From the editor: Fake news alert!

James E. Mattson | 01/24/2020

Coming to a computer near you: All the news fit—or not fit—to make up.


In the United States, we’ve been hearing a lot about fake news lately, a development of great concern to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Mark probably isn’t aware of this, but I’ve also been receiving fake news—about myself.
James E. MattsonFrom time to time, I receive emails from sources that address me as a physician. Some ask me to use their services to improve my practice, others ask me to sign up for advice on how to invest my financial gains, while still others inform me that I have reached the very pinnacle of physicianness and should take steps they offer to advertise my status to the world.
Recently, for example, I learned I have been nominated for inclusion in a directory honoring America’s best physicians. I was informed, “Our directory recognizes top professionals who demonstrate superior credentials, experience, exceptional patient care, and commitment to excellence.” Problem is, I’ve never inserted a tongue depressor in a patient’s mouth and told him or her to say, “Ah.”
But that “stunning recognition plaque” will be reassuring to all who enter my office. As one physician quoted in the email attested, “Patients view this award and instantly feel they’re in the right place.” Another observed: “These plaques are beautiful and give us a major edge over other Physicians in our area. Even my staff reacts to me differently.” Maybe if I purchase one of those plaques, Tofu, my Shih Tzu, will finally give me some respect around here.
The truth is, I value the $5 prize I received as an eighth-grader for a third-place showing in the Barron County [Wisconsin] Spelling Bee more highly than any “honor” paid for by purchasing a distinctive plaque or a listing in a directory. At least the spelling bee honor relates to one of the competencies required for my role as editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
By the way, the second-place prize went to Nancy W. Nancy and I first met as first-graders—two of six—in a two-room school, so maybe our spelling abilities also said something about our teacher, Erma Johnson, who taught grades 1 through 4. Interestingly, although the spelling competition tested our ability to identify in correct order the letters of English words—some Americanized—the first-place prize went to Peter K., an immigrant from West Germany. Go figure.

Which brings me to degree mills and puppy mills. Neither is commendable. Honorary degrees are a whole ’nother discussion. Significant achievements are worthy of significant recognition, and honorary doctorates, properly conferred, are one way academic institutions acknowledge excellence and achievement. Common prohibitions for those receiving these degrees include, however, not representing them as earned, not including them in the education section of a CV, and not using the degree as a title outside the environs of the conferring institution. Do I hear applause from those who obtained their doctorates the old-fashioned way—they earned them— à la the late John Houseman in a TV commercial for an investment firm?
On the topic of earned doctorates, one of the most popular articles published in Reflections on Nursing Leadership has been a blog entry, “What do you do with a PhD in nursing?,” by Tiffany Montgomery. Recently, she posted an entry titled “What is a postdoc?” I’m expecting that to be popular, too.
Do you remember these articles from Janice Hawkins—“I’m still standing!” and “I’m still standing, but I’m not standing still!”—in which she chronicles her pursuit of a PhD? I am pleased to announce that, as of August 2016, Hawkins now has an earned PhD and will be providing postdoctoral reflections in an upcoming article titled “Stand at ease, then forward march!” Watch for it soon.
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James E. Mattson is editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership.

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