Why I Love Being a Pharmacist

Pharmacy TimesDecember 2011 Heart Health
Volume 77
Issue 12

The winner of our first annual essay contest, Jay Sochoka, BSPharm, RPh, CIP, shares his story of rediscovering the impact of pharmacy practice.

In honor of American Pharmacists Month, Pharmacy Times asked our readers to share their stories of why they love practicing pharmacy—and the response was overwhelming. Our editorial staff had the pleasure of reading more than 100 touching and inspiring (sometimes hilarious) stories, submitted by pharmacists from all different settings and points in their careers— from the newly graduated pharmacist entering community pharmacy to the retired pharmacist reflecting on a career as an independent, and everything in between.

Choosing a winner was not easy, but Pharmacy Times is pleased to name Jay Sochoka, BSPharm, RPh, CIP, this year’s winner for his refreshingly honest and poignant story about the turning point of his career. You can also read the amazing stories of the pharmacists who received honorable mentions at www. pharmacytimes.com/web-exclusives/ runners-up. Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who entered this first annual essay contest!

Finally, the editors of Pharmacy Times wish to thank all our readers for their dedication to their patients and the profession. I meet needs wherever I see them, especially if doing so will make someone’s life a little easier.

When I began practicing pharmacy 16 years ago, I have to admit that it was not a love-at-first sight encounter. However, as with all experiences worth having, time proved a key factor in defining and reshaping my perspective.

I entered into pharmacy because I had a good head for science and wanted a fast paycheck—“0-$60,000 in five years” was the catch phrase on an old Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science fundraiser T-shirt. (It will always be PCPS to me.) I was a newly licensed, riding-in-my- 1972-Corvette, 22-year-old pharmacist with a pocket full of money…and I had the attitude to prove it.

My preceptor (wrongly) taught me that being rude was my right. I was lawyer-like and would look for a technicality in a prescription to find the reason not to fill it. No DEA number? Sayonara. Even though I did my job well, I had no love for the profession itself. For several years, I dreaded the schedule of 12-hour days, every other weekend, and a dearth of holidays. I hated when I worked in a new store, and people openly pined the loss of their favorite pharmacist to my face. To me, at that time, every customer was a nuisance.

Then something happened: my father became terminally ill, and I became a caregiver. I suddenly realized that I was dealing with a lot of sickness and pain on the other side of the counter. I was able to empathize with the weary, irritated, and sometimes impatient faces before me. The customers became my patients—people with actual names, feelings, and needs.

While doing no harm was my creed for medications, such had not been the case with my attitude as a young pharmacist. My life experience completely transformed my professional demeanor. Since that defining event nearly a decade ago, my mantra has been, “Who can I help today?”

I meet needs wherever I see them, especially if doing so will make someone’s life a little easier. You need a box of light bulbs? I’ll stop checking prescriptions (unless there is a real emergency on my hands) and take you to them myself. You’re running late from a hospital discharge, and you need medications for you or your loved one? I’ll stay open past closing time and wait for you to arrive.

Now, a little older and a great deal wiser, I love being a community pharmacist—especially the “community” aspect of it. A positive approach has paid dividends that go beyond a paycheck. I walked into the grocery store one day and, as per usual, I met one of my patients. After a quick chat, I went on my way to shop. “That’s my pharmacist!” said the man to his girlfriend in a tone of pure pride. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Who wouldn’t love that?

Some days, the challenges of pharmacy can leave even the most dedicated pharmacist feeling frustrated and underappreciated. In those tough moments, it can be hard to remember why you entered pharmacy in the first place—not to mention the powerful, lasting impact you have on patients every day.

Jay Sochoka, BSPharm, RPh, CIP, has been a practicing community pharmacist since 1994. He is certified as a Medication Therapy Management Specialist and is a Certified Pharmacist Immunizer. In addition to his pharmacy practice, Sochoka runs in charity fund-raisers and is the author of the book Fatman in Recovery. Sochoka resides in Pennsylvania.

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