The 1st of August saw the starting of the new Pre-Registration Pharmacist at our store. Let us call him John. A very likable lad that in my honest opinion, shows great promise. I have always enjoyed the role of tutor and have found that in many ways it gives me greater satisfaction than the role of manager. Here at least you have some part to play in the future face of our profession. I am actually in a great degree, determining what this future pharmacist is going to be like. I have the chance to make my imprint on the future, and one day when I am old and retired I will make sure that one of my Pre-Reg pharmacists will be my Pharmacist – you know, give them the chance to poison me…
Someone once said that all beginnings are fragile. A lesson I have taken to heart, for the initial phases of our relationship will determine how well we ‘gel’ at the end. In short, it lays the foundations of the trust we will afford each other later on. It is then towards this end that both of us share to a large extent what it is that is important to us, what it is that motivates us and also where we draw the proverbial line in the sand. This is a sensitive time as one must be so careful not to judge or appear judgemental, but rather allow the other to explain themselves in their own time.
John did ask the inevitable question though. The question I knew was coming, and also knew from previous years that I have no real answer for. Yes ladies and gentleman, he wanted to know why? Why is it that I had, many years ago, decided to become a pharmacist? In truth the question is fair. The problem lies in the fact that I just do not know the answer. There are many possible reasons I can think of, but none of then really ring true. But this year that question was more relevant. Or should I slant the question slightly different? Why am I STILL a community pharmacist?
As community pharmacists our days are made up of, I would say, about 50% mundane, boring dispensing work, 20% conflict with disgruntled patients whose expectations are just ridiculous, 10% staffing issues/problems (or as a Twitter friend once called them: Team Menopause), 10% stock shortage issues, and 10% insult time by other healthcare professionals that only sees pharmacists as shop keepers. Then also there is the 10% MUR time, and yes, for the math buffs, I know, but we pharmacists are required to do the extra 10% on an already full day – so there! Does that feel about right to my other colleagues?
So why stay a pharmacist? There are those moments. Moments when you are just stunned by humanity’s pure brilliance. When we truly stand out as the pinnacle of creation. Those moments when we are filled with joy and happiness, when we even give over to laughter. Allow me to share one of these moments with you today.
Mrs S had joined our team roughly about 2 years previously. She was in her mid 60’s, but without hesitation shouldered the arduous task of qualifying as a healthcare assistant. No mean feat for someone who have come in from the proverbial cold in medicine. Thing is, she passed the exam with distinction! And never had you seen such an energetic healthcare assistant, I must add.
So Mrs S and I walked the path as pharmacist and assistant for many months, but we had to acknowledge that there were moments when the old grey matter showed their age. Mrs S sometimes had a wee bit of a memory lapse. Most often when she got asked for something she had not dealt with for some time. Through time I had taught her to, in times like this, ask the customer/patient what the product they are asking for is used for. If they then, for example say headache, you can them take them to the relevant shelf and if your memory had not by then caught up with you, ask the customer/patient if they recognise the product. This had worked well for Mrs S and she used this approach with great skill.
And yes, this story is about one of these moments. But what a moment it was. Even today I do not know what it is that made me look up and take note of the interaction. Mrs S was approached by a young girl who requested assistance with the purchase of Lil-lets (Tampons and pads for those who do not know). And at that moment Mrs S had a senior moment – she just could not remember what Lil-lets were. So in true style, she enquired what it is used for. Rather blushingly the girl replied that it was for ……. And without batting an eye, Mrs S replied: ‘Ah, no wonder I had forgotten, moved on to incontinence pads, you see.’ And quite unruffled, she led the hapless girl to the feminine hygiene shelf – not missing a beat.
Well, you could have picked me up from the floor! I was in pieces, and could quite literally not function for the tears in my eyes. That is what I mean, when I talk about those moments of shear brilliance. Those moments that make it so worth while.
I will never forget Mrs S, and even though I have not seen or heard from her in many years. She will always live in my memories as a hero. That ladies and gentleman is only but one example of why I am still a community pharmacist. Over the next couple of weeks I will share more of these tales that goes to proof that pharmacy is not just doom and gloom. It is one of the few professions where we daily face humanity in all its aspects, and when it shines through, it is beautiful, exhilarating and well worth it.
Go out in peace and hunt down those moments that show who we truly are.