on What I Would Have Wanted…

What would I have wanted to know about the first year of pharmacy school…before it started?

It’s hard.

You will drink more coffee and diet Coke (or real Coke if that’s your thing) than you thought possible.

There are more lists, charts, and paragraphs to memorize than you want to know.

It’s scary – you’re learning how to teach other people about really important, life-changing medicines. If you mess up, they die.

If you don’t study every single day, you must pack all of those study hours into Saturdays, which effectively destroys all that Saturday was meant to be.

It’s really easy to feel pointless while you’re memorizing generic name, brand name, control level, indication, dosage, over and over and over again…until something happens: a patient on your first rotation asks you a question. Their brows are knit together, a frustrated air surrounds them. The patient tries to tell you exactly what the doctor told them about their medication, stammering, ” He said to take it until it is gone. And it’s an allergy medication. But I have a stomach ulcer. Why am I taking this?”

As you gently lead that first patient through the confusing world of their Prescription Medication, the sun begins to rise, illuminating the past year of grueling memorization like a bright summer morning. You, a fresh student pharmacist, explain simply how this medicine works and how the patient should take it; the frustrated air around the patient dissipates, leaving something entirely different… the hopefulness that always accompanies a new plan of action. They murmur their thanks, slightly surprised that someone took the time to make sure they understand. As the patient turns to leave, you remind them, “Call if you have any questions!”

And you mean it.

That’s what I would want to know before starting my first year of pharmacy school – the thrill of helping someone to understand not only that they are taking a Medicine, but why they are taking it, how to take it, and how they can improve their health so as not to take it any more.


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