I enjoy a good conversation on twitter and I have to say I have met some lovely new Pharmacy friends on there. However, I can’t help thinking some days that we Pharmacists are strange individuals at times. Maybe strange is unfair, maybe I should say passionate or inquisitive. No, I’ll stick with strange. We get into arguments with a person we’ve never met, about which of us works the hardest, is the cleverest, is the most professional, the list goes on. What happens when you mix these strange creatures called Pharmacists in a room? And here was born…
”The Pharmacists’ guide to Speed Dating”. Those 6 must ask questions that could change your life forever.
Now, before those of you Pharmacists who are in perfectly happy relationships with fellow Pharmacists attack me venomously, please this is a little fun. I am away of very happy partnerships, have even attended weddings of such successful partnerships, but it did get me thinking about the following. I thought about all the strange things Pharmacists ask each other. It’s like talking about the weather with everyone else. We seem to have a standard set of questions we ask each other and I just wondered why.
The following is to be read with a pinch of salt, a packet of sarcasm and a hint of irony.
Once a month, Friday night is speed dating night in the LPC venue. There gathers a group of highly attractive, intelligent, single Pharmacists, each hopeful that they’d meet their Mr or Mrs Right that evening. They’d been on other dates, but failed to find anyone who shared their keen passion for Pharmacy. Each had 3 minutes to ask the most important questions they could in order to glean if they were the one for them. Here are those questions:
1) Which university did you go to? – better ask this first in case a) I know them and can’t remember them b) I now remember you and my mate dated you in the first year c) the university is important, what if they went to one of those lower, less austere Schools of Pharmacy – the humiliation. We could never make that work.
2) When did you qualify? – It is a question that Pharmacists ask. Why is this? Does this tell us how clever they are? How respected they are? How much money they earn? – We ask it all the same.
I think people often hide behind this. You can meet the ‘Newly Qualified/Junior Pharmacist” who uses being new as an excuse for their naivety or their reluctance to make ethical decisions. They ask silly questions and include where they work in their twitter bio and slate their company/colleagues/managers.
Or you get the “I’ve been qualified for 28 years”. These can seem safe and yet are so deadly. That often translates to “I am an old cynic who qualified 28 years ago, but I’ve moaned constantly about Pharmacy ‘not being like it used to be’ for the last 15 years.” Be warned, this type can resemble The Death Eaters in Harry Potter. The suck every ounce of passion and enthusiasm you had for Pharmacy out of you in a matter of minutes.
Either way, it’s best to ask this question and if necessary, have prepared some additional probing questions to check whether you should duck out here and now from what remains of your 3 minutes.
3) Where do you work? – Here is the contentious one. Do they work on community and thus have no clinical knowledge, not like a hospital Pharmacist? Could I be in a relationship with them? Or maybe they’re a Hospital Pharmacist? They have specialist clinical knowledge (in their field), but none of them ever have to make ethical decision like Community Pharmacists do. The doctors in the hospitals always are there to lend a hand. How would that influence our parenting skills?
Or imagine. What if they work for a large multiple – the shame? Or worse still, they could be a locum –how would I live that down?
4) How busy is your Pharmacy, how many ‘items’ do you do? – Why do community Pharmacists insist on discussing items like it’s some sort of Olympic achievement.
“We do 8000 items a month and I’m the only Pharmacist”
“Well, once I did 400 in a day with one dispenser off sick.”
“That’s nothing; I once did 400 in a day with a dispenser off sick, my broken leg and an eye patch on”
Surely though if I ask this question I’ll know if they’re made of stronger stuff?
5) Do you have a Clinical Diploma? – Again, what a bizarre question, but we find ourselves asking it. I wondered if people ask it because they believe those Pharmacists who have Clinical Diplomas are ‘proper’ Pharmacists. It’s obviously best to check because then, if they say yes, you’ll know they are a dedicated Pharmacist. If they say no, you can confidently exclude them from your list of hopefuls.
6) Last but not least……Do you know Mr Dispenser? This is a new addition to any Pharmacy conversation I have had of late. The fascination with this person is the new Pharmacy must ask question. And if you say “Yes, I do”, well there is a fair chance you’ll get a tick and the chance of a proper date. Everyone wants to meet someone who knows Mr Dispenser….don’t they?
So, your 3 minutes is up. You’ve ask those all important questions and it’s time to decide. Will there be a second ‘date’ or is it ‘cheerio’?? The decisions is yours.
Jonny B and RMP Ritchie are in a pharmacy on Christmas Eve. It’s the part of the day where everyone else has escaped home to avoid traffic and very few drift in. It’s the most boring afternoon in pharmacy….
“Did that clock move backwards? I’m sure it said 3.15, now it says 2.20!” RMP Ritchie started to observe the most usual phenomenon. Of time moving backwards in the pharmacy. Jonny B nods in agreement, and looks longingly out the window. “Counted rx, and the girls have worked so hard we’re ahead of ourselves for once. Know any good games?” Ritchie looks off in the distance, but comes back with “not games you could play in a pharmacy….but you make up stories to tell the kids….fancy having a go?” .
And so it begins.
It’s London, 2012. Mr Dispenser Scrooge is a pharmacist in a small chemist shop. It’s Christmas Eve. He works in the back of the shop, alone, and has only one assistant. Her name is Roberta, but he calls her Bob for some weird reason. She’s a nice lady, a single mum who works hard for Scrooge for minimum wage. Every year she hopes for a nice bonus, but even though she will never get one, she will wish him a Merry Christmas all the same. The clock starts to strike 5. The world outside has all gone home to cosy firesides and families with open arms. In the freezing cold shop, Roberta longs for home.
A young man runs into the shop. It’s Roberta’s son, Tim. He’s a pharmacy student, but because of having to work to pay his fees this year, he has failed his second year. Despite this Roberta is very proud of him.
“Hi Mum, Merry Christmas! How are you?” “Fine son, just can’t wait to get home and put my feet up!When did you get here?” “Just off the train! Have you had a chance to speak to Mr Scrooge yet?”.
Roberta bites her lip and looks towards the back of the shop. “Not yet son. Mr Scrooge has been, well, very busy you see. Business isn’t what it used to be, and he’s been struggling”. Tim smiles ” Don’t worry mum, we’ll ask him now! No-one can say no on Christmas!”. Roberta winces, but admiringly looks on as her son approaches the miser in the back.
“Mr Dispenser Scrooge?” “Yes, who are you? You’re not allowed back here. BOB!!”
Roberta moves to them “it’s my son Tim. He wants to ask if you would give him some work this summer. He’s very good, and he’s got some good customer experience”. Scrooge looked up from his piles of rx and scrutinised the youngling. “Humpf. So it’s work experience then. Fine. All summer, no pay”.
“But Mr Scrooge, he’s paying his own way through university to be a pharmacist! Can’t you pay him minimum wage?”
“If you would like to keep YOUR job, Bob, I would suggest that you accept my generous offer and close up tonight….”
“But it’s Christmas Eve!”
“And it pays your wages”.
Roberta sighs and turns away. Her son hugs her “chin up mum, only an hour to go. I’ll get a start on dinner.” Smiling Tim leaves the shop.
Scrooge emerges from the back and throws his keys at Roberta. “I’m off.”
“You can’t leave me here on my own without a pharmacist!!That’s illegal.”
“Make sure my money and rx are in the safe; I know exactly how much is there.”
Scrooge snorts in derision, leaves the shop, and drives off home in his car.
Scrooge isn’t much to look at. Scruffy, cheap and alone; he’s reminiscent of Brad Pitt in the Chanel ads. For all that money, you’d think he’d look the part.
At home no-one waits for him, all he has is his own company. After a Chinese takeaway (no tip) and wine, he’s ready for bed. It’s not a restful sleep. The clock turns to 12.
The door flies open, Scrooge wakes up and sees his former pre-reg tutor Bob Marley at the foot of his bed. “Marley? But you’re dead”. The ghost of Marley is a portly man, dressed in his golf outfit, a golf club jammed in the side of his skull. “Well that’s what they told me. Funny how I might see you there soon.”
“Hah, same old Scrooge. Full of questions, full of crap. I fear I may have led you astray. Don’t suffer the same fate I did. Three ghosts will visit you. Don’t let me down boy. Now, where’s my 9 iron?”….. Marley shuffles off, his 9 iron lodged in his head 9 years ago by a very angry ex-wife.
Scrooge, feeling like he’d heard this all before, drank some Gaviscon to soothe his stomach. “Dodgy Chinese”.
Crawling back into bed, Scrooge tried to sleep, but sleep was denied. The clock struck one.
“Hello Mr Dispenser Scrooge.” Scrooge stuck his face out from under the covers. It was a familiar face, the former RPSGB inspector for the area. “I’m here to remind you of the reasons you became a pharmacist. I’m the ghost of pharmacy past. Walk with me”.
The face held out a hand, and Scrooge walked with him through the door, into 1999. It was a pharmacy Scrooge worked in as a student. He was handsome, smiling and chatting with the girls in the shop. A customer came to the counter, out of breath. Scrooge watched his younger self assist the lady and helped the pharmacist stop her asthma attack. “I remember this!!” Scrooge cried “of course! This was the reason I became a pharmacist; it felt so good helping someone who couldn’t help being ill.” Scrooge went to grab the lady, but his hand flew right through her arm. “Oh yeah, they can’t see or hear you”, said the ghost of pharmacy past ” and I remember how you were when you started as a pre-reg; just the same. So what happened?” Scrooge turned to the ghost. “I don’t remember”. “Hmmm. Money is dangerous; it changes hands too quickly. Many people sell their soul for an easy life. Manners and ethics cost nothing; but they are priceless. Think about what made you sell out. Well, look at the time! The ghost of pharmacy present will be here soon. Take care as you move onwards Scrooge.”
Scrooge was standing in the hall. The big hand moved to 6. “Responsible Pharmacist sign….not in view. Mr Dispenser Scrooge, I am the ghost of pharmacy present”. Scrooge looks at a person he does not recognise, but they wear a badge: GPhC inspector. “Hello?” ” You have another ghost to see before the responsible pharmacist absence time is up. Lets move quickly. I need to see what you’ve been up to recently.” With a click of the fingers, they are in the street where the pharmacy is. “Hmmmm. Exterior needs refreshing. Pharmacist dressed like he is taking dog for a walk….” Scrooge looks at the ghost “Why are we here?” “Just passing, we have another appointment”.
They move on, to Roberta’s small apartment. In a small but warm room, Roberta watches her son dozing in front of the telly, with a concerned expression. “What’s the matter with Bob?” The ghost sighs and says “ROBERTA is concerned for her son” “why? He’s a smart lad, he’ll be ok” “Tim failed his second year because he has been working to put himself through pharmacy school. You remember what that was like, but it’s more expensive in 2012. Tim sacrificed his study to make money. Admirable at this point, but not if he continues in this way. You know this already.”
“But even if I pay him for work experience he won’t be able to afford to stay in university”. The ghost looked at Scrooge. “It’s 1.45. He’ll be here NOW”.
With a clap of thunder, Scrooge found himself in his sitting room. A chill crept up his spine. He looked up into a dark cloak with even darker holes where they eyes would have been. A thin bony hand emerged, and a deep voice growled “I am Pharmakeus. I will show you the future of pharmacy. By the way, don’t step on my cloak. It’s not a good idea, trust me.” Scrooge looked at the hood in terror. The figure leaned in “get off your arse and come with me. I don’t do telekinesis”. “o…k”.
The bony finger clicked ahead one week-figures down, ahead a month-desperate Scrooge thinking of other solutions, ahead 6 months-and Scrooge is selling medicines without prescriptions…. “No! I wouldn’t! I…I couldn’t”
“Yeah you will. You don’t care about anyone. Profit over people. The Donald Trump of pharmacy.”
“No, no, no….” “Oh come on,the best part is still to come”. Pharmakeus clicked his bony fingers….
A register is open. On it is written; E Scrooge, removed from register. Found guilty of negligence. “NOOOO!” ” why are you surprised Scrooge? Did you think your “friends” would help you? Hah! You’re as popular as Jeremy Kyle. Ah well, can’t waste this opportunity” Pharmakeus cracked his bony fingers and spun Scrooge round pointing out events in the future; “vending machines” “NOOOO” “FIJIAN parallel imports” “NOOOO” “HOMEOPATHY IN INTENSIVE CARE!!!” “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
“Ooh look its 5 already!”
“No, wait, you’re telling the story!”
“Ritchie, the missus is going to kill me”
“But how does it end? Does he change his ways?”
“Don’t know, it’s still Christmas Eve. Guess we will have to wait and see”
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are, on average, about six acquaintance links apart. That idea eventually morphed into this parlor game, wherein movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon. It rests on the assumption that any individual involved in Hollywood film industry can be linked through his or her movie roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps.
In a similar concept, ‘Six Degrees of Mr Dispenser’ applies to pharmacy. You may know me or know someone who knows me. In any case, pharmacy is a small world and everyone seems to know everyone.
It could be the locum who is well known in your area; the technician who has worked for all the multiples and can’t seem to stay longer than a couple of years in one place or the wholesaler delivery driver who flirts with the pretty assistants.
Pharmacy is about networking and it’s even easier with social media. I have made a lot of great friends via twitter and I would never have been able to write my book without them. It is pretty much done and in the final editing stage. It will be out on Kindle on January 14th and 5% of sales are going to:
Not surprisingly, my drug of choice as a student is caffeine – and I drink coffee almost continuously throughout the day, well, interspersed with diet coke of course! The majority of my days therefore start with a coffee in hand….nothing to do with a constant hangover of course!!
Once fully woken up, well as much as can be expected for a student, I grab my notes, books, laptop, prescription folder, journals and of course my trusty BNF (the one with the cover that most matches my outfit, of course!).
Lectures flit from x-ray diffraction to legal issues, ethical problem solving to dispensing, drug formulation to clinical pharmacy and genetic biomarkers to drug biochemistry. Way too much for my brain to handle – more coffee and plenty note taking….in that order.
After a full day of lectures, it’s time to walk home. Normally in the rain – we are in England after all. My priorities have massively changed in the last couple of years – I would rather keep my folder of work dry than my hair. How did I end up in this position?? University is changing me!!!
The best bit of being a pharmacy student is the huge subject diversity we experience and the great wealth of knowledge we pick up on the way. Having said that, it’s very hard work. VERY hard work. I never expected it to be easy but admittedly, never thought it would be quite so intense. It’ll all be worth it when I graduate and buy myself that gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choos!!
The bit of my education that I most enjoy (apart from going out!!) is having time to do research in my own time. It’s really enjoyable looking into something that you found particularly interesting. It’s very rewarding when you realise that you have hit the point where you can print out a journal article on a pharmaceutical subject and actually understand it….well most of it. You can’t have it all can you – I’m happy with understanding most of it for the time being. There is only so much that coffee can do – I don’t think its good enough to perk my brain up that much. It’s a miracle that it manages to do what it does. I’d be stuck without it!!