In honor of American Pharmacists Month I am answering one the most important question that is posed to pharmacists and future pharmacists. “Why Pharmacy?” is a question I frequently get asked, but somehow have always had trouble answering. When I applied to pharmacy school I was 18 years old, I was half way through my senior year and not really sure of anything, let alone committing to a 6 year program. I’d be wrong to say a little luck wasn’t involved in choosing a program I ended up loving. It hasn’t been until recently that I realized the reason I belong in pharmacy has become so much more than I had originally thought.
I first became interested in pharmacy after battling my own medical problems. I spoke about these problems briefly in the Fail Forward post. I would explain all of this to you again, but this quote from the post is actually perfect for both purposes…
I had to have several scans done on my brain because my father had a benign brain tumor which they needed to rule out for me. My pediatrician kept upping my dose of anti-depressants to try to control my anxiety, but I was only anxious because I was missing so much school. I was on 50mg of Zoloft three times a day, I experienced tremors in my hands and at night often experienced heart burn so badly that I would bawl my eyes out from the pain. They gave me Compazine, which at the time I thought would help my migraine pain. Now, I know it was only meant to control the nausea sometimes associated with migraines. I had to take weeks worth of prednisone at points to break a migraine. No one told me it would make me gain weight. I felt so hopeless during this time. No one had any idea why I was having so many migraines and I was experiencing such debilitating side effects from a treatment that in my eyes now was not appropriate at all.
I finally saw a neurologist who was stunned at the medicines I was on and tapered me off for good. Luckily, I haven’t experienced recurrent migraines like that again but if I do, I now have the knowledge and ability to make sure I am being treated appropriately.
One of my goals as a pharmacist is to be able to help patients understand their medications, mitigate their side effects and make sure their therapy is the best it can be and hopefully prevent a similar situation from happening to a patient.
I wrote this back in February and even just 7 months later my passion and reason for being in pharmacy has expanded so much past that last statement. I think that is the beauty of being in a field you love, you are constantly growing and expanding not just your knowledge base, but your passion for the field as well.
My last semester of classes and my first two APPE rotations have done a lot to shape how I currently think about this question. Everything I said in my previous post is still true: yes I want to help patients understand their medications, yes I want to help address any side effects they may have, and absolutely I want to make sure they are on an optimum medication regimen, but I also want to do so many more things. I have more specific interests than I did before. For example my love for ambulatory care. I genuinely want to help patients one on one manage their diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc, because for the most part these diseases are mainly preventable. I have such a passion for living a healthy lifestyle (working out regularly, cooking healthy meals, which supplements are needed or not) that this translates naturally into patient care. I don’t have to force myself to be in love with a topic, I already am and it makes me that much more invested in their care and their own wellbeing/quality of life.
I have also realized that I am extremely good at empathizing with patients and what their specific set of circumstances are. Sometimes this leads to me digging in deeper to find a better treatment plan for a diabetic women with PCOS who can’t take Metformin and other times it leads to me tearing up in a homeless patient’s room when I bring him a new set of clothes, before discharging him to the streets. Some people may think being emotional would hinder their ability to care for patients, but for me it just fuels what I do even more.
The short and sweet answer is that I genuinely love patient care, because I am able to connect with each and every patient I meet in person or through a chart. Along with my ability to help them with their health in whatever capacity I can at that moment, is what fuels what I do on a daily basis.
My advice for you, on how to answer this question for yourself is to find what you love most about pharmacy and ask yourself how it makes you do what you do every single day!