I am...

From medication experts to price checkers to the last line of defense against drug diversion, pharmacists are a lot of things to a lot of people.

I thought about what exactly I am and what I do behind the counter at the pharmacy every day at work. Then I thought about making a list of ways to describe myself and my role to others. The following is what I came up with as a list of the descriptions of a pharmacist and our role in the healthcare system. Feel free to add anything that I might have left off.

I am…

  • a person with feelings. A patient’s actions can affect me. Pharmacists aren’t robots without feelings. Remember that before you yell at your local pharmacist about a problem!
  • a professional. I’ve studied and worked long and hard to get to this position. It’s important that the medication you receive from me is correct.
  • a work-a-holic of sorts. I have been known to put in long hours, work holidays and weekends, and keep going when I was tired or sick. It is just part of the job.
  • a drug expert. There is more to my work than putting pills in a bottle for my patients. Those pills are strong and dangerous. We’re here to make sure they don’t hurt you!
  • a multitasker. I juggle many different duties on the job. There are times when I feel like it is too much there is so many things to do. But somehow I get through it all.
  • a resource. I have a lot of knowledge about subjects that might be of use to you. Go ahead and ask me about prescription medications or over the counter drugs. I’ll answer them.
  • an immunizer. Yes, pharmacists give vaccinations, including the flu vaccine. We also try to make it as easy as possible for people to take advantage of our services. But we do ask that you give yourself time when you come into our pharmacy for a flu shot. There is a process involved. This goes for filling prescriptions too, by the way.
  • the last defense against drug diversion. We are all that is stopping drugs from getting into the wrong hands in many cases. Between forgeries, drug abuse, and diversion, there are lots of unintended destinations for prescription drugs. We as pharmacists try our best to stop this from happening.
  • a compounder. If there is a need to mix specialty products that aren’t available commercially, myself or other pharmacists are up to the task. We’ll make it for you!
  • a listener. Sometimes pharmacists must simply stand and listen to patients. That is all they need. And it is enough to know that we are there for them even if we feel helpless.
  • overwhelmed at times. Simply knowing that everything that can go wrong with our work makes one a bit on edge. I feel though I am not alone in that thought.
  • a witness. I witness how disease and death can affect the lives of many different people. We are all here on earth for a limited time only. We all have mortality to face at one time or another. And having the job of pharmacist means we face it at work as well.
  • determined. I’m determined to do my job as best I can. I’m also determined to realize that it is OK to be human and make mistakes and that I’m not perfect. But I hope I can learn from any mistakes I do make and do my best not to repeat them in the future.
  • a communicator. I speak or write to many different people about many different things in the course of my job as a pharmacist. Being able to effectively communicate is critical.
  • tired. I’m so tired of the problems I can’t avoid, the issues I have to face, and the shortcomings I can’t overcome. There are so many challenges to this job it can wear you down!
  • an insurance middle man. Pharmacists and technicians spend so much time on insurance claims that now we’ve become this middle man in a complicated prescription billing system. It’s almost as if insurance claim processing has become our primary function instead of filling prescriptions for patients.
  • a price checker. Pharmacists have become a walking kiosk for people to use to get a price quote. We get questions about $4 list drugs, price quote inquiries, and general merchandise pricing questions. How long can you go without hearing the question “Is it on your $4 list?” For me, the answer is not long at all!
  • frustrated sometimes. I am frustrated with what my job has become. I am frustrated by the thoughts of what my job could be. I am frustrated by the direction our profession is going and the feeling that nothing will reverse our current path. I am frustrated by a lot of things.
  • the last line of defense. Sometimes the only thing separating a patient from a terrible drug reaction or interaction is the intervention of a pharmacist. We are often the last link in the chain between patient and drug. Patients should realize that pharmacists save a lot of negative outcomes from ever occurring.

I’ll stop there. But if I think about what a pharmacist is and what my role is for patients at work I could keep going with this list for a long time. It is interesting to think about what we really are as pharmacists and what we do for patients every day. There is a lot going on behind the counter at your local pharmacy. Even if most patients don’t realize it. I am a lot of things to a lot of different people. And that is what makes my job a joy and a challenge all at the same time!