Have Patience for Patients During the Holidays


It is the time of the year when I can paraphrase Charles Dickens and conjure Jacob Marley's Ghost by saying, "Mankind is my business."

Thanksgiving in the pharmacy was highly uneventful. The exception was a patient of mine who came in with a discharge order from a rehab facility for his wife, who just had joint replacement surgery.

“There’s Old Reliable,” he said as he looked at me. That made my day. He knew it was Thanksgiving, knew what it was like to have to work one, and knew I was going to give him the best care that I could. In lickety-split fashion, my tech and I filled his order and sent him on his way for as much turkey and football as his day would allow.

A nervous mom came in with a kid burning up with a fever, and I made my recommendations.

“Thank you for being open, but I’m sorry you have to be here,” she said kindly.

“I’m here to help ma’am, and I’m glad to be here for you,” was my most sincere reply.

I filled 30 prescriptions on Thanksgiving. Based on my hourly average, I totaled that out to be a cumulative 30 minutes of work. I got paid for a full day and was there a half-day. You can sign me up for that any time.

It is the time of the year when I can paraphrase Charles Dickens and conjure Jacob Marley’s Ghost by saying, “Mankind is my business.” Caregivers and young parents have enough going on when they have to actively tend to loved ones who are ill or injured. They do not need any guff, grief, or sass from a health care professional.

There is something to be said for “bedside manner.” Patients need my care, not my condescension, which I delivered early in my career all too often. I always said that if I built a time machine, I would go back 20 years and punch myself in the face. It took my Dad’s terminal illness and for me to be thrust into the role of caregiver to see the light. I wasn’t happy at all to lose my Dad, but it transformed how I did my job. In a way, I am thankful it happened.

There is a page on Facebook that I won’t name, but it’s by a pharmacist who’s cynical. Every few days there is a rant about one thing or another, such as dealing with an insurance company, bad doctor prescribing, or corporate health care being detrimental to actual patient care—and I whole-heartedly agree with them. But then, there is the commentary of dealing with a patient and being, well, nasty about it.

To that I say, sir or madam (and their ilk), mail-order pharmacies are always hiring. Or, try a basement hospital pharmacy, where the only humans you see are the ones in the morgue, because you share the same refrigeration lines.

Am I perfect? No. Do I get fed up with a patient now and again? Sometimes. However, I try to do everything in my power to keep that from happening. Whether a regular patient or a perfect stranger, all of my patients deserve no less.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, has patience for patients.

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