Tuesday, May 01, 2007

today : professionalism week part one

I could be a doctor y'know. All you have to do is stand around in A&E and when a patient comes in you rush around a bit and ask for a CBC, Chem7, Blood GAs, Tox Screen, Psych Consult, Echo or whatever, and when the patient goes into 'defib', you get the paddles, shout 'charge', followed by 'clear' and then zap them back to life. Easy. In fact, if they don't come back to life it's an even simpler job. You look at your watch and solemnly say: "Time of death - eleven twenty four".

I could also be a policeman, especially a detective or a scenes of crime officer. Profiling - a doddle. Psychologist, Lawyer: no problem. Prosecution or defence, just tell me which. In fact I could run for D.A., even though I live nowhere near America. Goddamit I could even be a Presidential advisor or even the Prez.

Perhaps I am overstating just a little, but the fact is that TV and film is jam packed full of professional people whose jobs seem quite easy and repetitive. We also have access to the internet and can find out information about pretty much anything. Surely being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher of a criminal profiler can't be that hard?

The effect of all these professionals on telly is that they make people feel that being professional is pretty easy. Which is a good thing in some ways. Why not demystify these previous closed areas and open them up as possibilities for everyone? But the downside is that it has become easy, even derigeur, to question professionals at every turn (which up to a point is okay - even required in many ways).

Yet what the TV shows don't show is the years of slog and study, the time spent keeping up with professional development, the sheer lonely hours of reading journals and books, the years of debt and the fact that many professionals ARE their jobs rather than do their jobs. We rarely go home, put our feet up and watch portrayals of professionals on TV all night

Which means that a couple of stroppy parents can question the entire basis of a national vaccination programme (like the MMR) without any understanding of the nature of medical studies, and cause a wave of panic. The payback for the mass avoidance of MMR is that the fight to eradicate measles, mumps and rubella has been thrown back decades. The price of people forever questioning whatever doctors say to them, which at the very least drains resources from the collective medical budget and at the most causes the very basis of a doctor's professionalism to be questioned and attacked.

As a teacher I found that a small coterie of parents were only too delighted to question me and my colleagues at every turn. Whenever their children failed to do their homework, it was turned on the teachers. When their children broke the rules and misbehaved, it was blamed on the teachers. When their children failed exams because they didn't bother to listen or revise or were just not capable, it was the fault of the teachers, who were not working hard enough in their easy overpaid jobs.

Because teaching is easy. Any idiot can do it.

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