Expectations of Professionalism within the NHS

[Before we start: I am not a medical professional I am a software developer – but I have been treated by medical professionals. And this is in the UK]

This post isn’t about software or even really about IT. It’s in response to some questions that were raised on Twitter. It featured a picture of a young man with two thumbs up next to a large amount of alcohol. The question asked in the tweet was fairly neutral and said  “How would you respond if you saw this photo of health professional? Why? How would professional bodies?”.

I  did respond to the original post by saying that I would not judge this person for this. Then I and some other people who had clearly given this more thought than I had had a discussion about it.

Personally I think that medical professionals have a right to be treated the same as I am – which is that as long as I am not specifically representing the company that I work for (ie. I haven’t just declared who I work for and I’m not in work garb) then I should be held to the same standard as everyone else – that is to say I should be allowed to have some me time and behave how I like within the bounds of the law (and taste).

This position is slightly tainted by the fact that anything I do do could potentially be immortalised in a picture on the internet. This means that if I go for a job interview my potential employer could Google my name and these might come up. (I do pay reasonably close attention to what goes on the internet with this in mind)

So personally, and not wishing to get bogged down in too many details, it seems that the medical establishment holds medical professionals to a much higher standard where the picture mentioned above could be considered  a serious disciplinary matter. What’s more this same standard appears to be applied to medical students as well.

There are a few points that I would like to make (as an outsider) before leaving this to people who know far more about it than I do. The first is that I cannot see why medical professionals should be held to a higher standard than I am. I think the argument is that they should only espouse healthy lifestyles as reccomended by the medical community. Surely the point of the advice that we are given (which isn’t mandatory to follow) is given to us so we can make our own choice based on the data. I think we risk medical professionals given us impartial advice based on facts if they themselves have been forced into a lifestyle of clean living. (Although I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment that we should be encouraging people to drink less/smoke less/eat less etc – because this is the healthy thing to do.) I do think that I would find it hard to relate to somebody who has been forced never to indulge a vice for fear of representing their chose profession in a bad light – someone who appeared more than human.

My second point is that really if we want to encourage people to become medical professionals(and we hear a lot that we do want more medical professionals) then should be making the profession seem so unobtainable or uninviting. I know in my profession it would be a tough sell to any student group that they would have to not go out with friends for fear of an incriminating photo.

And lastly I’d like to point out someone who lived the same lifestyle as me and changed. I took advice on how to quit smoking from somebody who smoked for 30 years (His name was Allen Carr) and the reason his way made sense was because he understood the mindset. I had been told many times by people WHY I shouldn’t smoke but nobody had told me, until I read his book, HOW I could stop. The fact is how can I think that life advice is worth anything if someone hasn’t lived it themselves – for this end I don’t think that we can hold teenagers to such a high and heavy standard. They deserve to live their life regardless of what career they choose – and surely an institution such as the NHS should consider whether if the advice that it gives it’s highly educated personnel to give to us doesn’t make them temper their actions then maybe the advice isn’t presented well enough.

I welcome feedback on this – and am also willing to change my mind so would welcome a polite debate.



Posted in Professionalism

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