Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Professional practice

Views expressed on this blog recently got me into seriously hot water and resulted in a watershed experience in my life.

Only time will tell if that turns out to be for good or ill.

The inevitable subsequent email exchanges with friends and family generated some interesting views on professional practice. One such exchange I thought worth sharing here.

My cousin is a GP. He was educated in South Africa, where he spent the first several years of his career in private practice. He is now living and working in the UK and chafing at the bit under the NHS. From time to time, he also gets into trouble by rocking the boat with his independent thinking and approaches.

As he says in his email (language warning - partial censorship is mine):

Sometimes it does not matter that you do the right thing but if it is not done according to the sometimes very stupid rules, one gets into sh*t. Your private opinions of course do not mean that you cant do a job according to the rules - that is being a professional.
His own experience is that of patients saying:
thank you for being personal

Thank you for helping

You are the first doctor who has examined me in the last 1/10/100 years - delete which ever is applicable. Imagine that - a doctor who is more like a witchdoctor able to diagnose and decide from the safety of his chair and computer and not lay a hand on the patient . . . . . .
I sometimes wonder about professional practice, about the different views of this indefinable concept. I wonder if the outspokenness that have gotten both him and me into trouble are familial traits or cultural mores. South Africans often cause gasps and winces in the UK, but others seem to have learnt to hold their tongues a lot better than I have.

I'm not very good at subterfuge. I cope much better in an environment where all the cards are on the table and spades are called spades. I don't understand the need for poker faces and secrets - and can't see how they equate to professional practice. Perhaps I have a mild form of Aspergers!

I consider it far more professional to say, right, this is where we are, warts and all, and this is what we plan to do about it. Am I alone?

4 comments:

Jason said...

I can completely relate to your situation. I come from Western Canada, which alot like the western US, has a real DIY and "tell it like it is" (we say, Shoot from the hip) mentality to it. When I first moved to the more "polite and respectable" central Canadian jobforce, I quickly became known as the guy who "says what others are thinking". My brother (also raised out west) moved to England and works for one of the Royal Navy's vendors! He has REALLY had to learn to "keep a civil tongue in his head."
In the end, I am a big believer in saying it like it is, and I think that as a professional, I am hired for not only my ability to do the job, but my opinion about how the job should be done. If you want a drone, pay someone half as much as you pay me, but if you want someone who is really passionate about what they do, then it's going to cost you - not just salary, but some uncomfortable moments when I express that passion aswell. In the end, though, I'm always willing (but not always eager!) to face the consquences of truth telling, or at least as I see it. I think that's the essential quality.

It's great to see the quantity of posts going up since your transition - of course quality was never an issue. :)

LearningAnorak said...

@jason I think today was an exception - I don't know that I could be that prolific every day!

Rina Tripathi said...

It is good to see you getting some time to write such wonderful pieces. I am slowly getting inspired to follow your footsteps, but I want to sleep at home! zzzzzzz

V Yonkers said...

I think part of what you write about comes from culture, but part comes from having an "entrepreneurial" mind set (as opposed to corporate). Like you, I find it difficult to bite my tongue. I have found myself in trouble for saying things (as I did as a kid) and not playing the politics game.

Interestingly enough, I am very easy going on most things. However, I have never been a particularly "secretive" person. For me, inequality and fairness are more important than playing the game. I still get very angry when I see some people are given preferential treatment over others, some people have given access to information that give them an advantage other others.

It appears to me that this is really what you are talking about. This is why I just was never good in corporate America. At times, it makes me crazy in Academia. I have learned over the years to pick my battles, and although I hate the game playing, I can clandestinely provide information to level the playing field with the best of them. But boy, do I hate doing that!