(This is my guest post for CAPPA. See the excerpt below and click through to continue reading…)
“My husband is going to act as my doula. What book should he read to prepare for that?”
“The doctor diagnosed this, but I’m not sure he’s right. What do you think? Would you guys take this medicine?” [asked in a Facebook group]
“I don’t need to have a degree to know how to read a medical study. Anybody can read.”
“I don’t want to spend all that money on training. I’ll just get the information I need online and learn as I go.”
These are all questions or comments I have personally heard in the last month. They are a peek into a phenomenon taking place in our society today. We are in an age of the “Loss of the Expert”. We can see this in many fields from art & music to science & medicine. Many books and articles have been written on this topic, dissecting it, and bemoaning our current state of affairs. And it has begun to make its way into our field of study.
So, what is it? The “Loss of the Expert” is when trained professionals with years of experience and extensive education, instead of being respected and trusted, are regarded with doubt or suspicion. People look at these experts and think, “What makes them so special? What makes them the keepers of the knowledge?” Or even worse – talk of conspiracy. After nearly 2 decades of social media, Wikipedia and other online open-source arenas, there is a widespread belief that, “All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.” [source] Therefore, we have ceased to ask experts for their guidance. Instead, we crowd-source information from others as unknowledgeable as ourselves. We trust Yelp over food critics. We trust Amazon reviews over Consumer Reports. We trust mommy bloggers over doctors. We are asserting our autonomy by rejecting the thought that an expert may know something that we don’t. And it’s hurting us on both sides of the issue.
On the consumer side, families are being hurt due to rampant misinformation. The Listening to Mothers III survey shows us that our clients now hold pregnancy websites’ advice at almost the same level of value as their childbirth classes. We live in a world where anybody can start a blog, jump on a certain topic and call themselves an expert. The internet doesn’t require them to provide any kind of evidence to that fact. No credentials are checked before their self-published articles are presented to the world, and most readers don’t know what to look for. What they are left with is a deluge of conflicting opinions.
On the professionals’ side, as people begin to doubt the expert’s expertise, they become unwilling to seek it out and to pay for it. Why take a class when you can google for free? Why hire a doula if you don’t believe her training affords her any more expertise than your friend who just had her own baby?
So, how do we re-establish ourselves, the perinatal professionals, as true authorities on the subject? How do we get back to a place where professional training, scientific standards, extensive knowledge and experience are esteemed in the public eye and within the field itself? There are 3 things we can begin doing today to help combat this problem in the childbirth realm.