"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, December 03, 2015

What Schools Can Learn From Hospitals

Over the past five months I have had two open-heart surgeries and as a result have spent three weeks in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the United States. I have had two of the world’s best cardiothoracic surgeons do incredible work on my heart.  I have had some of the best nursing care one can imagine, and I am on my way to healing the second time. That is the good news.

What I did find troublesome was what I found when it came to prescribing medicines. Whereas the surgeons were creative problem solvers who had to assess what they saw on the spot and react accordingly, like good teachers, successfully deviating from a plan because of what they discovered were my individual needs and situation, the medical doctors were, more often than not, following a set of “standards," a Common Core of medicinal prescriptions with no regard for my individual needs.

During each hospital stay and for the weeks following “release,” because of the data, I was overprescribed drugs for precautionary reasons, for conditions that either I didn’t have or that the side effects were unwarranted, thus slowing my healing process.

This second time was far more complicated. I had a blood infection that led to the second operation. The situation was also complicated by a blood clot in my leg I had previously developed.  I knew I needed a long course of strong antibiotics and blood thinners. That was based on my individual needs. A highly competent infectious disease fellow who explained the individualization of my medication saw me.  I also understood the necessary side effects or consequences of these necessary drugs.

However, a merry-go-round of cardiologists, who often did not seem as familiar with my individual case as they should have been, prescribed things based on general “standards,” rather than on my particular needs and physical condition. On one occasion I had to confront one of these doctors about two things he recommended to me. I refused. The next day, he came back and said, “If I knew yesterday what I know today, I never would have recommended those.  Sorry.”  What?

I fought, but lost, against the next set of  “one size fits all” prescribed  “standard” recommendations for heart medications, including Lipitor, used to control high cholesterol levels, and Metoprolol, a beta blocker that treats high blood pressure. I have neither high cholesterol nor high blood pressure. I am, however now suffering from some of the side effects of these two drugs, things like tiredness, shortness of breath and heartburn.

So now I have to continue my fight against these and increase my healing and recovery rate.

It dawned on me that if I, a knowledgeable and assertive 66-year-old man, has trouble getting my individual needs met and avoiding the negative side effects (consequences) of these “standardized, one size fits all” medicinal prescriptions, what chance does a third grader have when faced with the parallel education-prescribed standardization in his or her school?

The side effects are killing him.

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