TLDR Reflects: How to Stay a Strong Pharmacist
We’ve had multiple (amazing, dare we say it!) clinical posts over the past couple of months, and I don’t know about you…but it’s time for a brain break.
It’s also time for another year to draw to a close, which is always a good time to take a step back and evaluate just how life is going.
So in this post, I want to take some time to talk about the hard stuff. Not the you’re-going-to-be-pop-quiz-pimped-on-this hard stuff. I mean, the really hard stuff.
I want to talk about #pharmacistlife.
Many of you are pharmacy students, perhaps just getting started on your pharmacy journey as first years. Perhaps you’re fourth years soaking up all that you can before your boards in the spring. You’re residents, new pharmacists, and maybe even some experienced practitioners looking to refresh on topics you haven’t encountered in a while. (Or maybe analyzing what we’re writing about topics you’re very familiar with!)
I’ll just say this. This post is from the perspective of a hospital pharmacist who graduated almost a decade ago (eek!), so maybe it will resonate with some of you now. And maybe it won’t. Maybe it’ll be 5 years from now. Or never. I don’t know. But if it hits home for a few of you, then it’ll have accomplished its aim.
Here’s the honest truth: being a pharmacist is exhausting.
At the end of each workday, which likely has rolled into at least some overtime, we have…
Reviewed intricate details on several dozen patients (if we’re lucky and the census is reasonable and we’re fully staffed),
Researched primary lit to synthesize data into an applicable patient-specific answer,
Called outpatient pharmacies to clarify home medication fills,
Heard our names called and our pagers ding countless times with questions and requests,
Patiently described new devices and medications to patients who may or may not have the energy or desire to learn,
Called in that prior authorization to the insurance company and coordinated with the PAP program,
Verified more orders than we can keep track of,
Engaged in a topic discussion with our students,
Attended a committee meeting about protocol development,
And maybe, just maybe if we’re lucky, we shoved down some lunch while keeping an eye on our order queue.
All while keeping a professional demeanor when sometimes we just want to put our heads down on our desks and breathe for just, like, 10 minutes.
(Oh, don’t forget about reading for journal club or doing some continuing education here and there at night. Not to mention balancing family responsibilities and adulting, in general!)
There’s the long and short of it.
I’m not being grim, and contrary to your initial impressions, I’m not whining, truly.
It’s just pure honesty. Our job is incredibly demanding. So if you’re feeling that pressure, first know this:
You are not alone.
So how is this possibly sustainable?
I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes I don’t know. In general, I really like my job (why else would I be writing about pharmacy at 930 at night), but sometimes I literally just want to run away and lead guided horseback rides through the Rockies.
But since I went to school for a long time and bills just don’t pay themselves, I suppose I shouldn’t run off to the cowgirl life. Yet.
But all joking aside, it’s more than the bills.
When my work schedule gets crazy and I’m tired from switching evenings to days and back again, and all I want to do is spend some time focusing on what I want to focus on, THIS is what keeps me going:
“Each of us developed our own clinical activities, which we define around ourselves, based on our special interests that emphasize our strengths, delivered on our preferred timetable.
That is not a patient care service ‐ that is a hobby.”
Linda Strand, PharmD, PhD
ACCP 2012 Keynote Address
I remember hearing this for the first time when I was a resident and being like, whoaaaaa, she’s so right.
We all get so caught up in what we’d like to accomplish professionally that occasionally we forget that we are performing a service. Practicing pharmacy is not about us. It’s not really about what I want to focus on during the day, it’s about what needs to get done to better our patients’ lives.
As said by another, clearly historic figure:
“And then I realized how many stupid times a day I use the word 'I'. And probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there's like seven billion other people out there on the planet, and... sorry, I'm going too fast. But then I thought, if I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that's probably a much better use of my time.”
Princess Mia Thermopolis
Princess Diaries, the First
(Yes, this is tl;dr - I can legitimately quote a Disney movie!)
And whoop there it is.
THE PATIENT = the reason we work So. Freakin’. Hard.
When my systolic’s running around a solid 190 (just guesstimating) and I’m hungry (let’s be realistic, bordering on hangry), and I get stopped on my way to the break room for another “quick” question, I think about my dad. Aka the perpetual patient. Seriously, he’s like the bionic man at this point.
I want the absolute best care for him when he’s in the hospital (and out of it), and when I hear someone has short cut the system or made unnecessary work for him or my mom in obtaining care, it drives me batty. Because I know what they’ve been through, and how can anyone make this harder on them!??!
So my goal (albeit, there’s imperfect execution) is to envision each patient as family, dedicating the time and patience each person deserves to keep them as safe and healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
I’m not trying to get all preachy, promise. As you can probably tell from above, I get tired too. We’re human!
(On that note, as one guilty person to another - pot meet kettle - EAT LUNCH. DRINK WATER. GO TO THE BATHROOM.)
And I’m also just as guilty as the next pharmacist for feeling a little overwhelmed about the persistent pile-on of responsibilities. And maybe a tad frustrated about that “quick” question that just turned into a half hour of investigation.
But if that’s what it takes to make things right…so be it.
Want to know another truth? Being a pharmacist is rewarding.
Sure, not every day is a winner. Heck, not even every week is a winner!
But then not every kid gets a trophy every game either, right?
So maybe you have some tough times. You’re surviving on pure java and protein bars.
And then you run into that one patient, the one who is nervous about understanding, managing, and affording all of her new medications…and you break it down to her level so she understands the whys, negotiate a daily timetable with her routines, and finagle worthy but less expensive substitutions…the whole week is somehow a little brighter.
Hold onto that ray of sunshine. Let it drive you.
We are the lucky ones who get to make a difference, and even if we may not always feel like it because it’s a drop in the ocean, it is still the truth.
So before this post turns into all the proverbial unicorns, sunshine, and daisies, I’m going to stop. But, seriously, take some time to reflect on your own practice and learning, and take time to breathe.
And honestly, I’ll probably re-read this again right now for my own benefit. (Hey, it’s been one of those months, what can I say. We all need a little encouragement now and then!)