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Professional Pearls - NPX Newsletter Winter 2019

Michael Murphy, R.Ph. PharmD

The center of our ambulatory care clinic, which is one of the sites of The Ohio State University’s General Internal Medicine Clinics, feels like a beehive. Down two long hallways of rooms, pharmacists, physicians, nurses, medical assistants and students dart back and forth providing patient care. If one were to observe it from an outsider’s perspective, it might appear overwhelming. That’s exactly how I felt in my first week of residency. I knew there was some organization to this beehive, but it felt like jumping on a treadmill set to max speed. I was sure that every other resident across the country was feeling the same as I did, but I couldn’t help asking myself the question, Am I prepared to be a pharmacist?

It was at that moment, surrounded by other healthcare professionals accomplishing their work, that a medical resident asked me a question. I’d had plenty of experience answering questions from physicians as a student pharmacist. The interaction usually went something like this: a question would be asked. I would reflect on the question and, if confident, give my answer. The physician would then look to my preceptor for their nod of approval and the patient would get the care that they needed. Answering my first question as a pharmacist was different, but I didn’t realize that it would be. The medical resident asked me their question and I answered. He immediately turned on his heel and walked into the patient’s room to implement a plan based on the response I had given. I am sure that if anyone had been watching, they would have seen the color drain from my face.

The juxtaposition of my feelings at that moment was intense. Never had I felt more powerful and unsure of my abilities at the same time. I immediately ran to a computer to double, then triple check the answer I had felt so confident of just a few moments before. The answer was right, the patient was fine, but I couldn’t help thinking about a quote from a Spiderman comic I read as a kid: with great power comes great responsibility. That was the first time I felt like a pharmacist.

The transition from student to new practitioner can be a scary one. One day, you take the oath that so many before you have taken, but I think it’s hard to feel like a pharmacist until you’ve had that feeling of responsibility. That feeling that you’re the last check. You’re the last line of defense. That it’s up to you to make sure the patient gets the care that every one of us deserves. I’ve grown to value that feeling and have created my own process for providing patient care to make sure I am optimizing the care provided to each one of my patients. It’s this feeling that I can make a difference in patients’ lives that pushes me to think outside the box of what we are currently doing for our patients. Across our profession, is the pharmacist today the best that they could be? I don’t think so. I think we could do so much more, if only given the chance.

In this time where the profession seems to be evolving so quickly, I hope this feeling doesn’t go away. With Ohio’s provider status legislation within reach, I can’t help thinking of that same quote: with great power comes great responsibility. Just like we have transitioned into this new adventure as the pharmacist, we have the opportunity to make this transition of our profession a profound one. The change that happens over these next years will cause a ripple across the course of each of our careers. Just like we may ask ourselves, Am I prepared to be a pharmacist? We should also be asking ourselves, Are we prepared to be changemakers of our profession?

I believe that the best way to work towards the answer to both questions is through active involvement in professional organizations. Through the sharing of our expertise with our peers, we can grow in our confidence to provide patient care. Through coming together with the same passion of advancing patient care, we can advocate for and enhance the responsibilities of the profession of pharmacy. We can’t lose sight of the potential we hold in our hands and the feeling of that great power and responsibility.

The first place we work after graduation can feel like an overwhelming beehive that we don’t fit into, but we can step up to any challenge that we face, whether it’s in the day to day of providing patient care, or in dreaming of what’s next for the profession. If we realize the strength that we as pharmacists have as members of the healthcare team, with our collective voice through professional organizations such as OPA we can make a difference in the lives of Ohioans. I am not going to let this feeling go away because I now can answer with confidence that question I kept asking myself, Am I prepared to be a pharmacist?

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