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Let’s hear it for passion in pharmacy!

Passion sets the heart racing . . . can it be applied to the profession of pharmacy?

By Kazeem Olalekan

Morchella7/DreamstimePassion sets the heart racing . . . can it be applied to the profession of pharmacy?

The mere mention of the word “passion” sets the heart racing. Lord Byron has been described by writer and broadcaster Michael Goldfarb as “a man who could not say no to his passions, especially when they involved other men’s wives”. And I repeat his possibly apocryphal tale of Lord Uxbridge’s leg. As Wellington’s cavalry commander at the Battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge had his leg sheared off by a cannonball. Did he scream, curse and get blitheringly emotional? He did not. He said to Wellington: “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” The Duke replied with cool concern: “By God, sir, so you have!”

Shilpa Gohil, a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Assembly, wrote about how her “passion for pharmacy was awakened” and she decided “to undertake part-time postgraduate certificate in community pharmacy from the University of Portsmouth”.1

Passion has been described by Vallerand and Houltfort as “a strong inclination towards an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy”.2 An important characteristic of passion is that the activity has been internalised into one’s identity.
It is striking that the passion that led Lord Byron to act indecently led Shilpa Gohil to pursue extra training and qualification in pharmacy. It is also striking that the lack of passion was attributed to Lord Uxbridge showing no emotion as his leg was sheared off.

What is passion?

Vallerand and Houlfort proposed a dualistic model of passion. The model proposes two types of passion: obsessive and harmonious passion. Obsessive passion refers to the controlled internalisation of an activity in one’s identity that create internal pressure to engage in the activity that the person likes. Harmonious passion, on the other hand, is described as the autonomous internalisation that leads to individuals to choose to engage in the activity that they like.

Harmonious passion is hypothesised to lead to positive effects and to minimise negative effects during task engagement. The argument goes that if a person integrates self into task, he or she will fully partake in the activity with an openness that is conducive to positive experiences without the presence of undesirable self activities. Self activities include the overriding need or desire to protect, maintain or enhance self-esteem. Furthermore, the component of free will, should enable the person to take control over activity leading to a display of flexible persistence, persisting in the passionate activity only if positive returns are expected. If condition becomes consistently negative, involvement in the activity should no longer persist.

Obsessive passion, on the other hand, is hypothesised to entail a controlled internalisation thus resulting in internal compulsion to engage in the activity, leading to a more rigid and controlled form of task engagement. Such pressured engagement could prevent the person from fully focusing on the task at hand and may interfere with the experience of positive effects, and even facilitate negative effects during task engagement. Furthermore, because with obsessive passion an internal compulsion leads the person to engage in the activity even when he or she should not, he or she may experience negative emotions once engagement in the passionate activity is terminated.2,3 As an example, performing a medicines use review because it delivers real benefit for the patients may be considered to be harmonious but performing the same task just to make up numbers because of external pressures may be considered as obsessive. A person exhibiting harmonious passion may decide not to perform a medicines use review if he or she perceives no benefit to the patient.

This model has been applied to the field of performance research. Ericsson et al4 have proposed that deliberate practice, defined as a highly structured activity motivated by the explicit aim of improvement, plays an important role in reaching such high levels of performance. Research has supported the importance of deliberate practice for attaining high-level performance. The research by Vallerand and others3,4 proposes that passion represents a major motivational force that leads one to engage in deliberate practice. Both harmonious and obsessive passion are hypothesised to lead to deliberate practice, which in turn lead to performance attainment. The model is not hypothesised to influence performance directly. Rather, passion sets things in motion by providing people with the energy and goals to engage in deliberate practice, and it is deliberate practice that is hypothesised to have a direct influence on performance.

In their studies, Vallerand et al3 concluded that both obsessive and harmonious passion are positive predictors of deliberate practice. They also found that the two passions are linked in different ways to achievement goals and subjective well-being. Harmonious passion was a positive predictor of mastery goal pursuits (pursuits focused on the development of competency and task mastery) and subjective well-being, whereas obsessive passion was a positive predictor of performance and performance-avoidance goal pursuits (pursuits focused on the demonstration of competence relevant to others) and was unrelated to subjective well-being. They concluded that there are two paths to high-level performance attainment in sport, depending on whether harmonised or obsessive passion underlies sport engagement. While the path from harmonious passion is conducive to high levels of performance and living a happy life, that from obsessive passion is less reliably related to performance attainment and is unrelated to happiness.

Passion’s role in pharmacy?

In the pharmacy, we use terms like “professionalism”, “professional engagement”, “professional enthusiasm”, “clinical engagement” and “patient-centred professionalism” to describe why we do what we do and why what we do is important. Rapport et al5 identified 11 themes that defines the notion of patient-centred professionalism in community pharmacy. The themes highlight positive and challenging aspects of what the term means for a community pharmacist in practice. It is possible that positive and challenging aspects identified are passion drivers, whereby positive aspects drive harmonious passion and challenging aspects drive obsessive passion. However, there is something about the words “passion for pharmacy” that makes me want to get up and do something, makes me want to act and makes me want to engage in deliberate practice.

None of the other words moves me in quite the same way. Insofar as it is the right type of passion, the use of this term must be encouraged within the profession. Otherwise, like Lord Uxbridge, we risk feeling nothing as our legs are sheared off.

Kazeem Olalekan Technology Manager, Iforg Ltd


1 Gohil S. Bringing together pharmacists. Pharmacy Professional 2010;(8):8.
2 Vallerand R, Houlfort N. Passion at work: Toward a new conceptualization. In: Gilliland S, Steiner D, Skarlicki D (eds). Emerging perspectives on values in organizations. . Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2003; pp175–204.
3 Vallerand R, Mageau G, Elliot A, Dumais A, Demers M-A, Rousseau F. Passion and performance attainment in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 2008;9:373–92.
4 Ericsson K, Krampe R, Tesch-Romer. The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review 1993;100:363–406.
5 Rapport F, Wright S, Hutchings H, Doel M. Patient-centred professionalism and its impact on community pharmacists. Pharmaceutical Journal 2011;286:112–3.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11085500

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