Stop, listen, and be empathetic
Hello “Heather”! You are quite right in acknowledging that some days, rotations or practice sites can seem very chaotic and stressful, making it a challenge to provide exceptional patient care. On top of that, rotations are an entirely different learning environment than classroom learning, in which many student pharmacists may spend up to 7 years. The beauty of rotations is that you have the opportunity to learn how to become a proficient pharmacist in a variety of settings—including stressful ones—and I commend you for seeking insight.
Remember why you became a pharmacist
It is incredibly easy to forget about the patient and focus on your to-do list for the day. As a pharmacist practicing in a community setting, your first scenario is my day-to-day. However, you have already identified one key element for success: empathy. Empathy allows you to take a mental step back from the chaos and be with the patient. You are right in acknowledging that every patient is a mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandmother, or grandfather, and they need our help. Nothing makes me happier than providing relief to a mother who has a crying sick child as I walk her through her son’s Augmentin prescription regimen, or when I address drug therapy questions and concerns about new prescriptions from the elderly gentleman who was recently discharged from the hospital. Remembering to stop, listen, and be empathetic with your patients will take practice, but it is the most rewarding part of my day.
To help keep the patient in the forefront of my focus, I personally self-reflect as often as I can. In moments of disarray, I encourage you to remember why you chose to become a pharmacist. Was it because of your love for rounding, working long shifts, or answering the seemingly never-ending ringing phone? Or was it because of your passion for helping people? Remembering to be empathetic with your patients not only elevates the care you provide but can serve as a reminder to yourself why you chose to become a pharmacist.
Time for some apps
What also helps me prevent the almost instantaneous exhaustion from practicing at the top of my license is time management. Time management is crucial regardless of practice setting and is the second key to success. Your chaotic scenarios are the reality of daily practice and learning how to be a proficient and efficient pharmacist will help you manage your duties all while providing exceptional care to your patients. Often, I see students who haven’t mastered efficiency yet, so a few tips I recommend include using apps to identify times in their days where time may be wasted. Some of these apps include RescueTime, Focus, and Calm, but there are plenty of other apps out there. During rotations, concentrate on becoming proficient, but don’t lose sight of efficiency and time management skills either.
Display your leadership skills
Lastly, you ask how to make sure your patients and co-workers feel heard. This is a great question and one that I think relates to leadership. I am sure you have heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words,” and the way I make sure my patients and co-workers feel heard is by the actions I take. Most times, patients or co-workers will speak up when there is some sort of distress or problem. What you do to resolve that issue for them speaks a whole lot louder than an “I’m sorry you feel that way.” When you listen to your peers or patients, step up and create a resolution. That’s leadership. I think the question isn’t, “How can I make sure they feel heard?” but should be “What can I do to help?”
“Heather,” you have a bright future ahead of you and you have all the tools you need to become a wonderful pharmacist. Keep seeking insight and keep asking questions. I wish you all the best in your future rotations and in your career!
Alexis Page, PharmD, is a Community-based Pharmacy Management and Leadership Fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University/The Kroger Co., Mid-Atlantic Division, in Richmond, VA.