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The hope of healthcare – The call of courage, Part 2

Pharmacists face the call for courage in the presence of a single person all the time. Much of the time, the stakes can be quite low. But there are also times when the stakes can be very high.

Where do you find yourself?  Are you more courageous or more conforming? 

No matter where you are, today we are going to break down different kinds of courage.

Today we are going to consider courage based on the number of people involved:

  1. Courage in the presence of many people

This is perhaps what you think about most often when you consider courage. It is some public declaration for something noble or against something oppressive which happens when there are many people around. An early scene from the Hunger Games comes to mind when Katniss offers herself as tribute in place of her sister. This is courage in the presence of many people. In this case, there is a statistical possibility that others in the crowd will support the person stepping up. Make no mistake, doing this takes a great deal of courage, but the next type of courage may require more.

  1. Courage in the presence of one person

I welcome your opinions on this one. At present, I believe it takes MORE courage to be courageous in the presence of a single person. Why? Because this can be an all or nothing venture. A person stepping up can be met with immediate defeat. This idea was played for comedic purposes in the Seinfeld episode “The Face Painter” (S6:E23).  George tells his girlfriend that he loves her, and she responds with “I’m hungry.” Fans of the show know that George suffers from overthinking and when his courageous action is not accepted, he is beside himself! 

Pharmacists face the call for courage in the presence of a single person all the time.   Much of the time, the stakes can be quite low. But there are also times when the stakes can be very high. Addressing suspicious behaviours with opioids with a patient can be very challenging. Dealing with performance issues with members of our staff can be difficult and complex. These are just two examples of situations requiring courage. And we know there are times when the courage isn’t present. Conversations don't happen.  Situations are not addressed, and solutions are not implemented. It takes courage to engage someone one on one. But I am not even sure that is what requires the most courage.

  1. Courage with ourselves

I noted before that the opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. My experience has shown me that so many of our colleagues do what everyone else does.  They conform. That said, there is a great deal of aspiration. We all dream of a better future (or a return to the so-called good old days) for pharmacy. However, the hustle and bustle of the day prevent us from taking action. My perspective and experience today suggest that courage with ourselves is the most challenging kind. This is the way things have always been, so maybe this is the way they will always be. Or we believe we must be given permission to try something new. 

At the beginning of August, I attended a conference where James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, was speaking. During his presentation he said that “people don’t rise to the level of their goals, they fall to the level of their habits.” If this is true, and I am inclined to believe it is, this suggests that courage with ourselves requires us to change our habits. To continue the thought, it also requires us to changes our systems and processes at work to be able to achieve what we intend.

When I found myself dissatisfied in the situation I was in, I knew I had to change things. This took courage. The first steps I took were reading books that could help me. Reading the books at home was a challenge, so my next option was to read books at work. I didn’t ask, but I was reasonably sure that my boss would tell me that I wasn’t getting paid to read books. So, I went in early, shut the door, and read. I picked up new perspectives and new ideas that improved my contributions to the work of the team. It wasn’t easy, but it did become easier. Growth and progress reinforced my courage with myself.

If pharmacists are to be the hope of healthcare, we must exercise different types of courage.  This will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Until next time

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn


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