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Confessions of a community pharmacist fighting the uphill battle


I’ve had a challenging week at work this week. I felt the need to get some things off my chest.


As a student pharmacist, I was full of hope and excitement for all the things I could do. I wanted to make a difference and help make the lives of people better. I don’t like to see people unhappy and I don’t like to see people suffer; I want to help in any way I can.


In the short few years that I have been qualified, I have been both moved and horrified by colleagues and patients alike. I have laughed hard and cried even harder. A lady came into a pharmacy I was working in once and described some symptoms which worried me; she wanted to purchase a product. Despite her protestations, I insisted she seeks help from her GP and a short while later she returned to the pharmacy to thank me as she had been diagnosed with cancer but it had been caught early enough to be treatable. She was so incredibly grateful and she was so kind as to give my children a gift for Christmas that year.


Another lady phoned me 30 minutes before we were due to close one evening and was so genuinely upset about something she needed for her poorly relative that at 11.15pm after closing, I drove a few miles up the road to her house to deliver it. Though I declined, the lady was so grateful she offered to pay my petrol and then gave me a lovely hug to thank me for helping out. These kinds of people make my job worthwhile.


But, as with all jobs I should suppose, there are the downsides. I once refused to supply medicine to a patient as I didn’t believe it was safe for them to take. I was astounded when she started shouting at me in the pharmacy. She called me a disgrace to my profession and said I shouldn’t be allowed to be in my position. I was gutted and considered handing my notice in as she was so incredibly horrid to me for fulfilling my duty as a pharmacist. Another patient was adamant she wanted a particular item I didn’t think was suitable and refused to sell; she told me she would go find somebody who knew what they were talking about as I clearly had no idea. My years of training suddenly seemed inadequate.


There is a general lack of understanding for the role of community pharmacists and their teams. This lack of understanding breeds a lack of respect for the work that we do. Our work is so much more than sticking labels on boxes. It’s more than just signing our names on a label to show that the right item has been picked and labelled correctly.


I’m not sure it’s possible to accurately describe everything that goes on behind that counter. I’m not sure I could convey my frustration when I have queues of patients and I’m being distracted by their impatient comments whilst my colleagues and I desperately try to make sure their medicines are safe for them. Some days, I want to say “well, you’d wait for a takeaway, why can’t you wait for life-saving medication?!”. But I don’t. Because unless I could physically take every patient who complains into the pharmacy and show them who we are and what we do; I don’t think I could find the words to express how much we juggle on a day-to-day basis.


So we continue on, fighting the uphill battle. For every impatient patient and for every complaining customer, there will be one that is equally as grateful and appreciative for what we do.


Next time you visit your community pharmacy, pause to observe and appreciate what might be going on behind that counter. You might have brought in your prescription, but we have hundreds to process and we will always do our best for each and every patient.


Laura Buckley is a community pharmacist and author of the successful blog Mum Does Drugs. You can access her blog here. 



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