Crisis of Confidence in Professional Knowledge

I have read Donald Schoens article named in the title of this post. This has got me thinking about not only the way I think about professionals but how they may be perceived by others. At first I thought professionals were held in high esteem. They are paid high salaries and they get respect from society but then it occurred to me it depends on what your definition of a professional person is.

Definitions of the word professional from the Cambridge dictionary website:

professional – adjective

1 related to work that needs special training or education.
2 APPROVING having the qualities that you connect with trained and skilled people, such as effectiveness, skill, organization and seriousness of manner.
3 describes someone who does as a job that people usually do as a hobby, e.g. footballer.
4 having the type of job that is respected because it involves a high level of education and training.

Thus perhaps the word professional is over used when it comes to describing peoples occupations. Its definition may describe their occupation perfectly. They may have had special training to take their interest in their hobby of football to the highest level they can achieve, the surgeon who performs your heart bypass will have been specially trained and educated to be able to treat you but their jobs are very different and the training they have received to get them are very different. They can both be described as professionals because they match the definition in the dictionary but that’s where the similarity ends. I think problems occur and a crisis of confidence occurs when all professionals no matter what their specialism or training are tarred with the mistakes of each other. Not every doctor is Harold Shipman, not all athletes take performance enhancing drugs and not every lawyer overcharges. Some people do these things but some people also shoplift from Tesco and steal from the elderly to fuel their drug habits. Just because some people do bad things doesn’t mean everybody does.

I think that people and society may become disgruntled with professionals at times and especially with the rise of internet access as more people can access information. I think that people realise eventually that information is not knowledge. You are more likely to misdiagnose yourself looking up illnesses in health encyclopaedias than you are going to the doctors. People may have information but most likely do not have the skill or training to use it effectively. 



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