Should we be trusting the system more?

Mind the Baby blog www.mindthebaby.ie
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One of my most popular posts on the blog is one I wrote earlier this year on tongue-tie in Ireland. It gets a lot of traffic and also a lot of discussion as you can see from the comments. A reader recently contacted me to tell me about her own journey towards getting her second baby’s tongue-tie diagnosed and treated. On a long path that started, like most of us, with some intense online research and ended with a serendipitous personal recommendation for a Dublin doctor, she managed to get a happy resolution to her situation and has gone on to have a very successful breastfeeding relationship with her son with mastitis and cracked nipples long behind her.

She did raise a very interesting point with me though. I’ll let her explain it herself:

“…there is an unexpected twist here. I was so proud of the coping and the self help and the solution, I told my GP at the 6 week checkup. I love my GP, trust her entirely and have immense respect for her. With all the system doesn’t work from the Internet, it never even occurred to me to contact her. As I was telling the tale she clapped with delight “I am so pleased you found Prof Puri, he is amazing…” and went on to say all of the things she finds so appealing about him as a doc. So essentially, she would have referred me there anyway, having trained with him. So I suppose the moral is, please don’t discount the GP system as I did. While the result was the same in the end and I didn’t need a referral for Prof Puri, I would have found help there too.”

What resonated with me here is that I too love my GP. She has been a great resource and support to me for over ten years and even though she’s more expensive that other doctors, I wouldn’t dream of changing because I trust and respect her. I feel the same about my son’s GP. They are two fantastic women whose opinion I value and who respect my choices even though they might be different to their own.

At the same time, I do have a healthy mistrust of health care professionals which is something I have learned and internalised, but not from my experience with these women. I think at no point in your life are you more dependent or more influenced by the views and words of health care providers (HCP) than when you are pregnant or the mother of a small baby. HCPs hold a position of great power in Irish society, some would even equate it to the former role held by priests and, apologies for the Spiderman reference but, with great power comes great responsibility. Most of the time it is only in hindsight that we realise we were given bad advice or incorrect information. Sometimes we don’t even know that we’ve been misinformed. It is a difficult thing to question or challenge someone in a white coat. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in a white coat is a bad guy either. It also doesn’t mean that they know everything and I wonder sometimes do they feel obliged to answer questions authoritatively on subjects they know nothing about rather than to appear like they don’t know? Like, for example, I remember asking a doctor about babies taking naps during the day and it was only after the conversation was over I realised I’d asked the wrong person. General practitioners aren’t trained in parenting. They’re medical professionals trained to treat illness. Maybe we ask too much of them sometimes.

I find myself agreeing with the commenter though. I wonder do we tie ourselves up in knots trying to find solutions as an alternative to traditional methods believing that the system is indeed broken when maybe we should be seeking the opinion of our trusted health care provider first – if we do trust them – and then maybe when we’ve taken on board their advice, at that stage fielding views from elsewhere for an alternative perspective. I suppose the biggest issue really is trusting in ourselves – as adults, as parents, as well informed people capable of critical analyses of different views and our ability to identify what’s best for ourselves. I have learned the hard way though to not take any one opinion at face value (see here, here, here, here and here) and to remind myself that people have their own agendas, experiences and opinions that colour their own view and how they express it. That applies whether you’re talking about a doctor, a public health nurse, a teacher, a neighbour, a friend, a boss, a mother in law, an anonymous poster on a forum or an easily identifiable commenter on Facebook.

I’m a firm believer in using BRAIN when I’m making decisions about my own and my family’s wellbeing.

– What are the Benefits?

– What are the Risks?

– What are the Alternatives?

– What does my Instinct say?

– What happens if I do Nothing?

You’d be surprised how widely you can apply it outside of medical situations. For example, think crying it out or co-sleeping. To vaccinate or not vaccinate. At the very least it helps you stop and reflect before rushing into anything.

Are you someone who turns to the Internet for answers first or would you be heading straight down to the GP? Are you happy to take on board a medical opinion or would you look for a second one? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Should we be trusting the system more?”

  1. Interesting post. As an ex nurse I find adults are more inclined to look symptoms up online and believe they have a more serious illness than they have. This makes my friends less likely to go to the GP. The funny thing is they race to the doctor with sore throats and ears.
    what I don’t like is the way people think google has all the answers without really understanding how easy it is to go from a cold to pneumonia in one click!

What do you think?