News & Politics

Plurality of Med Students Want 'Trigger Warnings' in Medical Education

If you’re going to be a doctor, you have to learn how to handle seeing disturbing stuff. That’s just the nature of medicine, a nature I had to come to terms with as a Navy Corpsman (far longer ago than I care to think about). For doctors, such strength is required.

Unfortunately, a surprising number of the next generation of doctors are expressing their support for “trigger warnings” … in medical school. As Campus Reform’s Toni Airaksinen notes:

A recent study conducted by a group of Ohio University med school professors found that their students are more likely than not to “support the use of trigger warnings.”

Professor Elizabeth Beverly, et al. surveyed 259 medical students for a study published in the most recent issue of Teaching and Learning in Medicine, finding that 31 percent absolutely support “the use of triggers warnings in medical education.”

Meanwhile, 39 percent of respondents said they would “maybe” support their usage, though many of those expressed generally-favorable opinions of trigger warnings, including one student who said they should be used before discussing “very deep issues that potentially could cause an emotional rise in someone.”

One student, for instance, acknowledged that “a picture of anything medically related shouldn’t be too distressing” for someone who is training to be a physician, but then asserted that “sometimes it’s nice to have a warning to mentally prepare yourself for the conversation or information presented.”

Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t come equipped with trigger warnings — this is especially true in an emergency room.

Doctors generally don’t get to “mentally prepare” themselves. Things happen and doctors have to react.

Of course, that’s true for everyone at certain points in life.

It’s nice that the news gives me a chance to send my youngest child out of the room if they’re going to show a disturbing video. But it’s ridiculous for college students to need a warning that a book contains “colonialism” or “racism,” and it’s ridiculous for medical students to need warnings for anything. Adults must be better prepared for trauma — this is a fundamental difference between adults and children.

By conditioning people to expect warnings prior to being confronted with difficulties, people actually get worse at dealing with harsh circumstances that occur outside of these controlled environments.

This is the opposite of education.