March; my second attempt at my Year of 30 Days.
The idea behind the Year of 30 Days is to throw myself passionately into a topic, a new topic, each month. During January, I tackled an online learning program called Big History. That was a great start. However, February was uneventful as nothing motivated me. March was derailed.
For March, I had planned to learn how to write a memoir. Not actually write the memoir; just learn how to. I’d found some very old notes, on paper, about compiling an oral history. An idea began to form … perhaps another blog with an historical focus ??
Instead, I had an unexpected opportunity to compare the valiant attempts of the amateur with the precision of the professional, and the importance of deciding when to abandon the former for the latter, and visa versa. Confused?
You’ve got a loved one in hospital, what do you do?
That’s a hard question. For many people, the answer is “Not much”. In this modern era, it’s often not possible to drop everything and suddenly be somewhere else doing something else. Specialisation is how society functions. We have hospitals staffed by professionals. It’s more efficient.
As timing goes, I was fortunate. I could drop everything because there was nothing to drop; two week’s leave from work had already been scheduled and approved.
I spent my holidays visiting the hospital, every day from about 9:30am to 4 in the afternoon, even weekends. Mum and I watched how other patients did not progress. They didn’t have someone to encourage them, to engage them, to bolster morale when needed, to regularly repeat the professional’s instructions … or if I chose to see it from my Mum’s perspective … to incessantly nag.
What if our reliance on specialisation becomes the problem? What if there aren’t enough nurses and physiotherapists to go around?
What is specialisation?
Let’s embark on an aside to look a little deeper at the idea of specialisation.
Take a group of people. Each one could be entirely self-sufficient. They consume only what they can grow for themselves. The wear and live in only what they create and build for themselves. Not much would get done. As a species, we would have died out millennia ago.
Instead, the group got together and divided up the labour. This is when divisions along gender lines began and, unfortunately, those divisions still remain even though we are well beyond the need for them (but that’s an aside within aside).
Because it takes a long time to learn a trade or skill, society divides up our labour amoung different professions. But society is not very good at managing that. Sometimes there’s a glut of plumbers and not enough electricians. A shortage of electricians means they can charge more. When they earn more than plumbers, more people decide to become electricians than plumbers. Next thing you know, there’s a glut of electricians and overflowing toilets. Opps.
When they decided all those years ago that specialisation was a good idea, I wonder if they gave much thought to the impact of supply and demand. And I bet they didn’t give any thought to the impact of government cost cutting. There might be plenty of demand but if no-one stumps up the money to ensure supply then someone looses out.
With my own health and well-being, I will happily be the crusading amateur if I can’t get a decent answer from my doctor. I will try this or that to see if it makes a difference. I will hunt for answers; read whatever academic and non-academic articles I find on the topic. Pull the pieces together until I’m happy with the solution I’ve implemented. And if the solution is placebo and works anyway, I won’t be complaining.
But during those two weeks with Mum after she broke her hip, the word of the professional was law. I wasn’t going to suggest anything that might jeopardise her recovery. The crusading amateur in me was deliberately sidelined.
It didn’t really make any difference. Mum has her own crusading-amateur gene. “Mum, you shouldn’t do that”. “No, I just want to try this”, and there was no stopping her!
Flat pack furniture is designed for amateurs. It’s the selling point. However, as I found out when assembling some new cupboards for Mum’s laundry, one still needs academic qualifications in deciphering and problem solving when the instructions and diagrams don’t match the contents of the box.
The trick is to step it out before reaching for the drill … this piece sits here … this goes next to that … the drawer runners sit flush with the edge, not in from the edge … etc.
My efforts still have an amateur tinge to them. I know this because a professional popped in and helped hang the wall units and secure the bench top. Real Neat.
Mum now has laundry cupboards with a bench so she doesn’t have to sort clothes on the floor. Gotta get those tripping hazards out of the way!
The professional versus the amateur
Doctors now recommend that patients get on their feet within 24 hours of their hip surgery. Once upon a time, patients were forced to stay in bed for weeks. Some people disobeyed that old rule. They didn’t get worse, as was expected, but recovered quicker. Those disobedient crusaders not only won their crusade, they convinced the professionals it was the better option.
I don’t think I’ll convince anyone that my flat pack assembly is particularly professional. Clearly, professional cabinet makers will produce better results, thanks to the time they invested in their specialisation.
And, we probably all know of cases where ignoring the health professional just made things worse.
So, during March, what did I learn about choosing between the professional and the amateur?
Thinking things through
Call it what you will … critical reasoning, evaluative thinking, reflection … it’s the effort we put in at that point in time when the trajectory from past to present is plotted, projected forward and compared with the desired future.
It can occur when the nurse quietly whispers that the physios don’t agree with today’s goal of going home on Thursday. “They don’t think you’re ready”. You’ve now got two days to convince everyone that you are going home on Thursday. (And, yes she did!)
It can occur when the project is looking pretty good so far and wouldn’t it be a shame to stuff it up now because your physical strength is not up to the task … and that your car boot is not big enough for 1200mm length of laminated board.
Building up my upper body strength might be useful.