Pharmacy, Where Are You Going? A Student Pharmacist's Narrative
It seems as though every month, we hear something in the news that affects the pharmacy profession.
It seems as though every month, we hear something in the news that affects the pharmacy profession, whether it be a new blood pressure guideline, buzz on mergers between pharmacy benefit managers or chain pharmacies, or a pharmaceutical villain who jacks up prices on a monopolized market. So as a future health care professional, I often find myself asking, “What does all of this mean to me?”
During their time in pharmacy school, students often find themselves attracted to a particular practice setting; in my case, I developed a passion for community pharmacy during my Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations. I loved the interaction I had with the patients and felt empowered whenever I was able to counsel them. Because we are at the forefront of patient care, however, those of us who work in community pharmacy—whether as pharmacists, student interns, or technicians—often find ourselves receiving the brunt of patients’ frustrations, even for matters outside our control: insurance co-pay issues, refill requests that were never sent to us, and out-of-stock medications that we haven’t been able to get for weeks. As such, there have been times when I’ve felt defeated and questioned whether I had made the right decision by going through the rigorous curriculum of pharmacy school.
Yet there have also been times when the smallest speck of knowledge that I’ve gained as a pharmacy student has made a world of difference to a patient. One day I helped an older woman whose husband had complained about having something in his eyes. Based on her explanation of his condition, I suggested buying regular artificial tears and trying to wash it away. Although this seemed to be a simple consultation, the woman was extremely grateful for my help and immediately gave me a warm hug. Experiences like this remind me why I’ve chosen to become a pharmacist despite all the challenges that come with working in community pharmacy.
Pharmacists are perhaps the most accessible members of the health care team. Although many fear that the roles of community pharmacists are slowly being filled by modern computerized systems, we have an advantage that no machine could ever replicate: empathy. We may be working against the odds when the systems in which we operate do not allow us to take the time to sit down with patients and give them the individual care they deserve. But we must not forget that we play a crucial role within both the health care team and our communities, one that enables us to make a difference in our patients’ health.
And as we can see from the impact that pharmacists have had on immunization rates, the pharmacy profession will continue to adapt to meet the needs of a shifting health care landscape—and our patients will be better off because of it.
John Choi is a 2019 PharmD candidate at the Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy in New Brunswick, New Jersey.