I’ve been a pharmacist almost two years now, and although that is a short time, I have learned so much. Not just the clinical knowledge gained from working as a hospital pharmacist, or the operational skills acquired from being part of such an intense work flow…but l have been challenged and developed in areas that shape the world outside of my career. These are the 5 skills being a pharmacist has taught me that I’m learning to utilized in my day to day life.
Attention to detail
This might be the most important skill necessary to be a pharmacist. There are thousands of medications and many of them sound the same, look that same, come in similar packaging, but have very different indications and routes of administration; with that being said, I work in a fast paced environment that requires quick and serious decision making on a consistent basis. I’ve learned to stop, double check, and then triple check everything! Peace of mind is priceless, once a medication has left your hand, it’s going to a patient, and everything about it must be correct. I find myself slowing down in other areas of my life as well, not simply to ensure i’m going about the task correctly, but to fully present. There is an immense sense of gratitude when you live in the moment; not worrying about what’s already happened or what may or may not, but focusing on the now, and finding peace in wherever or whatever that may be.
I can multitask like no other, the key is prioritizing. Like everyone else in a fast paced work environment, pharmacists are pulled in multiple directions at once. There’s a nurse requesting a medication STAT, there’s a physician on the phone with a question, there’s a pharmacy technician who needs a medication checked, and there’s a plethora of orders to be verified waiting on your approval before the patient can receive their medication. The details of the demands are different but life is the same way. We all have a lot going on, but it’s important to be able to focus your attention on the most pertinent task, otherwise you’re doing the most without ever accomplishing anything. When I was in pharmacy school I meticulously kept a planner, and I have slowly gotten back into that habit, not because I am doing my work at home but to make time for the things in life that are important to me. Taking time to pray and meditate, read, learn, and spend time with family and friends, is crucial for my day to day happiness and imperative to living a purposeful life.
This is absolutely crucial; lab values, rescheduled meds, IV line compatibility, drug interactions, etc. all must be communicated to various healthcare team members so everyone is on the same page regarding patient medication management. Although I have always felt I am a good communicator, there is always room for improvement. I practice explaining myself fully, this often manifests as patience, taking the opportunity to educate whoever I am communicating with. When I take a pause, and attempt to fully address the concerns of the individual or group I am speaking with, I often find that the question asked I learn from as well, and that is so powerful. Part of true leadership is taking the time to answer questions as simple or as obvious as it might seem, this not only demonstrates a willingness to listen and address the concerns of those around you, but also fosters growth in those under you to be just as knowledgeable as you are in the particular area of interest. When you are surrounded by greatness you become better, it becomes a give and take that pushes everyone involved to deeper levels of understanding and higher achievement.
The art of anticipation
If you’ve ever had to make a presentation or lecture then you’re all too familiar with the need to prepare for questions. Everyday nurses and physicians present questions and concerns about medications; sometimes the answer is clear cut, a lot of the time it’s not. When a physician asks me a question and I know the answer is “no”, I find an alternative and an explanation before I answer. In the medical field simply replying “no” or “we don’t have it” is not acceptable. The physician then wants to know, “why or how” and “what can I use instead” and time is always of the essence in a hospital. I find this especially useful in conversations outside of work, understanding more the impact and ramifications of what I say. “Think before I speak” has almost become a mantra, I find myself pausing more often and taking in the true meaning of what i’m about to say, and how that will effect the person or people I am speaking with. That pause is a quick check of my intention, then I am to tailor my delivery accordingly with how it may or may not come across to other people. I have become more aware of what I am truly attempting to communicate, therefore, I deliver my message more appropriately.
Be smart enough to know what you don’t know
My intuition is my best friend. Four years of pharmacy school doesn't even come close to the amount of information needed to be a competent pharmacist. I am constantly learning and being intellectuality challenged. That being said, I will never know everything, but I trust my gut when I have that feeling “something about this isn’t right” I don’t always know why, or remember the exact lesson that was taught, or detail of the lecture that pertained to whatever issue at hand, but I do know enough to know, I don't know the answer... and that’s ok, I know my resources and I can find the answers I need; I am also not afraid to ask for help. When anyone asks a question and I am unsure, I never guess, “I’ll look that up and get back to you.” I understand now more than ever I don’t and I won’t know everything in life, but making the extra effort to research and apply the new lesson always increases my confidence, now when I encounter that problem again, I have a solution and I can dive into an even deeper understanding that may be applicable to other areas in my career and daily life.