“Does her daughter take methadone as well?”

Scene: It is a Saturday. The following Monday is a bank holiday, so instead of just suppling Sunday’s methadone dose, we also are supplying Mondays.

Patient: “Can I have a measure so I can split the two doses correctly”

PG: “Of course.” *supplies*

Pre Reg Student: “Did she say she wants to split the two for her daughter? Why, is her daughter taking methadone as well? On the same prescription?”

PG: *heads desk*

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Alcohoooooooooooooooooh!

Today was quite an amusing day at work, for numerous reasons. The first happened to be a drunk man.

He walked into the pharmacy, slurring in speech and talking to himself. It was a little after 10am so I thought “maybe this man has an illness that causes the slurring self-directed speech”. He sat down and called to the pharmacist asking if we had his medicine. The pharmacist laughed, then informed us that this man was a regular.

He then pulled out a bottle and started drinking. And it stunk. Then he looked like he was about to pass out/fall asleep. The pharmacist had to go down to the storeroom so I stayed up, with the rest of the staff being female… and scared of him. Then he stood up!

Turns out he DID have a medical issue. His gum/teeth were in terrible condition and he needed a pain killer for it. Given that he was pissed out of his head, we weren’t going to give paracetamol. Luckily, the pharmacist came back up at that moment and started talking to him.

No more than a hundred feet away, there was 5 ambulances parked up in the town centre, probably awaiting any call outs. Killing two birds with one stone, we directed him to go to the paramedics, for they would help him more than we could (which is true!)…

Just before he left, though… he slowly walked towards the door frame, then BURST into song, scaring the people who were walking past on the pavement.

So… yes. If asked “did you enjoy work today,” the answer would be yes. For many reasons, both serious and comical. This one fits into comical, though.

That Sticky Green Solution

Ever since finishing exams a month ago I’ve done hardly anything relevant to pharmacy, spending most of the time gaming, online, and generally passing time. But that was to change as I began working in a local community pharmacy.

I’ll start with just a bit of background on myself… I have never really been interested in community pharmacy. I’ve had experience in locations which receive a large amount of prescriptions, and the job seemed to be a case of checking items more than anything else. However, the pharmacy I’ve started to work with is different; excitingly so.

Located in the middle of the town it’s far from a pharmacy which solely deals with doctors and their prescriptions. Whilst they do receive a decent amount of scripts, they also work within the drug dependency setting, which interests me greatly. The interest stems not only from the work involved within this, but also the patients themselves. From those I’ve seen in the past three days, they were open about their problem and unlike what society portrays. Of course, this could just be an act so that they would get their medicines.

Methadone dispensing, more than any other, interested me. I spent almost three hours preparing instalments to be dispensed on the following working day, and soon realised how much attention was required. The act of pouring a solution is one that many would consider simple. But as the pharmacist I was working with said, ‘complacency is the biggest weakness’ – if pouring on autopilot with no care to what you’re doing, a mistake is inevitable… when it comes to methadone, you do not want to be the person who dispensed an overdose. And from the many instalments I measured, I found out early that constant checks were needed. Being alert, being active – I enjoyed. Greatly.

Being a retail pharmacy, we were also involved with the sales of goods. I will admit that I am no salesperson, and the past three days have only confirmed that to myself. When asked ‘is this the best brand available’ a sales person would definitely say ‘yes, it’s the only reason we stock it’. But myself? How can I say what is or isn’t good, when I have very little experience in that? It was purely coincidental that a few hours before that question was asked, myself and the pharmacist were discussing how the community pharmacist must remain a pharmacist, first and foremost, unlike many who belong to large companies such as Lloyds and Boots. The pharmacy I’m working in is an Independent one, founded a little under two centuries ago so the roots of the profession are planted within the shelves, counters and walls. This is not a shop, this is a pharmacy. We discussed how the profession could change in the next few years, with possible increases in the responsibilities of the pharmacist, and both came to the conclusion that we must remain true to the role, and not seek the money as pharmaceutical companies do.

Returning to the topic of sales, the act of aiding someone in choosing a product, either medicinal or cosmetic is one that requires some confidence. I previously had not encountered such experiences, so lack that confidence. However, after three days of working, I would like to say that my skills are gradually improving. My ability to communicate effectively, locate something, and work the till are getting better. Slowly. Of course, working the till is one that is simple, but needs practice to make perfect. Lots of practice.

I began this period of work experience not expecting to enjoy the work as much as I did. Of course, there were very quiet times during the day in which we did little to nothing, but the friendliness of the staff combined with the work that was done otherwise made each day very rewarding. I’d also like to say that the two pharmacists I worked with were impressive in that they were very much like the pharmacist I’d like to be, as opposed to the ones who I get the impression are filling the world. Maybe that’s because I see most pharmacy students who are not quite there for the right reasons? The first two days I attended were to make me familiar with the premises, the staff and the methods of working. The third was a case of me doing the work I will be carrying out in the upcoming future, as I continue to work with them for one day a week.

However. After three days of work, 6 days feels like an eternity of wait before I return. Is this the beginning of a relationship with community pharmacy, I wonder? Only time will tell.

Crossroads…

There was a group of third years doing their research project today, and we chose to help them. During that, we talked about the different types of pharmacy, and positions that could be done.

Something one of them said really struck me, and now has me questioning whether or not this is what I want. “In a hospital, sometimes you feel helpless. You might be the only one standing beside a patient who suddenly has a heart attack, and you’re helpless. You can’t do anything, but stand there and wait for the doctors and nurses to come. That’s so challenging”.

That stuck me so hard. Not because I was expecting to be out doing that type of stuff (no way), but because it’s the feeling of being helpless. And just as things always are, we got to experience that first hand later on in the day.

A friend suffers from seizures, and when it happens there’s nothing we can do, aside from trying to verbally reassure him with a ‘are you okay?’. Well, he normally has them, but today it was much worse, and you just sit there. Helpless, and unable to do anything.

I love the stuff I’m studying. But there’s always a time when a person questions their chosen career path, right? It was only yesterday that a friend asked me ‘pharmacy or music’ and I answered music, in a jokey manner. Whilst yes, I would really enjoy music, pharmacy is much more self rewarding, and so helpful to others. I couldn’t drop out.

But maybe. I don’t know. Graduating at 22, what if I went to do medicine? I’d graduate that at 26 or 27, and then be able to work in either field. I’d be ‘useful’ in acute times, not needing to use a bag of drugs.

Rant to the ‘I shall underachieve, but I shall earn money’ kids

You’d think that people in their second year of pharmacy would take the course a bit seriously. And you’d be wrong.

This is a rant at those pharmacy students who believe that pharmacy is an easy walk in the park. That all you need to do is work retail and then you’ll earn loads, and not need to know anything. How the hell will the public’s opinion of pharmacists change if we support the idea that we’re just bottle labellers.

It’s possibly due to my own experiences, views and beliefs that pharmacy is a difficult area. Then again, I have an interest in the hospital aspect of it, so that would be more complex… even if the wage was significantly less.

To end. All you idiot pharmacy students who are hopelessly unaware that your job does carry responsibility – get real, or get out.

“I’m a naturist, there’s no point in all these non-natural ways”

Whilst talking about how pacemakers can be affected by external waves…

“Eh, I don’t see the point in pacemakers. It’s silly, there’s a perfectly fine one in the heart.”

PG “Clearly not, or else it wouldn’t be fitted”

“But still. I guess you could say I’m a naturist. Natural is better than everything else. Same with all these drugs, they’re not natural.

PG “You’re a naturist?! Hah. Besides, nature can kill. Drugs and pacemakers can save lives.”

“Oh… yeah.”

Pharmacy students… there’s hope… ? We might be seeing a naturist’s pharmacy soon enough, where all that is worn is a labcoat. And specs.

Differences…

Earlier I was thinking about the jobs that pharmacists do in England, the country of my residence. They really are nothing more than sales persons, for the most part. Granted, that is a large part of the job, but I would personally love to do many of the things that pharmacists do in other countries. In the United States, for example, pharmacists are heavily involved in immunisation programs and things of that nature.

It’s about time the RPSGB (or GPhC) decides to up the responsibilities of a pharmacist. We don’t spend four years at university to tick boxes and empty big bottles to little ones. Yes, that is an incredibly oversimplified job description, but that is all the public sees us do. Spotting drug interactions, checking prescriptions against patients… it’s assumed that a pharmacist is able to do that in their sleep. They have to, after all.