However, I was reminded of this saying for the opposite reason at this conference, because at times I felt like the least smartest person in the room. But thats not surprising as this conference did have some of the worlds leading researchers, clinicians, scientists, and experts in their fields present.
And despite my own self inflicted feelings of stupidity I still thoroughly enjoyed the conference and learnt a lot. However, my experience was tarnished by a few conversations I had with some of the very smart and immensely qualified delegates and something I have being encountering more and more recently.
What do I mean by this? Well its the pompous, arrogant, and self imposed belief that some academics have that formal qualifications are the only measure of an individuals intelligence, skill, and knowledge. A qualification snob believes that if you have little or no formal qualifications you are somehow less intelligent, less relevant and your thoughts, views, and opinions are worth less.
For example, at this conference I was in conversation during a coffee break with a well known physio academic who suddenely appeared to think my IQ level dropped through the floor when they realised I was ‘only’ a clinical physio, who wasn’t associated with a university, who wasn’t working towards an MSc or PhD, and who wasn’t a widely published author. They even started to speak a little slower and louder as if they suddenly thought I was hard of hearing, that was until they made their feeble excuses and left hastily.
This attitude pisses me off immensely…
Now I am the first to admit that I am no academic, nor will I ever be! I love my clinical work and will never give it up, most likely unless a big lottery win rolls in. When it comes to academia I will admit I only just ‘survived’ my Bachelors degree, finding the whole experience arcahic, restrictive, and highly hypocritical. I also found the whole academical system a vipers nest of lecturers personal ego’s, and a mine field of politics.
For example, although critical thinking was occasionally taught, it wasn’t really encouraged or allowed. Students where often frowned upon and labelled as trouble makers if they asked too many awkward questions, or dared discuss any research or evidence that challenged what was being taught.
I remember being chastised in one of my MSK practicals by a tutor when I questioned the accuracy and reliability of pelvic motion palpation techniques and how accurate it really was to feel stiffness in spines. I was firmly told that I had to trust her experience, and that if I carried on asking questions I would be asked to leave the session!
This was a fairly common theme throughout my under graduate training, the more I questioned the relevance or reliability of what I was being taught, the more trouble I seem to get into and the more I got labelled as a trouble maker by some of the tutors and the faculty.
That’s not to say all my time at university was all bad, I had some great times and met some great people, but due to the many negative experiences I had, I’ve never had a desire to go back… Ever!
If it wasn’t for the support and encouragement of one of my tutors, who still acts as a mentor for me today, I would have quickly stuck two fingers up to the world of physiotherapy and told it where it could stick them, with its bull shit motion palpation tests and other crap… I am still tempted to do this most days!
It was these experiences which have meant I have never had a desire or inclination to go back into formal education. Instead I have choosen to focus and direct my own post graduate learning. I like to read all the research I can get my hands on, which is easier said than done, and critically review and appraise it myself. However, I am aware this can lead me prone to my own biases and distort my views and opinions.
So I have regular discussions with some trusted peers, mentors, and colleagues of mine who I respect for their honesty, integrity and simplicity in this profession of the exact opposite. They keep me grounded, thinking alternatively and open to other views and opinions… occasionally!
Now, you maybe thinking that my decision not to go back into academia is foolish, based on some bad experiences, in one university, with a few bad tutors, back in the bad old days of guruism, before true evidence based practice really got established.
And I am well aware that things have moved on a lot since then, and I don’t tar all university’s or tutors with the same brush. I now know many tutors in many universities who are excellent teachers and critical thinkers. But I’m afraid the experience has left a very ‘bad taste’ in my mouth, and now with other work and life commitments taking up my time and money, any thoughts of returning to academia are highly unlikely.
But is a physio with no formal post grad qualifications disadvantaged?
There are more and more physios working towards, or have MSc’s and PhD’s, and I do think this is great for the profession. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who has or wants to continue along the academic path and get these formal qualifications! Kudos to you guys!
But this path isn’t for everyone, it certainly isn’t for me! But does this hinder me or anyone else in their career, or make for a poorer physio than one with post grad qualifications?
Well it does seem that nowadays the only way to progress your career is with post graduation qualifications, with most jobs insisting applicants have MSc’s or are working towards them. I also see and hear a lot of physios undertaking these post graduate qualifications just for this reason, career progression, not for a desire to truely learn or advance their knowledge.
Now it is admirable that many are keen to progress their careers, and I dont blame anyone for wanting to do an MSc for this reason, but this is, in my opinion not a true reason for wanting to do further qualifications. Clinical career progression should be based on clinical markers of progress, not academic ones. I am not saying that further qualifications should not help career progression, and I am not suggesting for one minute that we go back to the bad old days where career progression was done more on time in service rather than skills or knowledge.
What I am suggesting however is that careers and jobs should not be only limited to only those with formal post grad qualifications.
Education doesn’t just come from schooling
Many employers today, both in the private and public sectors have in my opinion instigated a culture of formal qualification elitism and unfairness by insisting nearly all jobs beyond basic grades have, or are ‘working towards’ an MSc, even roles that clearly don’t warrant or need them.
Some would argue that a physio with or working towards an MSc/PhD is going to be a better candidate and therefore be more suitable for a job than one who hasn’t got these qualifications. I argue that this could be the exact opposite, as Mark Twain famously said…
Qualifications are not the only way to demonstrate learning. Learning does NOT just come from formal education. In fact formal education can limit free thinking, formal education can only teach you to recite and reherse what others have told you to learn, like a mindless drone.
Formal qualifications in my opinion demonstrate how good someone is at writing essays and sitting exams, what they don’t demonstrate is how good someome is at critical thinking, problem solving, and most importantly how they are with patients. It is these important skills that seem to get overlooked by employeers with their qualification bias when they automatically rule out candidates simply beacuse they dont have an MSc.
Where is the common sense in this?
When did being a good, honest, hard working, reliable, knowledgeable physio only be measured and assessed with formal qualifications?
Of course a physio who has, or is working towards, an MSc/PhD will have skills in clinical reasoning, critical thinking and working under pressure, but so do many other physios in their every day to day practice.
Of course doing an MSc/PhD involves designing, implementing and undertaking research. But it should also be remembered that there are many physios out there who are involved in clinical research, in their own time, using their own money, and who are not seeking any qualification, or lists of publications, rather they just have a question that they want answered. These are the real hero’s of our profession, these are the candidates employeers are missing out with their qualification bias.
The digital age and the access it gives to information nowadays is astronomical meaning universities and formal academia are not the only way to learn. Social media and the internet have opened up a wealth of opportunties for people to seek out research, journals, blogs, experts views and opinions. In fact I would go as far to say those who don’t use these other sources and only rely on formal education are more limited and more restricted in their learning and knowledge due to the narrowness of their exposure to others views and opinions.
Of course qualifications are important, but so are a lot of other things, experience, a desire to self learn, passion for excellence, these things can not be measured with an exam or test. Just because someone doesn’t have a gazzilion letters behind their name doesn’t mean they know less, or are less suited to, or less capable for a role than someone who does, in fact they may be more suitable and capable than you think!
And as at the start I will leave you with a little saying…
If you are a qualification snob, you are a knob!
As always thanks for reading