Subject: Certification
From: Melissa Hunter-Kilmer <mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 11:34:49 EST

On Tue, 26 Dec 1995, Robert Plamondon wrote:

> I'm not sure we're approaching the certification issue correctly. Our
> goals are too mundane. Look at what doctors and lawyers have achieved
> through THEIR certification programs:

Let's look at what registered nurses (hereinafter referred to as "nurses")
have achieved through their certification programs, compared to doctors
and lawyers. (My husband is a nurse, so I know something about this.)

> * Greatly increased average personal income by restricting the number
> of new entrants to the profession.

Nurses do not make anywhere near as much as they should, considering their
skills, training, and power over and responsibility for life and death. The
salaries have not gone up much in the last twenty years, and experience does
get them more money. Also, working conditions have gotten much worse in the
last few years.

> * The protection of incompetent members through a decertification process
> that makes it far easier to absolve than to punish.

I don't know much about that and so can't comment on it.

> * The fostering of a lofty, godlike stature in the eyes of the public
> through a combination of good P.R. and the relentless sweeping under
> the rug of all unseemly happenings.

Gee, that would be nice! But I can tell you that it hasn't happened in the
case of nurses. Other factors must be at work here for doctors and lawyers.

> * Massive power at the governmental lobbying level, which leads to
> protection and patronage.

Again, that would be nice, but certification hasn't led to that kind of
power for nurses.

> * An arrangement by which most of the work is done by low-paid uncertified
> workers and virtually unpaid apprentices (i.e., nurses, med students,
> and interns), leaving the certified people ample time for leisure.

Nurses do practically all their own work. And often they end up emptying
bedpans and doing other tasks that nurses' aides could do, too.

As for your original comment, which related to doctors -- doctors do not have
ample time for leisure. They have beepers so they are subject to leave
whatever they are doing, and they carry massive amounts of insurance that
soak up some of that large income they get.

Nurses are paid relatively little, sure. But "uncertified"? Have you ever
seen an exam to license registered nurses? It is _not_ a no-brainer, to put
it mildly. Also, nurses are not apprentices. They go through at least two
years of intensive academic training, often more.

My point is that certification, licensure, whatever may be a good thing
for tech writers. I haven't made up my mind yet. But if you think it
assures high pay, high status, and lots of leisure time, then you are
fooling yourself. Heck, it doesn't even assure doctors of that -- doesn't
the average pediatrician make something like US$65,000? Not a huge amount
for all that study, not to mention all that responsibility. And the hours
aren't always so great, either.

If I thought certification would give us better pay, better status, and
better hours, I would be on it like a duck on a June bug. But I don't
think we know that it will. Let's keep kicking it around. What better
forum for this is there than techwr-l?

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
(standard disclaimer)

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