Professionalism: Another Word For A Post-Doc In Adult Behavior

Professionalism: Another Word For A Post-Doc In Adult Behavior

By

Leonard Zwelling

I really didn’t understand the press for training in professionalism at MD Anderson and many other academic centers until I reduced the term to what it really is in an attempt to understand it. It’s behavioral modification for otherwise grown-up faculty. I do suppose professionalism branches out to the nursing staff and all others, but it seems to be used for the most part as a weapon against the faculty who have engaged in disruptive behavior. People have been fired for being firm with subordinates or even yelling at nurses. Is this really the way to manage otherwise productive people who may be having a bad day, month, or year?

Now admittedly, like misogyny and racism, such behavior used to be tolerated and now no longer is. That’s a good thing, but you have to admit it is pretty depressing that whole swaths of faculty need to learn how to interact with other human beings. Where were their parents? Or, is professionalism just a way to codify a specific set of behaviors and squeeze the individualism out of creative people? When does professionalism begin to creep into a Brave New World of alpha and beta doctors?

I’m not sure.

I am also not sure why this has become such an issue of late. Either the standards by which we judge faculty have changed or there is something about today’s faculty that significantly differs from faculty of years past.

I am going to take a leap here and posit that there is something different about today’s faculty. First, obviously, they are younger than their seniors and come from a different generation. I am not sure if it’s Gen X, Y, Z or millennial or all of the above, but it is certainly not the Baby Boomers. Second, today’s doctors have been trained differently than those of my era. We were systemically abused with sleep deprivation and ego reduction as we were molded into the doctors we came to be for better or for worse. I am not saying that the way I was trained (5 nights on-call out of 7) was good, but I am not sure sending the house staff home at 5 PM so the hospitalists can take over is any way to teach a doctor the natural history of disease either. Third, political correctness reigns over academic medicine. Emails are signed with names as well as preferred pronouns. All committees must have gender, racial, and sex balance. I differentiate between sex (biologically determined) and gender (multi-factorial and self-identified).

It’s just a different world in which medicine is being practiced and perhaps courses in professionalism are needed because either today’s doctors have not been taught how to behave by their parents, have gained no experience in school and training, or are too driven by their emotions to allow their superegos to govern how they act.

I am old and confused. I don’t know why mature faculty need to learn how to behave with patients and colleagues, but I guess they do. I gather the powers that be in academia have judged the faculty to need post-doctoral training in behavior as well as behavior modification. Who would have guessed doctors need higher level obedience training so they don’t get fired?

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