Matthew Shanahan, M.Sc.

Matthew Shanahan M.Sc.

Living It

Professionals Psychology – A Reflection

Are we training professional teams to take care of themselves and each other?

Posted Jul 16, 2013

tired doctor

Stocking up on some well-being

Some common denominators that appear to contribute to what I might call the ‘underdeveloped personality’ in professional circles include: an ever-burgeoning amount of required scientific knowledge, an aggressive climate in performance-oriented training schools, and a relatively weak background of social support for an ambitious career choice.

One theme that is common to many professions' knowledge-sets is the proliferation of data. As a general pattern, one might say there is a geometrically increasing fund of data but a barely-treading-water fund of knowledge, or meaningful summarizing aggregations of data and insight. There is a positive dearth of wisdom about ‘how it all fits together’. Proportionally speaking, it feels like we have less wisdom in proportion to our knowledge and information than at any time in history – that is the impression I get. But don’t believe me: ask Google.

The competitiveness of many health programs may in some ways be counter-productive. Granted, no one wants to be treated by a mediocre professional. As to competition that is healthy, above-board and honest: bring it on! However, interpersonal acrimony, chronically elevated personal stress, and an overall climate of ‘detest thy rival’ are an excellent recipe for isolation and burnout 10 years into a career when young people’s core personality has been set to “trust no one” through their twenties.

Finally, the social structure in many people’s lives is weaker than in past generations. Re-formed families (often not as sturdy), fewer siblings, and parents pursuing their own careers leave many ambitious and talented young people with less support than in earlier eras. Once upon a time, the young person who was “going to be a doctor” received status, esteem, money – even prayers! Though this is still true today, it seems that parents, siblings, and social networks in general have less to give. Somehow when everybody is trying to climb the ladder, there is less ‘surplus’, whether money, time, attention, or care packages. Simply put, there is less of a solid emotional foundation for young people to achieve great things. Successful students, in my experience, usually have supportive parents, interested siblings, and loyal friends.

peaceful dove

Harmony: hallmark of excellence?