It's a Wonderful Pharmacy Life


A reflection and thank you to those in the pharmacy profession for their involvement with patients this past year.

It was Christmas Eve, and poor George Bailey was prepared to end it all. From his limited perspective, his little life wasted away in the tiny town of Bedford Falls simply wasn’t worth living anymore. He was better off, or so he thought, dead than alive. Frank Capra's 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, comes to my mind as I look back on 2014 as a pharmacist and pharmacy professional.

Clarence, the guardian angel appointed to encourage George to change his mind, decided to show his client what life would have looked like in Bedford Falls without him. It was a masterful plan, and as the vision unfolds, George sees that there is hardly a life that wasn’t somehow saved or improved by him being there. In the end, the prayers of the town on behalf of their beloved Bailey were answered, George returns safely to his family, and Clarence earns his wings.

For those of us who make it our hobby to watch pharmacy trends and comment on pharmacy developments, feelings of hopelessness and frustration are no strangers. Maybe we too have figuratively stood on the edge of the bridge and wondered whether there is any point in going on.

Every profession, I suppose, goes through this. And we all need a Clarence who, from time to time, can show us what things might have looked like if we weren’t there.

This article is dedicated to the thousands of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who slogged through this past year, against all odds, and often silently improved the lives of many patients around them. I don’t hope to earn my wings, but I do hope you will receive this nod of appreciation from someone who knows what it is really like to work in the trenches, trying to make a difference 1 patient at a time. I’m glad you were there!

Thanks for continuing to push into the immunization arena. I know this has been going on for years now, but every year that we are able to expand the immunization rates in our communities, we are able to decrease occurrences of influenza, shingles, and other communicable diseases. This is often carried out in unhelpful settings where metrics and money are emphasized over patient care and safety.

Thanks for catching that mistake, noticing that interaction or allergy, and making the call. When you are elbow deep in prescriptions that need to be checked, an extra phone call can be like falling into quicksand. But who knows what might have happened if you didn’t? In Capra’s story, George Bailey prevented the bereaved pharmacist, Mr. Gower, from accidentally poisoning his young patient. By refusing to deliver the contaminated capsules, George spared the life of both the boy and the pharmacist. Today, many pharmacists are in a similar position, watching for unintended and otherwise innocent errors that may have dire consequences if they go unnoticed.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to, or call back, that patient who needed the extra help. Thanks for catching their concerned look or vacant visage and helping to clarify whatever mystery clouded their minds. Thanks for staying late or pulling that extra shift when the team was short staffed and needed the help to survive until closing time. Thanks for not giving up when corporate bureaucracy, policies, and politics seem to make every day more difficult and every hour harder.

Thanks for your creativity. I am convinced that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well among pharmacists, and I have had the privilege of talking with many such innovators this past year who are constantly discovering new ways to utilize technology to improve patient lives and deliver quality pharmaceutical information. Space simply forbids me from mentioning all the unique ideas such as personalized video education, talking prescription labels, and clever adherence innovations that have surfaced or been advanced in 2014.

I don’t walk around with rose-colored glasses. The practice of pharmacy is faced with significant obstacles, both now and in times to come. Nevertheless, I still believe that it’s a wonderful pharmacy life, and I’m glad to be sharing it with the many great pharmacists and pharmacy techs I have encountered this past year.

You are making a difference! Don’t give up! The next time you hear the chime of a Christmas bell, remember that maybe, just maybe, a pharmacist got wings.

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