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The Indescribable Value of Autonomy

September 9, 2015

Filed under: ARTICLES,Happiness — Tags: , , — Barry @ 9:10 AM

 

 

 

For old timers like me this film clip is one of Hollywood’s most iconic ever.  Go ahead and watch…and if you’re too young not to remember this scene from Nicholson’s Five Easy Pieces…enjoy.

The scene is Jack Nicholson at his best.  It illustrates why he has so many fans — he is the renegade in all of us.  He is truth, justice and the American way.

Oh if we all could just behave like that when we are being shit on.

Five Easy Pieces was made in 1970.  Yet watching this clip tells me things haven’t improved much…and maybe in the world of health professionals has gotten worse.

Most dentists go to school to be free from micromanagement.  We want to be masters of our own destiny.  But that is not happening today.

Autonomy is the word I like to use.

Another word might be discretionary, or being allowed to use one’s own judgement.  That’s probably the reason I never accepted dental insurance—it was the Jack Nicholson in me.

I always had a difficult time writing letters to “beg” for approval—the equivalence of “holding the chicken salad.”

A few years ago I was asked to be on a panel for the Huffington Post (See the blog post Dentistry Looked Bad – May 2013).  On the panel was two patients, an insurance company fraud specialist and myself.

What a joke!  The fraud inspector said it all.  Probably like the waitress in the film clip, there was such a lack of trust that it is hard to do a good job.  That’s where we have come over the last forty five years.

No one likes to be surveiled.  No one wants someone looking over their shoulder.
We want the freedom to do our jobs to the best our our abilities…that’s how we build our self-worth.  Through our work.

And I am not just writing about doctors and dentists.  We need to trust our employees enough to do the right thing.

Take a look at Jack’s reaction.  How often do we feel like that when speaking with an uncooperative service provider?  How does it feel?

What’s worse though is the stifling effect it has on the provider.  It can destroy trust in the entire system.  Whether it’s getting something as simple as two pieces of toast or getting your cable turned on in time for this week’s football game—we need people to have the freedom to use their judgement and behave with a sense of autonomy.

Dentists, as well as doctors are feeling this more and more.  The ideology of insurance companies and now corporate dentistry, is putting constraints on health professionals in order to become more efficient and more profitable…at the cost of losing autonomy.

When autonomy is gone…so is passion.  It’s just a job..and that’s not why we went to school.