Training is one thing, experience is another

This quote has been bandied around over the last day or so:

Dr Kelly said more manpower and more training may be the only way to stop babies like Chris and Cru Kahui from dying violently.

“It is one of the reasons why I think our inter-agency management of these cases is often so poor,” Kelly said.

Most GPs get a total of two hours training to deal with suspected child abuse, which Dr Kelly says is not enough.

Two hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but I suspect it’s a two hours that will stick in the mind of any medical student much more than your average anatomy lecture.

I say this because I know someone who took her child to the doctor. I can’t remember whether it was an injury or an illness (it may have even been meningitis).

Anyway, the doctor had a medical student with him. The student whispered something in the doctor’s ear, earning an immediate rebuke from the elder doctor.

You see, the student had suggested that the child may have been abused, and should be reported as a potential abuse case. The elder doctor could see that what was presented was clearly not abuse, nor was my friend an experienced mother who even at first glance was far from the sort of mother who neglects her children. (In fact quite the opposite, her elder children would easily count in the top 1% of achievers in their academic and professional accomplishments*.)

Perhaps more training would enable the student to tell the difference. Possibly.

More likely is that more training would lead to more false positives, as students see child abuse in every injury or serious illness. Because, in spite of all the “if it saves only one child” rhetoric, false reporting of child abuse is itself very damaging.

Better to combine the existing training with on-the-job experience, where older doctors can pass on their real-life experience in real clinical situations.


*Yes, I know that there are also parents who abuse children while trying to push them to achieve.

1 comment

  1. Yes, I know that there are also parents who abuse children while trying to push them to achieve.

    But there are no where near as many parents like this, as there are parents who abuse children by denigrating their every achievement, especially their academic ones

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