What’s Your Value?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know that the coronavirus has affected daily life. I myself have been working with PanSurg at Imperial College London collating data on the virus between work hours. I cannot stress how hard working these guys have been. Between 12-hour shifts these guys volunteer their time to work on the projects. You’d sometimes get radio silence from one of them for a week only to discover that they’re recovering from flu-like symptoms and that they’re ready to get stuck in again. It’s inspiring. If you’re partial to a bit of python programming I have coded an open-source pip module that streams 2500+ academic papers to your computer. Feel free to use it for any project you have in mind.

Whilst staying in has increased the amount of time I dedicate to cooking, and reading, the stuff I see on social media hasn’t changed. There’s this weird trend where someone does nothing, doesn’t offer any solutions or predictions, and then waits around for the government’s plan to unfold. They then complain that is wasn’t perfect. Other people like these posts which to me is strange. It’s the economic equivalent of back seat driving and anyone can do it. Still, I guess this isn’t going to change. There will always be people who want to project some sort of knowledge by standing back and commenting with 20 20 hindsight vision. Another trend has recently caught my eye. A trend, that if properly understood, could actually improve the commenter’s life. This was about the value that they thought they brought to society.

Value is an interesting thing. Everybody likes to think that they’re really valuable to society. To most people, it would be an insult if you implied otherwise. However, because it’s so universally understood that people want to feel that they’re valuable, we’ve smothered it on thick when trying to gain some common ground with people. Chances are, that if you tell someone that they’re overworked and underpaid, they’re not going to take it badly. I even admit myself, I’ve sometimes chucked it out there to get a conversation flowing when I was working on the front-line in accident and emergency. However, for your own happiness and career path, whilst you should just ride with the flow if someone’s using it to lubricate the conversation, it’s not something you should start blindly clinging on to. In-fact, one of the most liberating turning points of my life, was when I worked out that I wasn’t actually that valuable.

First of all, let’s look at the value you bring. Some nurses on my Facebook feed were sharing posts that made the point that saving lives were priceless. A smaller amount went further to insinuate that other jobs were worthless in comparison (though I stress that it wasn’t all them). Now, I understand that it’s cathartic to think that you’re hard done by. It relieves the pressure. You don’t have to improve or re-evaluate your grip on reality, it’s society’s fault that you’re unhappy. Whilst this feels nice when said, it doesn’t really empower you to do anything about it as it doesn’t capture the full picture. I’m sure you agree with me that saving lives is really valuable. If my life was at risk I’d personally like it saved and I’m sure you would too. However, this doesn’t directly address the question, how much value does the nurse directly add?

We can put one in a standard hospital and we put another in an abandoned warehouse with not even a phone. Do you think the nurses would add equal value to society? Every variable is vital for the nurse to add value, but after a certain threshold, it has diminishing returns. It’s key that the nurse turns up to work, has some work ethic, and some skills. But after a certain threshold, the nurses’ value is then greatly improved by scanning departments, blood labs, doctors, surgeons, computers, a clean hospital, etc. This isn’t just for nurses it’s for all professions. I’m now a software engineer. At the time of writing this my market value is fairly decent. However, if smartphones and the internet weren’t a thing next month, no matter how hard I worked or studied in the month coming up to that, the value I added to society would still tank.

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This seems to be the problem with a lot of workers who “have problems with the system”. They tend to look at the end value of their labor and attribute all that value to their labor. Now there are workers who are exploited. However, for the university-educated in the UK who are earning above the national average already, this certainly isn’t the case. There is merit in turning up, doing your job, and studying. But, it has diminishing returns. Is there equipment, or another system that will increase your value? Can you think of a product or solution that will increase the value of others? If you can, you can make a business out of it, and society will reward you. When I truly looked at myself and the value I added in a raw harsh way, my life truly changed for the better. It took some time. My ego loved to hold the image that I was worth so much more and that I was getting a raw deal by society. Like fast-food, it felt good at the time, but it was not healthy in the long run.

Sadly I have to clarify at the end due to the flat out toxic political nature of some NHS workers that this doesn’t make a value judgment on if nurses themselves are underpaid or not. With the upcoming potential recession and mass unemployment, I feel sorry for anyone who tries to talk reason in that debate. I’m certainly not going to throw my hat in there. In conclusion, this post is about how the most dissatisfied people I tend to know, don’t take into account what external factors increase their value. Doing it, will make you happier, and give you other avenues to explore. I think that enabling entrepreneurship amongst nurses would increase morale and empower nurses to increase their value in other fields apart from study.

3 thoughts on “What’s Your Value?

  1. But how to facilitate entrepreneurship in the NHS? It’s a fairly rigid, top-down system. For instance one could imagine AI assisted nursing replacing GPs – but that would require massive organisational change and individual drive from nurses – to achieve.

    Also, an increase in entrepreneurship will almost by definition, increase regional differences on health provision – is that necessarily a good thing?

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    1. I agree. Sadly I’ve seen a number of NHS leaders turn to identity politics which is a real zero-sum game. I can see why they do it. They can lie with one-dimensional statistics and bully others who challenge them. They also don’t need any problem solving or skill for such a crusade, all they have to do is define something simple like quotas and spend the rest of their time moral grandstanding. I think we will have to wait for this craze to die down before we see any real ability to work on increasing value as opposed to reslicing the same pie in relation to whatever craze there is. Who knows how long this will last. In terms of regional differences, an increase in an area is better than both areas staying the same.

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