The first day of attending lectures at university was the day I realised the enormity of what I’d done in choosing pharmacy as a career.
The knowledge to be gained seemed limitless and I remember sitting at the back of the lecture theatre, stomach twisting with nerves and wondering how I was going to have the capacity to contain all the information I was going to need to eventually be a pharmacist – and that was if I made it that far.
There was one thing I was certain about though, I would try to be the best pharmacist I could be for the patients in my care.
Now, if you fast-forward the years to the qualified-me with a few years’ experiences under my belt, I have found my experiences have at times, been less than positive. Patients have been less than patient, respect for my work and that of my colleagues has been lacking and if I refuse to sell a medicine, I fear I need to wear armour to fend off the rage I have experienced with the disappointed buyer. Basic tasks we do, such as making interventions when we believe a medicine may be unsafe, are met with shock and outrage. Our judgement and place in questioning the integrity of the prescriber are called into question and patients sometimes consider us as hindering their access to medicines.
Frustrated with my experiences, I turned to writing and social media to spread the word about our work in pharmacy. To educate those who do not understand what we do in the sector gives me a satisfaction that I have not experienced before.
But this is not enough.
The respect we earn as pharmacists and pharmacy staff is a long way from that of our colleagues in other sectors, our work is not well understood and I think the phrase ‘just sticking labels on boxes’ is one all in pharmacy are familiar with.
The media has been less than kind to our profession and few stand their head above the parapet to shed a light on our work and the huge difference it makes to modern-day healthcare. But all this needs to change, and now seems like as good a time as any to take the opportunity to spread the word about what we do in pharmacy?
We should be proud of the diversity of roles our sector offers, the accessibility of our services to the general public and the unbiased healthcare we provide to anyone who calls for it.
We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the sector to encourage patient education on not just their medicines, but on our roles to support their health.
We should not stand aside and accept the negative attitudes of those who seek to abuse us for doing as our profession dictates and putting their health and safety first.
If we all take some time to educate our patients, whether it is in the pharmacy, or even just educating those around us to spread the word, we can make a distinct difference to the way in which our profession is viewed by the world. Understanding begets respect and there is a lot to be gained by mutual respect between patient and healthcare provider.