I have a friend who’s a ‘real person’ now!

With pride masked in self-deprication, my friend sent me the following email:

I have always thought that this particular friend has a wealth of medical knowledge and fantastic bedside manner, so the achievement didn’t much surprise me. But, wow! It’s all legit suddenly!….because of the title? She agreed that she felt more like a ‘real person’, but added how crazy it is that “artificial certifications can do that to a person, especially a young person.” Two really interesting things here:

Achieving the rank of RN, or any other advanced degree for that matter, is an ‘artificial certification’. Totally agree with this. There’s a level of achievement, sure. The title means that classes were taken and tests were passed, and it also gives a person certain social mobility and often affect how they are perceived by others in that society. But, it doesn’t say much about aptitude and practical capabilities. Case in point, the above email. Second case in point, nurses who make mistakes with consequences. Another case in point, dummies with MBAs running things. To be clear here, I have total respect for nurses and other professionals who care about what they do and can be known as a professional based on their actions and developed thinking rather than letters after their name. This just doesn’t happen overnight when the degree candidate is endowed with a certificate, and for some recipients, it just never happens. So, the certification itself is indeed a bit artificial (even though artificial is often good enough!), even though it serves an identifying purpose in job seeking and societal structure.

The ‘real person’ feeling is strong especially to young people. Agree that it’s strong to young people, but I’d argue that it’s equally strong (if not stronger) for over-20s/30s adults. For folks who have more ‘real world experience’, they realize the advantages (artificial or not) of having an advanced degree – salary, employment opportunities, respect for institutional knowledge, access to different groups of people, etc. – and the achievement of entering a new status in their peer group carries that much more known weight. Further, the while it’s not true for all early 20s-post graduate candidates, many of them were ‘on track’ for their degree; even though getting it definitely changes their label from ‘student’ to ‘Professional’, it’s, as I described earlier, something we knew would happen all along. For the class of more adult adults who go back to school, the expectation of an advanced degree wasn’t always there, so the feeling is intensified by doing the unanticipated.

IN SUMMARY – I am very proud of my friend and other friends like her who have advanced degrees, and I think of them very much as real people, as opposed to the rest of us who are slightly less far along….. but not really, because I know it’s kind of artificial….. and kind of valid….. WHAT IS THIS SYSTEM?! [Can I be ‘real’ too without going back to school?!]

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