Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bad news? Good news?

Sometimes what one person thinks is bad news can strike another as good news. A forecast of rain might be bad news for the holidaymaker and great news for the farmer. It's all a matter of perspective.

Today, the geneticist told me I will be placed on an increased risk register and screened annually for breast cancer. Is this bad news? A doctor may have thought so.

For me, it's great news.

When we first moved to the UK a decade ago, I expected to able to have the same screening I had had in South Africa. There it had been elective, but my medical insurance had gladly paid for it. So, once a year, I had a mammogram and a professional palpation.

On the NHS, elective screening is not on offer, and I didn't have the money to opt for private screening. I explained my family history to them, but they were not convinced that this constituted a sufficiently increased risk to warrant screening over and above the standard provision of a three-yearly mammogram between the ages of 50 and 64. No palpations are made at all. I'm not sure what happens after 64.

The doctor who broke this news to me was puzzled that I didn't receive it cheerfully. Didn't I understand that he was telling me I was at no greater risk than the next person?

In the intervening years, additional events within my family have meant that I am now being offered the annual screening. I am delighted. The doctor who broke this news to me this morning fully understood this. Perhaps it helps that this time it was a woman.

Can you say safety net?

Perhaps we ought to bear in mind that perspective/paradigm can have a significant role to play in how the material we include in a learning resource is received by the learner. With this in mind, it is so sad that the learner is so seldom involved in the process of the development of new learning materials in the workplace.

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