Small-town pharmacist dispenses liberal doses of TLC

May 10, 2014

This pharmacist's decision to follow her bliss has made countless patients a whole lot happier.

Cindy GeileI have always been a care-oriented pharmacist. I love caring for people. To my mind, in order for a job to be satisfying, there has to be a perceived need for what you do. Nothing makes me happier than someone catching me at the grocery store to tell me that the ointment I recommended for that ill-placed rash sure did help!

Long ago I decided to use my knowledge to help others. I realized early on that people in challenging circumstances, such as new mothers and elderly caregivers, especially needed us to pay close attention to the details.

Person to person

Sometimes patients need human contact as much as they need their medications. I have learned over 27 years in the business that sometimes we are the only people to touch an elderly woman or man on the shoulder or take their hand. We give lots of hugs in my pharmacy, comforting those who have lost close relatives or who just need some encouragement. We talk to these patients about days gone by, and sometimes we are the only people to chat with them that day or to let them know that we care what they thought.

I try to make sure patients get what they need. I have checked on Meals on Wheels for people. When I can get someone the powerfully expensive med they need, I find it very gratifying. It gives me great satisfaction to chat with patients and give them the opportunity to mention something about the night sweats or tremendous thirst they have been experiencing lately.

Through triage, I sent to the ER a 55-year-old man with encephalitis. He barely made it. In fact, he wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t come around that pharmacy counter to ask him about his fever.

I have learned the sound of an RSV cough. I do live in a small town, but just the other day, a mother called me from two states away to ask whether it was okay to give her one-year-old child what the local pharmacist was suggesting!

We all have this potential to build the patient’s trust - and to learn, every single day we're on the job, if we want to.

 

Leap of faith

Silly me, I was standing at my job at the chain drugstore (the only other pharmacy in our small city of 3,000 people) working a maternity leave with another pharmacist. We did 485 prescriptions that day and dished out 72 owed amounts, the result of an ordering freeze caused by the chain’s end-of-the-year paperwork. All in all, the two of us dealt with 554 prescriptions.

I said to myself, I have 15 years left to make an impact in care. I can’t do this any more. So I did the unthinkable. At age 45, I opened my own store! Crazy, huh? But it’s my working utopia.

I get to sit on my couch and listen to the elderly tell me heartfelt stories about whatever they want to talk about. Sounds sappy, but I get to rub elbows with World War II veterans whose families homesteaded here. I’ll drive insulin to a patient five miles south of town. It isn’t uncommon for me to come down to my store on a Sunday to fill a few Rxs for someone who was just released from the hospital. I’m active in the community. I help in any way I can.

The best we can

Truth is, I do get tired. I do get upset by how undervalued we are and angry about how we are being reimbursed. But when I have those days, I remind myself that all of us are doing the best we can in a tough environment.

We need to remember our impact. People depend on us to give them important information. They trust us to do so accurately and to make sure it is in their best interests.

I refuse to let the PBMs and the hard parts of the job deter me from giving the best care I can give. Even if it means taking the time to do research or sending the patient to the one who knows.

All my patients make my life richer and provide me with an opportunity to learn something - even if it’s a character flaw of my own that needs some attention!

It’s up to us. Lemons? Or lemonade?

Cindy Geileis a pharmacist in Wheatland, Wyo. Contact her atcgeile82@gmail.com.