I have not had a member of my family dramatically saved by a revolutionary surgeon. I have not been influenced at a young age by a caring GP. I have not dreamt of being a doctor for my entire life, nor played doctors and nurses as a child.
These things often belong to television medical dramas, not real life. And real life is what I have experienced. I have seen friends and colleagues so tired from nights of endless study that they answer the ward phone “Countdown Dunedin, Patricia here” (their part time job from over ten years ago).
I have seen them despair at not only not knowing what to do for their favourite patient, but not knowing what to do for the 15 other patients on their list for the day. Everyday I witness their frustration at not being able to either give their full attention to a patient, disappointment at not being able to convey the consequences of chronic medication non-compliance and the general day to day stresses of hospital life compounded with their medical inexperience. Yet I state – I want to be a doctor. Over the past five years I have been a clinical pharmacist.
I am a good pharmacist – I have sound knowledge in pharmaceutics and pharmacology, I have had wonderful relationships with health professionals of all ages and specialties and I take pride in my work and ability to relate to patients. I have risen through staff structure to be a clinical and department team leader, as well as being an active member of various hospital and national health groups – roles I enjoy due to their pro-active healthcare approach. One part of my job involves teaching and working closely with medical staff.
Some have said to me “I bet you hate having to lecture us about medicines all the time”, but what they don’t realise is that it’s often one of the best parts of my job. Through them I get to hear about the complications and the challenges that face them everyday and I love to hear their stories. At the moment I feel like I am close, but yet so far, to doing what I really love. Don’t get me wrong, pharmacy provides an invaluable service to patients as well as the healthcare team in total, and I am very proud to be a part of it.
But when I’m constantly going the extra mile to find out more about a patient’s condition, the cause, the pathology, the presentation – things a pharmacist doesn’t necessarily need to know – I realise that this is really where my passion lies. The clues that blood results and other laboratory findings can give as well as the procedures and techniques that are used, continue to intrigue me. But most importantly, bringing all of these aspects together and having the knowledge, skill and belief that you can improve your patient’s well being for perhaps only a few days, is the most appealing part of medicine to me.
I have had a taste of the satisfaction that can come from improving a patient’s condition in a few instances, and knowing that I had a part in it provided me with a “high” for days. When I think of what made it enjoyable, it wasn’t the medicine review or simply even the inclusion in the medical team. It was the amount I learnt, combined with the treatment process and responsibility of a decision and then the resulting gratitude from the patient and their family – all things that I will never forget.
And while I know there will be many hard days ahead, the constant challenge and the feeling of fulfilment from the patients you may be able to make an impact on (or may make an impact on you) will be my driving force to continue to learn and relish coming back day after day. This is not a decision I have made lightly. The sensible and logical side of me knows that remaining a pharmacist will give me a comfortable life and that medical school is just the start of life-long study, late nights and daily second-guessing.
But I also know that you can’t truly succeed in a position where you aren’t passionate about your work. Medicine is something I have been interested in for years and I have continued to seek more from it, despite initial setbacks and alternative career choices. I have experienced hospital life as well as the real world and have spoken with “mature” house surgeons who have been in a similar position to mine and who re-iterate the daily struggles mentioned. But they also state that they would do it all over again for the satisfaction they get from their job. I want that. And I believe I would do it well.