Pharmacist Feature Friday: It's Not Easy Being a Pharmacist, But It's Worth It

MARCH 02, 2018
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I’m so proud to be a pharmacist when I read stories in the news of a patient saved from skin cancer after a pharmacist found it during a vaccine administration, or a pharmacist who intervened and saved a customer from certain death due to an accidental medication error that occurred at the physician’s office.

We all make important interventions as pharmacists, but we don’t make front page headlines. We find a suspicious dose, we mention it to the physician, and it turns out to be a big deal. We know our job is to keep people safe and dispense drugs. It comes so naturally after years of pharmacy school that we don’t even notice that we are saving lives.

Normally, I don’t make stereotypes, but every pharmacist and pharmacy student I have ever met has been a cream-of-the crop type of person. I’m reminded of the saying “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

I ask the pharmacists reading this article, does that statement resonate with you? I suspect it does and I want to thank you for being the type of person who has contributed to making the pharmacy profession a very admirable job. I know it’s not easy.

I know there are lots of obstacles in processing a prescription order due to insurance requirements. I know the amount of work is enormous. I know that being sort of the “drug police” is a thankless job. I know the hours are long and the down time is brief.

But our work is noble. What is more important than our health and the health of the people we serve? We all need vibrant health to be successful in life.

If we have severe pain or low energy, our lives come to a halt. We are unable to perform the activities of daily living. Our housework piles up, our relationships disintegrate, and if we cannot perform our job, we get fired and our finances dwindle. We need our health to live successful lives.

When people get sick, medicine is hope that the future can be better. I’m reminded of this everyday I go to work at the hospital and see people newly diagnosed with catastrophic illnesses. When we dispense medicines, we are also dispensing hope to the patient or customer.

When we provide medical information and explain how the medications work, that too is hope for them. When we describe healthy lifestyle interventions and talk about natural supplements, that is also hope.

Few people understand health and medicine the way pharmacists understand it. I see the eyes of non-medically trained glaze over when they try to pronounce hydrochlorothiazide, much less try to explain what it does in the body.

When I explain health and medications to people, I always receive sincere gratitude from the person I’m giving it to. It’s a reward system that fuels me to do what I do. It fuels me to keep giving back. I believe providing drug information and health advice is my niche, my calling, my purpose in life.

When I first got out of pharmacy school, I worked in a busy retail setting. I was often interrupted from my huge workload to talk to patients and explain how the supplements work and how they could improve their health.

I never had enough time to say all that I needed to say and I never had enough time to look up the answers properly to my satisfaction. The phones were constantly ringing and people waiting in line were staring at me.

I often wished I had a book to recommend that could answer all of their questions in an easy to understand language that was congruent with what I was taught in pharmacy school. I wished the book would explain why doctors do what they do and why the medical experts say what they say. If I had a book like that, I could return to my work preparing medication orders and I could rest assured that the customer would find the answers they needed.

Years later, I am writing that book and soon it will be finished. It will be called, “Investing in your health, a pharmacist guide to choosing natural supplements.” This book talks about the entire health picture, not just dietary supplements.

It discusses 13 pieces to the puzzle that comprise vibrant health and how people can choose supplements to fortify and strengthen those necessary puzzle pieces. It explains things in words and terms anyone can understand and remember.

All the advice is in alignment with modern medicine. I could easily change the title to, “How to cooperate with your doctor.”

This book is a labor of love for the people who will eventually use it. Every person I have ever talked to about writing a book has told me that you do not make money from writing a book.

Considering the amount of time that goes into writing a book, you end up making wages that are similar to 1-cent per hour or less. If I was smart and money-savvy, I would spend more time at my day job. A day job for a pharmacist is how to make money quickly and easily.

But I don’t write to make money, I don’t write for acknowledgment, and I don’t write to prove to people that I’m smarter than I look. I write to give back and to use my life for a purpose bigger than myself.

Thus far, I have been rewarded by having something meaningful to do. I used to be plagued with chronic boredom and slight bouts of depression, but now I’m so thankful to be able to wake up every day, on my days off from the hospital, and write. I’m so thankful I have valuable information to share with the people around me. I’m so thankful I’m appreciated when I share this information. I’m thankful for Pharmacy Times to publish my articles.

My hope is that one day, pharmacists will share my book with their customers and patients and have a sense a pride that, as pharmacists, we are all making the world a better place. It is not easy being a pharmacist, but it is worth it.

Gunda Siska, PharmD
Gunda Siska, PharmD
Gunda Siska, PharmD, has worked in various fields within the pharmaceutical industry as a licensed pharmacist for more than 20 years. She is currently a staff hospital pharmacist assisting nurses and doctors with drug prescribing, administration, and dispensing, as well as independently monitoring and dosing highly toxic and dangerous drugs. For 2 years, she was concurrently a consultant pharmacist for skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes. Dr. Siska is a member of the New Mexico Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @GundaSiska
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