Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bluster Versus Brains

As a retired health professional, I've seen lots of other practitioners ply their craft - the vast majority of whom were competent, decent people exuding sincerity and humility on a daily basis.  Most practice their art and science with a quiet confidence born of experience, education and intelligence.  Some, however, were (and still are) dangerously overconfident IMHO.  Being confident in your abilities is one thing, but endangering a patient because of overconfidence is inexcusable in my eyes.  Our first rule as health practitioners must always be to "do no harm".  (Of course, overconfidence happens in all fields of human endeavour, not just the health sciences.  Bluster passes for brains alarmingly often, in fact.  The talking heads of television, for instance, often give me pause.)  Overconfidence is due to one of three factors in my estimation: 1) youth, 2) upbringing, and/or 3) psychology.  Youth is pretty obvious; we need to build competence gradually - that's why there are internships and articling periods for professionals, etc.  Rare is the individual who can achieve a high level of competence without experience.  Upbringing is also obvious.  How many times have you run into a supremely confident individual who in reality has never accomplished anything in their life - and you're pretty sure they never will - but whose parents have somehow instilled in them an amazing "look at me, I can do anything", greater-than-thou countenance?  Psychology is by far the most interesting, however.  More than a few of the overconfident practitioners I've encountered over the years were basically masking a deep-seated insecurity by their professional bravado.  Whatever the reason, overconfidence in any field can be dangerous to your health.  When I recognize it I make for the exit.