynistic attitudes towards birthing women (I worked this out from reading a comment on AMcunninghams blog from the female doc who claims to have coined the phrase) . I can’t decide if this is very sexist or fairy nuff of me. Ho hum.