Being a robot is not being professional

During my medical career and subsequently as a patient or a friend or relative of one, I noticed a distressing percentage of healthcare personnel who think that behaving like a robot makes them professional. Customer service representatives are also increasingly acting like robots who delight in sticking to their scripts and incapable or unwilling of answering even simple questions if the response isn't in one of their canned messages. Presumably their leaders think this is a good idea.

Think again.

“Acting professionally is actually fairly easy. (We all know a few robots.) Acting professionally while also remaining openly human takes courage. … It's hard to be professional and also remain a person. That's why professionals who also display a healthy blend of humanity can be so inspirational.”
— Jeff Haden in 12 Qualities of Remarkably Courageous People

Throughout my medical training and career, I never observed any doctor (or nurse, for that matter) use a stuffed animal to play with a pediatric patient. Oh, but I saw countless kids vigorously resist physical examinations or procedures using every ounce of their often-surprising strength and every decibel from their youthful lungs!

Every emergency department I worked in used brute-force methods to subdue uncooperative kids: have nurses or technicians bear-hug the patient, or put the child in a papoose—more or less a straitjacket. This reinforced their fears that medical personnel are mean and inflict discomfort, if not pain.

There had to be a better way, and there was: use a stuffed animal to play with kids. Instead of the doc asking, “May I look in your ears?” and the child thinking, “Go jump in a lake!” (or something worse), I'd ask if Alf (my stuffed animal) could look in their ears. 100% said yes, gleefully. Turns out kids like having stuffed animals check out their ears. And if I took a peek, too — what's the harm in that? Zero complaints. They seemingly thought, “Any friend of Alf is a friend of mine!”

I can't call my stuffed animal play with pediatric patients a bright idea because it's really obvious: kids love to play, kids often hate doctors and what they do, so turn it into play to enlist their cooperation and lower the blood pressure of the frazzled parents.

While it should be obvious, too many docs either can't figure it out or refuse to really play with kids, likely thinking it's better to act like a cold, uptight, robotic doctor so they fit their overly rigid mold of what docs should be. Putting their image above their patients is highly unprofessional, in my opinion. Agree?

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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