Practitioners' First Choice
Practitioners' First Choice

Are medical practitioners victims of brainwashing?

At best, victims, at worst, agents. I’ve had to think long and hard about how to approach this topic in a succinct way – my decision? I’m going to point out all the stages where we are susceptible and probably victims to brainwashing…

Developmental Stage: pre-school years to mid teens.
Brainwasher: Parent / strong adult influence
Brainwasher Narrative: “Being a doctor/dentist/pharmacist/nurse will make us very proud”. “You will have respect in the community”. “It’s security, safety and a job for life.” “You can be employed anywhere in the world”.
Commentary: I’d like to give an honourable mention to the lawyer, engineer and architect career path which is often the alternative. The idea of a human desire, “respect”, attached to a JOB begins early. Security is bred into us, and distinction is only permitted in academic performance. Receiving approval for completing assigned tasks (exams & homework) is well underway. These in themselves are not the issue, it is unfortunately the subjugation of maverick qualities that lead to deficiencies that become glaring in adulthood. 

Developmental Stage: Teens to early adulthood
Brainwasher: TV shows like ER, Holby City, Nip Tuck
Brainwasher Narrative: “Medics can only bring value via their worked man hours”
Commentary: I love to see our profession glorified but many of these shows reinforce some of the boxes that medics find themselves not only stuck in but also promoting. The main issue here is that medics are constantly converting service hours into value; we’re not accustomed to seeing medics leverage their knowledge with scalable systems to bring value and so it can be daunting and feel ‘foreign’ even when that’s the best use of our time.

Developmental Stage: Medical school, dental school, nursing etc.
Brainwasher: Educational institutions, government, big pharma.
Brainwasher Narrative: “If you care about money, you’re in the wrong place”. “A good medic has great recall.” “Regurgitation is a prized skill.” “Those who sign you off are your masters.”
Commentary: I mean, where the hell do I start with this one?! To not care about money makes you vulnerable to financial exploitation. Here’s a fun exercise, calculate your student debt burden, time spent studying, value to society and now calculate your hourly wage. Yep, it might be easier to not care about the wages because if you do, you might end up, I don’t know, STRIKING. Great recall is too often a metric of intellect and ability. Unfortunately, it’s a separate skill from creative thought and both things are crucial for personal actualisation and community advancement. Building on that, being able to repeat knowledge or patterns of behaviour leads to a system of clone droids, which is great for not standing out and facing rejection (many a medic’s trauma), but not really good for seeing change or maximising one’s own potential. And yes, we start being cultured early to respect, fear and submit to our seniors. Whilst this isn’t unique as a phenomena across industries, what’s odd is that science is a discipline built on challenging the status quo. Furthermore, why should we be nervous challenging the status quo when medics are supposed to have job SECURITY. Now the brainwashing narratives are in conflict…JESUS.

Developmental Stage: The “meat” of your career
Brainwasher: Yourself
Brainwasher Narrative: “I don’t want to disrupt the status quo.” “I don’t know anything different, it’s too late to re-think things now anyway.” “I love what I do” *glum face*. “I don’t want to get in trouble.” “Man, I’m glad I chose a medical career and have all this security.”
Commentary: So by the time you’ve done enough exams, had enough sleepless nights and accepted substandard working conditions there’s something in us that changes – our tolerance. Oh, please believe we’re a resilient bunch but it also means we’ll eat a lot of shit before we bother initiating change. This is further cemented by our ‘consistency’ loving brains (not to be confused with routine). Systems are how we execute most times and so the idea of jolting one is often absolutely terrifying. So, how do you cope with a less than ideal situation you feel too invested to disrupt? You say you love it. I find this one fascinating because to say we don’t love it almost sounds like we’re ungrateful and hate all aspects of our career choice. On the contrary it’s possible to like parts of things and not the whole thing and catatonically reaffirming you “love” something doesn’t actually empower you to optimise it. I see the same abusive relationship between us brits and the NHS. Lastly, I sadly see too many of us eventually becoming agents of brainwashing when we tell other younger people how amazing what we do is and leave out many of our gripes. Eventually those same young people join us in the system where, as a result of our insidious frustrations and compliance, we subject them to the same hierarchy and narratives that also stifled us.

Now, I know, I know, it might seem like I’m taking shots, and quite frankly I am. BUT not at us, the medics, instead the domestic and public institutions that knowingly or unknowingly indoctrinate our thinking to an end that doesn’t lead to our greatest fulfilment. I can write this because I’ve been through it, ALL parts of it, and many of you will relate to certain parts. With that said, the moment you have awareness, you have a responsibility to yourself.

Dr. Uche


2 Responses

  1. Perfectly written and articulated. 1st year in Dental School and realise from being little I’ve followed this exact path. Yes, I love the anatomical, physiological side of Medicine. But then seeing the general publics overall declining health it makes me wonder what forces are behind what seems to be inadequate advice, treatment, guidelines etc.)

    1. Great narrative on the subject.
      I went into nursing with 3 kids under the age of 4 as I was brainwashed into thinking it was a career that I would be in a lifetime, could expand and grow, good pension, and a good role model for my kids.
      Reality was working at least 10 hours extra unpaid per week, bullied into extra shifts by exploiting the genuine care I had for my patients (if you don’t do it we will be short and the patients will suffer), I had very little time to spend with my kids and was steuggling financially.. the role model i wanted to be was a stressed frazzled mess. My turning point came when I was close to a break down and realised something had to give. I had lost myself trying to uphold standards that were already obliviated and I couldn’t carry out my job safely or with the compassion I wanted to.
      Great piece, thanks for sharing!

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