Sunday, November 8, 2009

IT Profession? I think not

Recent tweets from @rsessions, @richardveryard, @j4ngis,@cybersal have been looking at how hard various professions are. @richardveryard's observation that "@j4ngis @oscarberg Rocket science isn't even particularly complicated. Goes up, comes down. It is rocket technology that is complicated." in a tweet this morning reminds of a conversation had on the golf course with a very good dr. Let's call him John.
John is, as I have said, a very good doctor. His speciality is anesthesia, but his passion is technology. He is always coming up with schemes to invent solutions to make dr.' s live easier. So much so, that he would probably prefer to do that than what he is trained to do.
So after a particularly inept (actually about normal for us, but inept by anyone else's standards) round of golf, we were trudging wearily back to the 19th. hole when John announces yet another good idea - linking wireless technology, handhelds, voice transcription, remote printing,.... His question to me was, "How hard can this be?".
My response was something along the following lines.
John you are breaking my heart. You are essentially saying that anyone without a modicum of training, experience, expertise, but just with the passion and the idea can bust into my field and take over. Have you no respect? Imagine the situation being reversed. Be me for a day, and I will be you. After all, how hard can it be to administer anesthesia to a patient. You figure out the necessary cocktail, inject it and out they go. I can imagine that there might be a few kinks along the way - like making sure that they wake up - but we can leave that to iteration 2. He was, of course horrified. He asked if I was trying to imply that my chosen line of work was as disciplined as his profession. And for the most part, it probably isn't. The key is I don't work in a profession by any normal definition.
So while we are not in a profession, then any enthusiastic amateur can build "cool stuff". Who cares about the error cases? Who cares about the edge conditions? It is all about the app after all. To take a phrase from the movie industry, "We can fix it in post."
Who cares that the patient lives? Who cares that the patient suffers a quality of life decline? In medicine when we have post - it usually means post mortem. There is no fixing it in post in medicine.