“Just for a second…just, try being brave.” – Despereaux
James is working at a fire station where one of the volunteer officers often shows up for calls intoxicated. Sometimes he drives the fire engine under the influence and clearly impaired. James comes to the blog forum to ask a question that’s been weighing on his mind. What is his huge dilemma you ask? Wait for it. …Should he confront his drunken coworker?
Niel doesn’t have a question. He just wants to rant about a Firefighter / Paramedic who turfed an ALS call off to him (an EMT). He wants to tell everyone on the message board how much the local service with a great public image is actually filled with lazy medics who provide substandard care. He’s mad, but not mad enough to confront anyone face-to-face. When I ask him what he did when the medic passed off the patient his reply was predictable. “I didn’t say anything. Around here you can get in trouble for that sort of thing.”
Jason asked his supervisor a question about their protocols. The answer he got was clearly ridiculous. He shows up on a Facebook group to ridicule the stupidity of his organization and their misguided leadership. The cheers and applause begin almost immediately. I had only one question. “What did you say?” His answer was predictable. “I didn’t say anything. I just smiled. …You can’t get through to these guys.”
I recently got tossed out of a Facebook group for making challenging comments just like this one. I challenged individuals who showed up to rant to explain what they were willing to do to confront their situation. I wrote an unpopular apology to a group member who seemed to think that helping individuals who were in harms way was a “cowboy attitude.” Every comment I made was directed toward a single ideal…helping people in EMS find their courage. I was told that I was banned from the group for being disruptive. I told the moderator that it was the nicest thing anyone had said about me in a long time.
Are you willing to be disruptive? If we aren’t, I can’t imagine our working condition changing much. Keeping our heads down and not making waves isn’t a recipe for change.
Until we are willing to have difficult conversations we will struggle to create the changes we want to see.
Until we are willing to confront outrageous behavior, dangerous incompetence and willful ignorance we will struggle to be recognized as professionals.
Until we are willing to champion evidence based care and reject the protocols and policies that don’t serve us or our patients we will always struggle to rise above the antiquated industrial design of our industry.
Until we are willing to demand higher performance standards in the face of the rampant bad medicine that is epidemic in our culture we will always struggle to achieve a living wage.
If our first, best option is to not be disruptive, then we have to make peace with the fact that, it is likely that nothing will be disrupted. If our chosen path is to not make any waves, we can’t disappointed when nothing around us moves. Such is the nature of life. Progress moves forward on the sacrifices of those who are willing to risk greatly and blaze a new trail.
As you might imagine, I am met with the same predictable resistance each time I pose this possibility of being brave. The first argument is that bravery and boldness is akin to disrespect. To best make change we need to stay quiet and get along, hoping to one day rise to a position of authority and then strike out with the change initiatives that we’ve been waiting for all along. I disagree. I think this is a cheap excuse to listen to our fear.
There is nothing disrespectful about having honest conversations and identifying where we fall short. History is littered with examples of courageous leaders who still achieved career success not by hiding and biding their time but by being bold and working hard for change. The voice of change does not have to be disrespectful or rude. But it can’t be silent either.