What’s it like being a pharmacist? They stand behind pharmacy counters, put pills in a bag and ask if you’re eligible for free prescription. They sell overpriced paracetamol and cherry flavoured lip-balm. Often a bald, ageing man with glasses adorning a white coat. Muttering to himself, “Well, yes, hmm” as he walks over to the vitamin aisle to recommend the best multi bottle.
When adults discuss dream professions for their children, they’ll mention lawyer, scientist, engineer, doctor… do you remember the last time you heard, pharmacist? Perhaps people perceive the career as less noble – less important than working as a doctor. Even though, as a 2018 Guardian piece shared: “almost half of adults” take “at least one” prescription drug in the UK.
Since my time in hospital, I’ve recognised the health system hierarchy: The honour bestowed to consultants and registrars, and the peasantry greetings handed out to physiotherapists and nurses. During my last spinal operation, my nurse (as routine) waited with me in the theatre until my anaesthetist arrived to put me to sleep. One of the theatre team members abruptly told my nurse to leave. She fired back: I’m required to stay. The theatre member (from what I can recall) said: nurses aren’t needed in theatre.
I was a nightmare hospital patient. I refused to take morphine (it made me feel ill) and I detested the syringe medication my nurse had me believe tasted like orange juice. (Picture blended pills with a tsp of orange in a glass). I eventually received an assortment of colourful tablets my poor pharmacists surly loved putting together. Never did I meet them or consider how they managed my teenage complaints. Pharmacists hide in society like sound technicians of a play – ghost-like figures who make appearances at supermarkets and chemists.
Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie
Having recently graduated with First Class Honours from King’s College London, my long-term blogging friend, Janelle, published her first book “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie: Tales from Pharmacy school and the Patients You Just Don’t Forget”. The book shares Janelle’s personal (at times hilarious) experiences and thoughts training as a pharmacist and working in the healthcare sector.
I knew (from enjoying her blog posts) the pages of Janelle’s book would entertain and educate on a topic I’ve shown little regard to. I’m a holistic, overhaul your diet nut: I’ll always blitz a smoothie before I take paracetamol. Chemistry isn’t my favourite school subject and I rarely read news on pharmaceutical research. I was curious: What does a pharmacist actually do and how can that knowledge alter my interest?
The book “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie” was gifted to me by Janelle. Clicking on the book’s Amazon link may give me a small commission to help support my blog, at no extra cost to you. For more details, read my disclosure policy.
Being a pharmacist: Misconception 1: They just stick labels on a box
If you’re wondering why it takes time to receive a prescription, it’s not just because numerous medications muddle amongst others. As Janelle explains, a pharmacist:
- Checks a patient’s records to determine their correct dosage. This includes checking if a patient has the right antibiotics prescription.
- Takes all factors into account – allergies, corresponding medicines (including herbal if a patient informs them), pre-existing conditions.
- Has power to source an alternative medicine, following they can back their swap with scientific rationale.
Pharmacists work with doctors to ensure the best care. They’re not lab rats who scurry behind a counter picking up antibiotics that only GPs understand. It’s easy to forget: when a doctor hands over a prescription, it reaches a pharmacist – not because a doctor is too important to handle your medication – rather, pharmacists are the drug specialists.
Misconception 2: They’re not as important in the healthcare sector
We see pharmacists standing near cosmetics and surrounded by plasters and opaque tights. It’s easy to forget the many diverse roles pharmaceutical care covers. Particularly in hospitals. Janelle explains:
“From the minute you enter the hospital to the last day of your stay, the pharmacist has a say in your care every step of the way. Being the resident drug experts, they decide on an effective drug dosing regimen that won’t kill you.” And that means going over “organ function, past medical history, blood results and patient demographics.”
Besides ensuring drugs won’t harm someone in hospital or at a pharmacy counter, pharmacists can work within other areas such as validation (demonstrating equipment can always produce expected results), and play a part in creating the drugs themselves.
Misconception 3: Pharmacists work for a money-grabbing industry
Janelle wrote an insightful chapter on drug companies and their many expenses. After reading, you’ll understand the eye-watering prices some companies charge for handing out their products. When you pick up a packet of ibuprofen, you likely don’t contemplate the numerous development stages and trials taken to register its safety. You probably ignore what took place to decide how the drug would look. Or that the company who put their expenses together to create the medication, can only have it patented for a number of years before other organisations can copy the formula.
So, why should you purchase Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie?
Who knew the world of pharmaceutical care offers such humour? With her easy-to-read, casual voice (it read as though you’re in conversation with Janelle) you’ll laugh at the response a customer gives to buying Viagra, tantrums over prices, and you’ll giggle at how one lady attempts to use an inhaler.
You’ll relate to the chapter “Just Keep Running” where Janelle takes on the “healthy lifestyle” advice she told customers behind a pharmacy counter, and you’ll be moved by Janelle writing about losing her father: how this made her understand the people who scour the internet to source any alternative treatment – however unrealistic.
You’ll also smile when you realise that professionals equally struggle to pronounce technical terms. Janelle wrote: God forbid, they’ll learn from my pronunciation and tell people, “That’s how the pharmacist said it”. There’s no turning back after that.
Since reading, I’ve chatted with friends about the things I’ve learnt (particularly with holistic medicine) and I’ve glanced back through sections. It’s a book you can flick through whenever. Anyone, regardless of their interest in pharmaceuticals, can appreciate living through Janelle’s experience. I’m now better equipped to understand the reality of being a pharmacist.
If you’re someone who hates learning, doesn’t like their judgments challenged, and doesn’t like laughing, then sure, I’d give this book a miss. But if you’re that kind of person, I’m wondering why you’re reading my blog?
Click this Amazon link: Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie to purchase and/or find out more.