Parenting Lessons from the Vienna General Hospital
The Vienna general hospital had two maternity wards, one handled by doctors and the other by midwives. In the mid-1800s, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiz was heading the ward that was being handled by doctors. The surprising fact was that the mortality rate of mothers who were looked after by the doctors was 1 in 10 and the mortality rate of mothers looked after by midwives was 1 in 50. This was quite embarrassing for the doctors. They tried changing the bedsheets, cleaning the floors window curtains, but the mortality rate remained the same. They even laid down SOPs for both the wards so that there was uniformity in all respects. Even after all these measures, there was no change in the mortality rates.
The situation was so alarming that many women preferred to deliver on the streets than go to the ward looked after by the doctors for the fear of dying. Dr. Ignaz happened to visit another hospital and was away from Vienna general Hospital for few months and in these few months, the mortality rates of the women at the ward looked after by doctors also reduced to 1 in 50.
Dr. Ignaz after returning from his visit began to examine the reason for this and he found out that, since they were in a research institute most of the doctors split their time between research on cadavers and treatment of live patients. After doing research, dissecting a cadaver they went on to treat live patients. The very doctors who were supposed to treat the patients were unknowingly carrying the germs that caused the patients to die. They had no idea of germs at that time. Dr. Ignaz found out that he spent far more time on research on cadavers and then directly attended to the pregnancies.
It was Dr. Ignaz after his discovery that he formulated the germ theory. It was after this discovery that all doctors were advised to wash their hands with chlorine and lime. It was a simple solution, but it solved a grave problem. The mortality of women treated by doctors dropped drastically to 1 in 100 after they started washing their hands with chlorine and lime.
What can we learn from this incident?
Just like the doctors were unknowingly responsible for the deaths of their patients, many times parents are unknowingly responsible for crushing the child’s dreams and making him/her follow dictates that they feel is right
It needs unconditional love to view children as completely different human beings with curiosity to experiment and discover life on their own.
Parents need to master active listening to understand the unsaid words, the unspoken language and not force a child to just listen to what they say and expect the child to follow without complaining.
It is understandable that all parents do what they do with the intention of giving the best to their children. However, just like the doctors of the Vienna general hospital, they unknowingly do more harm than good.
The focus needs to move from the external world to the inner world, then the entire approach will undergo a dramatic change. The solution may be very simple like washing the hands of the doctors, but the impact can be profound.
Parents need to step back just like Dr. Ignaz who went on a visit to another hospital, which prompted him to search for significant differences in approaches in the doctor’s ward and the midwife’s ward.
The changes could be as simple as choosing a different set of words that we use or just listening to the child without judgement or maybe expressing how you feel or just allowing him/her to take responsibility.
Yes! Everything starts with awareness of the situation and taking the appropriate action.