Saturday, 17 September 2011

King hit on the funny bone: Labia room

I love humour.
I love those people who have a great sense of humour. I'm always amazed when someone can come out with just the right response to a situation. I love it when something someone says is so funny, I laugh til tears roll down my face. Quirky, off beat, clever humour like that of the Monty Python team really appeals to me. I can watch their skits and movies over and over again.

However, unkind and derogatory put downs or sling offs aimed at those who are vulnerable I find rude, offensive and inappropriate, not funny.

I also love social media. I love the way the various forms of social media provide an easy and quick way to keep in touch and gain and share information. Twitter, for example, was invaluable to many as a tool of communication during the recent natural disasters. The ability to communicate over huge distances with a minumum of fuss has meant that social media is increasingly used as a tool for health promotion. With that ease of communication enabled by the various social media platforms has come concerns about privacy, online behaviour and confidentiality. A code of conduct for online behaviour, coined 'netiquette' has emerged.

Unfortunately for many, they think their conversations on social media are the same as in the tea room, pub or corridor.

They are not.

They are permanently recorded and therefore able to be read by anyone for all time. A good way to think about it is to consider that what you say on a social media platform is like writing it on the front page of a national newspaper. If you wouldn't want what you are going to say recorded in that way, then don't use social media for that conversation.

Many of us have written about the use of social media for health professionals. I wrote an article earlier this year for midwives in our college newsletter. Still I see indiscretion amongst my colleagues posts at times that I feel concerned about. I do wonder how those who use health care think about some of the comments that are made; how would prospective employers perceive such comments if they were to look.  My understanding is that human resource departments are using social media platforms to find out more about applicants.

So a blogpost about an interaction on twitter between male doctors by Ann Marie Cunningham, a GP and lecturer in Wales UK with an interest in social media caught my attention when she said:

"I came across a discussion between several male doctors on twitter which caused me to reflect on this very topic. The doctors were using slang, which I have not come across before, to refer to the wards in which they might have been working. The terms used were 'labia ward' and 'birthing sheds' to refer to the delivery suite where women give birth, and "cabbage patch" to refer to the intensive care ward where many patients are unconscious.

I was shocked at this and angry and did query the doctors about some of the other things they said, but I felt I couldn't challenge them directly at that time about this language. One of the doctors referred to midwifes as 'madwives'"

The blogpost "Social media, black humour and professionals" and the responses are well worth reading to get a sense of what the doctors themselves and the readers of Ann Marie's blog thinks about these remarks.  There are some very interesting comments on Ann Marie's blog itself, but by far the most fascinating reaction has come on Facebook on the The Medical Registrar's fanpage.

Alongside the link to Ann Marie's blog are the words:

The medical registrar " makes no comment, other than anyone who uses terms like "space" to describe a blog is a humourless old trout until proven otherwise"

The medical registrar didn't need to say anymore, because the readers have made up for it with 72 comments at the time of writing this post. These comments are also worth reading.

The attitudes and values of the people responding are clearly discernable. A former CEO of a large Boston hospital, Paul Levy, has discussed the response to Ann Marie's post on his blog.

Paul Levy wrote that he is 'left aghast' at the some of the comments and found the mindset of a few medical colleagues 'extremely upsetting'.

According to the good doctors however, using those terms "labia wards" and "birthing sheds" for rooms where women give birth and "cabbage patch" for ICU where people are unconscious is just good old fashioned humour, a way to let off steam in a stressful environment. Others, like me, find them offensive and degrading.

Is it purely a case of 'humorless old trouts'? or something else?

What do you think?


Joy Johnston said...

Thanks for another thought-provoker, Caroline, and the links to the amcunningham site.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Anne Marie Cunningham writes some interesting articles on the use of social media in health care and medical education. You will enjoy her work Joy. The Facebook page is fascinating, I really recommend you read the posts there if you haven't already. The views are fscinating.

Jan Henderson said...

Thanks for the links to your masters research in comments at @amcunningham post. Hard to believe (or maybe not) the antagonism that started with the 19th century male-midwife has survived for so long. Less obvious to me in US, where midwifery barely survived. As you say: "When everyone is respectful of the woman and her wishes/needs, doctors and midwives behave in socially and emotionally intelligent/competent ways and everyone feels good about themselves."

Carolyn Hastie said...

Midwifery is certainly undergoing a renaissance in the US as it is in Australia Jan. The reality is, midwives are the best primary health care professional to work with childbearing women. The ethics of midwifery are 'with woman'. Now clearly, when a woman has a medical condition, then she needs a doctor to work with her to manage that condition. However, she still does better and so does her baby, when she has a midwife as well. Thanks for highlighting the upshot of my study - everything goes better and everyone feels better when the woman's needs and wishes are respected and central to everyone's considerations. Despite what some think, it is not about the care practitioner or the instituation. It's about the woman. We focus on the woman and support her to focus on the baby and include her partner. Very simple really.