Saturday, October 6, 2007

Give me a break! Make that an extra 60 minute break.

I about choked when I read this article:

Breastfeeding Mom wins Court Victory

A medical student scheduled to take step II of the US Medical Licensing Exam sued the National Board of Medical Examiners in order to get more break time during the exam. The reason? She's breastfeeding her 5 month old infant and needs an extra hour of time to pump during the exam.

Now, I am a big supporter of breastfeeding. I am a big supporter of doing whatever it takes to help women be successful breastfeeding. It's commendable that this woman is so committed to breastfeeding that she's willing to go to great lengths to continue doing so. But, being pretty familiar with breastfeeding, her request seems a little much to me.

It's a 9 hour exam that she's being given over two days. She was to be provided 45 minutes of break time each day. Is 45 minutes to pump in a 4 and a half hour time period really so little that it requires a lawsuit and an appeal?! She contends that if she doesn't express milk every 2-3 hours she's likely to suffer "significant pain" and risks becoming engorged, developing blocked milk ducts or mastitis.

I wouldn't want to minimize her fears. I know what it feels like to have pain from breastfeeding. I've been engorged, I've had blocked ducts, and I've had mastitis. I know these are not pleasant things. But, really?! She's got a 5 month old baby that nurses so often around the clock that she becomes engorged after 2-3 hours? If so, then pump just before the exam begins, take your 45 minute break in the middle of the exam, and you've only gone 2 hours and 15 minutes between pumping. But even 45 minutes wasn't enough time for her to pump? I think my nipples would fall off if I tried to pump for longer than 45 minutes!

I don't mean to be unsympathetic. I've taken this exam. I know it's extremely stressful. I also know it's stressful to take big exams when you're pregnant or nursing. (Perhaps, even stressful enough to decrease your milk production, making it less likely that you'd become engorged, which might be helpful in this situation.) I took the written surgery board exam when I was 38 weeks pregnant. Other than the pillow I brought to sit on, I didn't expect any special accomodations. I took the oral surgery board exams when my son (who was breastfeeding) was 3 months old. I studied for the orals from a book on a music stand next to the rocking chair in J's room so I could read a little each of the 6-8 times a night I was getting up with him at that point. It never crossed my mind to even ask, let alone sue someone to have them make it easier on me. My situation was a consequence of the choices I had made, and I simply expected to deal with it.

I find this story ironic for another reason. I went to medical school at Michigan State University. The medical school there is a great bastion of "BioPsychoSocial" medicine: caring for the whole person, inside and out. They pound sensitivity into your head from the moment you show up for orientation until the day you graduate. Even if you start out as a sensitive person, it gets a little nauseating at times. The most important question they want you to ask when taking a patient history is, "How does that make you feel?" Anyway, Ruth Hoppe was one of my professors in the family practice department there. She later went on to become one of the deans of the school. She was the Queen of BioPsychoSocial Medicine. And she's now the chairman of the National Board of Medical Examiners, the board Sophie sued for being insensitive to her needs.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Too funny! I've worked for attorneys for almost ten years. I've seen some crazy stuff - but not something like this! Good grief!