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You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

In July I was invited to attend and participate in the following conference, “Enhancing Well-Being and Resilience Among the Pharmacist Workforce: A National Consensus Conference.”

These are the 2 things you need to hear:

  1. Your story, told by a brave practicing pharmacist, was heard by all
  2. The RxMoms voice was impactful, and we still have a lot to work to do

Suzy asked me to attend the conference on behalf of this group. Details about the conference including conference objectives, attendees, and background can be found here:

https://www.pharmacist.com/press-release/national-pharmacy-organizations-address-pharmacist-well-being-through-consensus

Recommendations from the conference can be found here:

https://www.pharmacist.com/enhancing-well-being-and-resilience-among-pharmacist-workforce-national-consensus-conference

 

Meet One Brave Pharmacist

She was a panelist who was asked to share her story from her community practice. I don’t remember which company she works for, but you should know that this woman bravely and eloquently spoke the hard truths about this role, all while sitting next to an executive from a large retail chain.

*While she was comfortable sharing at the conference, she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her position from retaliation. No one should have to lie about what working conditions are like, which is exactly why we need to keep this conversation alive.*

While she was talking, you could hear a pin drop. She was professional, poised, and passionate. Her story reminded me of all of your stories that I read on this page. How hearing about one pharmacist’s experience has the ability to hold your heart and your throat at the same time. How the stories remind us that underneath the hard shell we wear for day’s survival we also have the capacity to feel for our patients, but more importantly, for each other. We see the altruistic and precarious PharmD and we see our futures in the headlines.

I asked her if she would be willing to share her story in this blog, so that the Pharmacist Moms Community could read what she so courageously spoke on that day. I would like to thank her and remind her that she has 25,000+ pharmacists behind her. What a thought that just by describing her day, it would make someone’s “skin crawl” as commented after she finished her speech. Thank you, Brave Pharmacist. (Please scroll down to read her speech)

Briefly, I would like to mention what I learned from my experience at this conference: the Pharmacist Moms Group is an influencer in this space. Our stories and posts are gaining national attention and people wanted to hear what “the moms are saying.”  We have a lot of work to do, but I wanted you to know that this group has the ear of many. Thank you, Suzy.

 

Panelist Speech:

I am a retail pharmacy manager for a chain.  After graduating, I completed a residency in community pharmacy practice and have spent most of my time since then as a pharmacy manager.

I went into pharmacy because I love helping people, and specifically retail pharmacy because I love a sense of community. I love getting to know my patients, their families, their stories. For any business, developing relationships with customers is a driver of good customer service. In health care, being more than a number is powerful for patients struggling to connect with a healthcare system that is faster and more digital than ever before.

Accessibility of retail pharmacists is what drives these relationships. People can call me or stop by the pharmacy for any reason at any time (and they often do!). And I like being the person someone can call when they need to talk. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me where an auto body shop was in town. They apologized for calling me, but she said, “I just knew the pharmacist would know.” And I did. A month ago a woman called me just to tell me that she had an MRI scheduled, was worried that her cancer might be back, and asked me to pray for her. Just last week my partner climbed through the drive thru window to administer Narcan to the passenger of a car.  She saved his life.

But even though I love accessibility, it is also one the main factors that is driving burnout.  I am pulled in multiple directions at any given time- someone waiting to ask you a question, the antibiotic that needs to be mixed, the doctor’s office calling in a script, people waiting on their prescriptions, and a counsel at drive thru.  For years, companies have driven into customers minds that all prescriptions can be filled in 15 minutes or less and the pharmacist is to drop what they are doing to help patients. I have learned to respectfully ask someone to wait when needed, whether it’s a patient, my district admin, or a nurse, and it has made a huge difference. But pharmacists need support in pushing back against speed and striving for safety. 

The second main factor, for me personally, in driving burnout is workload.  I would like everyone to get out a piece of paper and a pen and write down the number of prescriptions you think it’s safe for a retail pharmacist to fill per hour.

In the month of June, my pharmacy dispensed 11,101 prescriptions and gave 86 immunizations.  We are open 84 hours and get 8 hours of overlap each week.  For anyone that is trying to crunch the numbers, that’s an average of 33 prescriptions each hour.  On Monday, I filled 505 prescriptions in 10 hours. Fifty prescriptions an hour. June and July are the slowest months of the year.  I’ll see at least a ten percent increase in script volume by August or September. 

There have been many changes that have helped with my workload over the last five years- new technology, automation, electronic prescribing, verification sharing. However, with every rollout comes a decrease in labor.  While I’m not sure a cap on prescriptions filled per hour is the answer, I do know that the pace that I am required to maintain is neither sustainable nor safe.  I simply cannot provide the highest level of care for every patient that walks through the door. 

And it’s not just my employer. Every pharmacist, no matter who you work for, is asked to do more with less. Multiple companies, both drug store and grocery store chains, have made announcements about reductions in pharmacy manpower, decreasing pharmacists’ base hours. The need for lower labor costs is a direct result of lower reimbursement rates a decreased margin from generic drugs. 

In addition to the workload, the actual work environment itself is exhausting. No one tells you when you are in school that you might be in physical therapy for neck pain from being on the phone so much. Or that you’ll need compression socks and orthotics in your shoes or learn to hold your bladder. I was on crutches for six weeks after fracturing my tibia this winter. I had a stool, but it was nearly impossible for me to sit down for long. It was miserable. While I have been cleared to run, my leg is still healing and part of me can’t help but wonder if I would be 100% if I had a job that wasn’t physically demanding.

According to state law, I am allowed to take a 30 minute lunch break for every 6 hour shift worked. My employer’s policy matches the law state, citing that the pharmacy is to remain open and I am to be available for counseling. While I sat on the floor eating my salad at 3 PM, I was interrupted 6 times in 20 minutes. At some point, you just give up on lunch and move on with your day.  In a 12 or 13 hour workday, I do not think it is unreasonable to close the pharmacy completely for 30 minutes to account for a break for the pharmacist. Doctor’s offices and other businesses close for lunch- what excludes retail pharmacies from doing the same?

Work life balance continues to also remain a challenge.  Several years ago I was a district supervisor, but after a 18 months decided to step down to have more time for my family.  I’m not sure it’s that much better when you don’t work in middle management. As a pharmacy manager, I am expected to complete paperwork and oversight for running the business, yet I am given no additional time or resources.  I am expected to attend company meetings unpaid and often contacted on my days off about work-related items. Companies should Be required to provide compensation and uninterrupted time ‘off the bench’ to any pharmacist in a managerial position.

I am in a unique location that has a shortage of pharmacists, so I am asked to pick up extra shifts to cover my store on my scheduled days off. When my store’s pharmacist hours were cut, I asked to have my base decreased from 40 hours to 38 hours and was denied. I have a family member who works for another chain who was told she must increase her base hours from 32 to 40 or she would not be guaranteed a job, even after she has not worked a 40 hour base since graduating 25 years ago.  When I graduated, I never anticipated wanting to work less and not being able to do so. Companies should not be able to force pharmacists to work more hours than they want to.

Am I proud to be a pharmacist, to serve my community and impact health care? Absolutely. But my well-being, our well-being, is at stake. Thank you.

 

Brooke Griffin, PharmD

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

What To Do When You Feel Shame?

Sherry Brown PriceWhat To Do When You Feel Shame?

We are humans.

And, by nature, humans are not perfect.

Humans make mistakes.

We do things that we wish we didn’t.

This goes for every human.  No exceptions.

We get stuck in certain patterns of being and doing that we can’t seem to find the way out of.

Like with our drinking.

We can feel helpless.

And powerless once we start drinking.

We feel shameful about not being able to stop and about who we are.

We compare ourselves to others who seem to have no problem with stopping.

Our shame makes us feel like we are bad humans.

It makes us feel diminished and unworthy.

Hanging on to the shame does not allow us to embrace our humanness and make the necessary changes to move forward.

Shame leads to more of the same.

A continued pattern of drinking.

How do we break the shame?

With acceptance of it and with self compassion.

We can choose to accept that we are a human that has learned and practiced over-drinking.

And we can bring in self compassion for our trained behavior.

Embracing self compassion moves us into a place of peace.

We make peace with what is.

Full acceptance and self compassion open us up to move into taking action.

Making a change that enhances the new script of our brain.

Your journey to cutting back may need to start with a hefty dose of self compassion.

In love and health,

Sherry

Sherry Price, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, APh

As an accomplished pharmacist, business owner, wife and mother, I used wine as the way to relax at night and to cope with the day’s stress.  When drinking that first glass of wine, I immediately felt relief and began to relax.  My anxiety level came down.  And the day seemed better.

But, I started to desire more wine to achieve the same effect.

One glass became 2……then 3……then more…..on most days.  And then daily.

The mornings became unpleasant and my sleep was not restful.  I gained weight and made poor food choices when I drank.  I tried to cut back over and over; only to white knuckle it for a few days until I gave in and started right back up again.  I still desired it.   It seemed impossible to cut back.  My willpower didn’t last.  And I craved the relief and pleasure the wine brought.

All of the programs I knew about focused on an all-or-nothing approach.  Abstinence programs.  Treatment centers.  Meetings.  Declaring a problem.  Sponsors.  That wasn’t for me.

I didn’t want to stop drinking.  I just wanted to be a normal drinker.  And to not think about drinking so darn much. 

I needed a solution.  With my pharmacy training, I understood the biology and how the brain works, the neurotransmitters involved, and how the wiring of the brain occurs.   I desperately wanted to figure this out.  Through my life coach training and additional courses, I have created tools where I blend the science and the behavioral application to cut back on drinking permanently.

STEM Panel: Engineers, Africa, Straws, and Drugs

STEM Panel: Engineers, Africa, Straws, and Drugs

Do anyone of these statements resonate with you?

“If I’m feeling out of place when I walk into a room – then I need to be there.”

“Push yourself to be your best – always.”

“Don’t work too much.”

“Say your crazy idea.”

Let’s go outside of pharmacy for a moment. Read below about a few rock star women who are killing it in their STEM fields. In lieu of an interview this month, read on about what they had to say – AND – what the female students asked.

Recently I was invited to be on a panel of women at our local high school for a “Women in STEM Day.” All female students were invited and were excused from their classes. There was a career fair with booths representing organizations and colleges. There were presentations from women who work in all STEM areas. The event I participated in, the STEM Panel, was offered three times over three periods. I was on the panel with 6 other women who I’d like to introduce you to. We each had a few minutes to introduce ourselves and then the students asked questions. The questions from these young women were fascinating! Typical me, I took notes furiously as my fellow panelists spurted wisdom and encouragement. True story: the woman to my right, Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, PhD, showed a YouTube clip to showcase her work – and everyone needs to watch this 1:30min video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=rQqao37u1wU. Try following that with, “I’m a pharmacist.”  Selfishly, I was thankful that I introduced myself before the students became mesmerized with this video clip (ha!); you’ll understand after you watch the video.

Here are my takeaways: all of these women are amazing and each brought their story into their answers. Stories that high school females need to hear. Stories about a jagged career path, filled with lions, tigers, and bears. Stories about finding mentors and finding themselves. Stories about men and kids. Stories about their dreams.  Here is a snippet from that day:

Dr. Stacy Kowalczyk: Director of the Information Management Masters program in the School of Information Studies at Dominican University. She talked about information architecture, systems analysis, and human-computer interactions. My favorite thing about Stacy’s story is that someone recommend she should become a coder LONG before this was a thing, and she went back to school at age 50 to get her PhD. Also, we loosely decided we’re going to coauthor a book about encouraging students in higher education. It’s going to be called, “Points or Pizza.”

Emily DiFrisco: Director of Communications for Plastic Pollution Coalition. She helps organizations become aware plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on waterways, oceans, and the environment. Her advice, “Make time for hobbies. Put the work in and then be confident in yourself and abilities.” Emily won us all over when she told us that she brought stainless steel straws for every.single.person.

Dawn M. Rose, JD, CHHR: She is a self-proclaimed “STEM-wannabe” who pursued other avenues when she hit roadblocks. She became a lawyer and worked in HR. Her life always brought her back to STEM and now she works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and supports the research and leadership efforts of neurologists in the practice. My favorite story Dawn told was that she won 1st place in an elementary school leaf collection project and she said repeatedly that she always wanted to be pharmacist. In my opinion, the world needs her exactly where she is.

Davorah Bowen: Project Engineer at FedEx Express. She stated she’s “driven by her belief that quality is a standard and a byproduct of intentional, thoughtful and skillful planning and execution.” She designs/executes all of the maps for the FedEx drivers. The maps, you guys. All.Of.The.MAPS. My favorite thing about Davorah’s presence was that she thoughtfully and respectfully answered all of the student questions about engineering and robotics and she showed us how to do it with eloquence and authority and respect for their dreams.

Leslie McKinney, MS: She is the Chicago Director of Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE). The students in the room were not shy about speaking up and saying they have not found a role model in robotic engineering, marine biology, or a dermatologist who was a woman of color. Leslie not only spoke of the benefits of her organization in STEM, but also had a personal connection for EACH one of those students. Those students left with a name and an email address. It made me think: who do we know that can help someone? Are we sharing that enough?

The students – all in high school – asked the following questions:

  • Have you ever experienced sexual harassment?
  • Is there male entitlement at your job?
  • What are the social aspects of your job?
  • We’re smart and not “cool” – will this be a bigger struggle in college?
  • What if we pick a STEM field, then want to switch?
  • How can we incorporate more STEM in elementary and middle school?

Staring into their young eyes, we took turns answering these questions. In summary from the group: reminding them that they have great ideas!  If a man is ever upset about something to do with YOUR career, it’s their problem, not yours. Don’t see enough females around? Stop complaining and do something about it!  Like Tanya, who started the first computer science club for women. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. And make a commitment to mentor others. Ask for more of what you’re interested in; don’t wait for someone to offer it. And remember the feeling of your brain being so happy – that’s being intellectually stimulated.

Here’s the superheroic takeaway: the kids in our lives are watching us. They are young and eager and hungry for STEM. They are 15 and 16 and 17 and asking about work/life balance and respect in the workplace. No matter how hard our days are; they need to see us with science and math, with jobs and babies, with good days and bad.  They are watching us.

 

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

 

Finding A Happy, Sustainable Pharmacy Career

Finding A Happy, Sustainable Pharmacy Career

Written by: Gunda Siska

 

I have been brainstorming for an alternative pharmacy job that is less stressful than retail and hospital work.

I currently work in a busy hospital. The medical and pharmaceutical questions, problems and tasks come at me so fast I cannot resolve one problem through, before the next problem presents its self to me. I end up with brain fog and migraines. I know I should change jobs to something more sustainable. I’m unable to do anything at home for my family after a long, hard day at the hospital. Living with chronic migraines is not my idea of success and so I often think about going to work at Walgreens…in the COSMETIC department, cuz retail pharmacy seems to be even more stressful.

I know I could NOT work retail pharmacy. I had glimpses of it during pharmacy school, and at the end of a busy day I would be shaking with frustrations from all the interruptions that occurred. I have so much respect and admiration for the cool, calm, smart retail pharmacists. HOW DO U DO IT?

Anyhow, I have been brainstorming for a better way of life.

I think pharmacists should double as health care coaches to solve our health care crisis. I think our hospitals are over run with patients who have illnesses that can be solved with lifestyle modification. I also believe we don’t have enough doctors to take care of all the sick people. I know at my hospital during flu season we end up in code black, which means we have overflow patients in the hallways and storage closets! There is literally no room for all the sick people.

So the win-win solution that I have come up with….have all the highly educated retail pharmacists, and any other pharmacists looking for a change to come out of the woodwork and become health care coaches.

The money part sort of slowed me down, but I have thought that through. I see two solutions.

Money solution #1, become affiliated with selling natural products and get a commission from the products you recommend. Pharmacists will never be an average sales representative. Our health is too complicated and individualized to just recommend the same product for everyone.

I believe only pharmacists should be selling and recommending OTC products, vitamins, minerals, and natural products of any kind.

I am currently writing a book about when natural products yield good results. Healthy people don’t need any pills to stay healthy, but many people are not healthy. Many people are looking for improved health, better energy, and improved appearance.

In my articles for Pharmacy Times Magazine I have been slowly telling the readers when natural products will yield good results. These articles are actually excerpts from my book that will be coming out soon, hopefully July.

Don’t let your customers read this book before you, cuz they will be asking you questions that will blow your mind.

Combined with the years of college education, and work experience I anticipate that this book will give pharmacists a clear view of how to slow the aging process down with natural products, and how to optimize health in unhealthy people. (more on my book later)

Money solution #2, Become a pharmacist clinician and expand your recommendations even more. Not only will you be recommending natural products, but you will also be recommending drugs.

I believe that our health care crisis can be solved with medicinal diets, natural products, and drugs. We need all three to restore health…and then keep us healthy.

After my first medical book is out in July, I’m going to immediately start working on my second book. It will be called Curing obesity through medication management. In that book i will explain how to use drugs as a catalyst to develop new, healthy lifestyle habits. Will power and drugs only work for a short period of time. We need to take advange of that opportunity to create new automatic habits and lifestyle choices. THAT is what the book is about. It’s about ending obesity. It’s about having the next generation of people automatically being thin because their parents instilled wellness in them as children.

So for now, I have to highly recommend that pharmacist who are looking for a change follow me on twitter, facebook, Pharmacy times magazine, and this blog. I will be telling you everything I know as I walk through the process myself. I am thinking this thing through for me, so that I can have a better life…and I’m telling you my trials and errors so that you can do the same if you chose to.

I am wishing you the best in life: success, happiness, health and love

Mother’s Day 2019 aka 5/12/19

 

What I liked about mother’s day 2019, compared to previous mother’s days, is the emergence of literature (social media and my trusty newspaper) that not everyone is happy on happy mother’s day. I needed this reminder. For some people, it really sucks. “Be careful about your boasting” was the message I received. So hard when I live and breathe and sometimes gag over their every movement. So hard when I spend 364 days trying to shape them into thinkers, doers, college-bound, and nice-to-Mom and on day #365 I get a card that says MOM upside down is WOW. So hard not to share. But I deeply respect the silent sadness that is out there. How I wish I could say I-SEE-YOU to all of you.  Today was 5/12/19. Call it what YOU want.

2019 also had a plethora of articles on “How To Spend Mother’s Day.” Every article had the same message: “Any way you want.” Sometimes it said: “Any way you f@#$-ing want.” Either way, message received. I had the day off, so my requests were: sleep in, long run, chill with kiddos (with tag-out privileges at any moment), then dash to a store or two or three. For the most part, it worked out! Handmade gifts and cards are just what the doctor of pharmacy ordered and it was perfect. I even found myself alone with my coveted Sunday Chicago Tribune with a hot coffee for 30 minutes. And then it happened: I read a story that I shouldn’t have. I saw the headline and knew better – I should have turned the page. But I read the darn story. Chicago-land recently lost a young child, at the hands of his parents, and it’s been heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching and makes me want to scream and shout and let it all out. I’ve purposely been avoiding the updates and NPR in the car because I just can’t handle those kinds of details. Especially not on my commutes. Because if I listen, I won’t be able to hold back the sorrow for this child that I’ve been pushing down inside. But today, on mother’s day 2019, I read the full article. And I let the sobs come. The kind which causes shoulders to shake, nose to run, and dogs to come lean. I was alone with the heavy Tribune, my heavy luke-warm coffee, and my heavy dog. Everything was heavy and I was alone and the moment eventually passed.

My daughter returned from gymnastics and remembered she forgot one more gift in her backpack: a glass jar filled with 20 reasons why she loves me. Happy tears. (Who gives young children glass jars?) Soon the tribune article was in my rearview mirror, my coffee forgotten, and the dog disappeared. So many times as pharmacists we get a glimpse into someone’s home life. We hear how loved ones talk to one another, we squinch at the humiliation, and pray there’s no fear. We know that with trust comes stories. From patients, students, and technicians. Everyday we make the decision whether or not to engage, inquire, and invest our emotional and professional reserves.  The reserves saved for our own stuff and our families’ stuff. Some of us are brave and scared and go in anyway. Some of us skate along the line we’ve drawn in the sand.

We often don’t know what to do if we suspect neglect, abuse, or mistreatment. My colleague and I have been teaching a women’s health elective for years and we always include a class on domestic violence. We invite a guest speaker from a local shelter or support agency to speak to the pharmacy students about how we can help. She gives us tools, such as conversation starters and resources, to use when the time is right. I’ll write more on this in the future because it deserves more time and space but fittingly for today, we are reminded of those mothers who don’t have choices. I’m so freaking thankful that I am celebrating mother’s day 2019, because it reminds me that love overcomes hate and the good tears overcome the sorrowful ones. I’m thankful that I was able to choose how I wanted to spend mother’s day 2019, not just the activities, but because it served as a reminder of a real choice that stems from an equitable partner team. I’m thankful that my parents made this visible for me and in turn, I hope my own children remember this. For moms of fallen children, for the moms who feel helpless, for the moms who feel boastful, for the moms in prison, for the moms without partners, for the moms in our hearts – today was 5/12/19 – you get to call it what you want.

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Gunda Siska

 

 

For years I lived a double life to escape the monotony that was my reality. As a pharmacist, drugs/alcohol was not really an option, at least not with all the drug testing going on in the work place. It led me to my guilty pleasure, my escape, my way of checking out mentally. That led me to writing fictional novels.

 I often wrote when I was on vacation at my lake house. Of course everyone was having a good time frolicking in the sun, swimming etc. But after decades of growing up in that environment, I had been there done that. That too was boring. Everything was boring. 

Even playing Candyland for hours was boring. I love spending time with my children and family but I needed something more.

While doing these mindless activities, I would be concurrently day dreaming about the next chapter in my novel. My mind would fill up with scenarios for the book. At night when everyone was a sleep, I would write. I lived my life like this for years, on and off.

However, I never had the courage to publish my novels, until now. This novel was a mental escape to the happiest time of my life=college. I turned the fictional scenario into a learning experience. This story is what I wish I could have told my younger self. It’s about finding happiness (book description below)

I also went on to write a salacious political novel. It is about how I would run the country given the opportunity to improve it. I wrote that novel after I had read 50 shades of Gray. I wondered, why is this author a multi-millionaire and I’m an unappreciated pharmacist feeling abused. I thought I could write a better novel than 50 shades of gray, and so I attempted to do so. I allowed myself to go down the path of erotic scenarios. But when the book was completed, I felt like I had sold my soul. 

The main character in the book was not how I was. Maybe portions of me were in the main character as well as the other characters, but it definitely did not represent my life.

I still contemplate deleting that novel. No one has read it in its entirety. I’m not sure it would be well received. We’ll see how the first novel does. But until then, I have completely given up my secret life of writing novels. I now live in the moment. I pay attention. I live and learn and make corrections. I now solve my problems instead of ignore them and hope they go away on their own. 

And the good news is…that once I started living in the movement, paying attention to my life, and solving my problems….my life became better. Happier. More successful in every. way.

I now write medical articles, and my pharmacy career has never been brighter. I think it is become I’m now more engaged with my career. I’m more connected with the other pharmacists around me. I am able to empathize and understand the people around me better.

Question: Should I use my real name when publishing this book? or a penname? I don’t want it to discredit my medical articles and books in anyway. Karen Berger has read my book in its entirety and says I should be proud of my book, and not use a penname. Karen believes honesty is the best policy, and the truth always comes out in the end. IDK. Any thoughts?

 

Update: Gunda has published her novel under the name of GK Siska and it can be found at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/109619824X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860or https://www.amazon.com/dp/109619824X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

The Space In Between Chapters

The Space In Between Chapters

 

A few big things happened recently:

  1. I donated BINS of baby/toddler items
  2. My son received his first phone call from a friend “just to talk”
  3. The pharmacy profession is causing panic at the disco

A local church was accepting donations for clothes and toys and for the first time, I entered the corner of the basement and pushed aside the cobwebs of the attic looking for bins. I blame my restlessness, Marie Kondo, and my husband for this urge to purge. Opening those bins brought back a flood of memories – holding some outfits pushed all of my maternal buttons and holding some toys had me singing along to our favorite songs. You know it’s time for the stuff to go when your kids see the piles and say, “Yeah, I’m good with that.” It took me a long time to sort, feel, reminisce, and pack 10 boxes full of stuff. On donation day, I loaded the car and ran back to the house to grab the last box when my son says, “So-And-So is calling your phone tonight!” “Oh really! How did they get my number?” I ask. “From the school directory that was sent home,” he answers confidently. My first thought was wow, So-And-So is so resourceful! Wait, what are they going to talk about? The phone rings, he grabs it, and he runs in the other room. I look at my husband in disbelief and say, “What’s happening?”

There’s no time to discuss as I’ve got to make it to the church before 7:30pm. After I unload the boxes, I drive away slowly, as if the volunteers will call me back saying the infant tutu outfit is too cute and I must keep it. I roll down the windows and soak in the last few minutes of an almost perfect (i.e. rare) weather day in Chicago. The warm wind on the way to the church now felt cool against the tears coming down my cheeks – as I say goodbye to one chapter, filled with baby smells, cute outfits, and lots of firsts– and anxiously think about the next chapter – to be filled with phone calls, awkward moments, and lots of firsts. On that drive home, I think about feeling in between two phases of motherhood. The transition from single digit to double digit birthdays. The growth in the width of their shoulders, the length of their feet, and the breadth of their independence. I think of the coincidence of my son receiving his first phone call on the same night I’m letting go of his baby clothes. I believe that saved me from having a complete sob attack. After a few hot tears, I realized I have a big kid who needs me to clear my attic AND my perceptions of a little boy disguised in a big boy shell.

Of course this makes me think about work (we can’t help ourselves, right?). Feeling in between chapters is the best way to describe how I’ve felt in the past when I’ve changed clinics. Similar to baby clothes, I remember donating materials I no longer needed and being grateful for that experience while anxiously awaiting my next pharmacy home. Some of us are between jobs or fear we may be there soon. Some of us have outgrown current conditions yet nervous to make a career move. Some of us can’t imagine working anywhere else yet the current climate encourages one’s imagination. These transitional periods are so tough. We’re planners, after all, and the future needs us. But in what ways?

Our very own founder of pharmacistmomsgroup.com, Suzy Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS, explained the why behind her career switch. She said, “Having kids meant that my 90 minute commute wasn’t an option anymore and I needed to find a better fit for the “new” me. I loved what I was doing but I knew that my children and family needed me more so I resigned from my “dream” job as an associate dean and had to find myself once again.”

 

I find it interesting that some events in life force us to move on to the next chapter, whether we’re ready or not. The panic in pharmacy is widespread and impactful decisions are made every day. Feeling so out of control, how do we navigate this space as working moms? I reached out to my friend, Mary Heidkamp, PhD and Executive Coach,* to help answer this really easy (not) question. She put the power in our hands. And she gets right to it: “You don’t have to save your organization. That’s not on you. If you’re in a role that’s not professionally satisfying, you have two choices: stay or start looking- and there’s reasons to do either. As moms with high-level careers, we desire fulfilling careers AND hands-on motherhood. Maybe your job is not fulfilling but it’s suiting your family well at the moment. Maybe it offers flexibility, hours that work well, and benefits you need. Maybe the craving for more satisfying work weighs more than that, so you start looking. YOU have the choice.”

Suzy opened up about her own transitions between jobs. “I was scared. I didn’t even know where to start. I spent my entire career in Chicago and didn’t know anyone on the east coast and had little connections. I loved my job but I knew that moving 800 miles away was going to force me to look for a new job. I still needed to pass my boards for a new state; the hardest part was believing I could take an exam almost 10 years later. It wasn’t easy.”

Here’s the superheroic plan: Let’s make a pack not to rush through transitions. If we take a step back and reflect on how far we’ve come, at home or work, maybe we can ease into the next chapter with more gratitude and grace. Let’s give ourselves time (in my case: years) to be ready to say goodbye to things that are just things. Let’s give ourselves mental space to process everything that’s going on at work.  Let’s give ourselves credit when we actually DO let go of things we don’t need and let go of momentum that can’t change. When we find ourselves in the spaces in between chapters, let’s just breathe and give ourselves a moment to cogitate over what’s really important at the intersection of home and work.

Suzy adds, “What I learned is change is good. It has helped me to grow. Helped me become a better pharmacist. It helped me make new friends. New connections. I am now comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

* http://dynamic-insights.com/

 

94 Seconds – The Smallest Things Can Make The Biggest Impact

By Karen Berger, PharmD

On Friday after school, my 10-year old had an expander put in, as the beginning of her teeth straightening process. The orthodontist has a great bedside manner, and was very patient with my daughter, Dena. She took her time and really wanted Dena to get as comfortable as she could be under the circumstances. Our appointment was at 3:30 pm and we left around 4:45 – we definitely did not feel rushed.

After dinner, around 7:30pm, I was sitting by my phone when it rang. Who is calling me? I thought, surprised. Everyone texts me! Lo and behold, it was the orthodontist, calling to see how Dena was doing in the last few hours since we left the office. We chatted briefly – I didn’t want to keep her long, especially on a Friday night. She asked a few questions and offered some advice. When we hung up, I looked at the phone. The conversation only took 94 seconds. 94 seconds!!

 

Why did I notice this? Because it only took 94 seconds to make an amazing impression on us. It is so rare that a healthcare provider of any kind makes after hours calls to check on patients. But that 94 seconds really made a difference to me. I saw this orthodontist as someone who cared and went the extra mile for her patients and their families.

 

Then, as with many other things, I thought about how this could apply to pharmacy. I certainly know most of us don’t have any extra time to do anything, but I think we can all find 94 seconds here and there to check in on a patient that may need a little extra attention. Throughout your days, and your interactions with patients, you’ll most certainly notice a few patients that have issues you could follow up on with a quick phone call. Maybe someone is looking a little down, and you could be the quick call that turns that patient’s day around.

 

Forget the metrics, let the reds go redder! Take just a minute or two here and there, and go that extra mile. We are all in this because we want to help people. Let’s all take a brief moment as often as we can, to make a little difference in our patients’ lives. You never know when your quick phone call could brighten someone’s day – the smallest things can make the biggest impact.

Being a Mum as well as a pharmacy student

 

 

 

Being a Mum as well as a pharmacy student

By:

Nour Morjan

I have been a university student for about 7 years, and this is my eighth. I became a mum while I was in my fourth year at the university. I changed my course twice, from Biotechnology engineering to Genetics and Molecular Biology to finally Pharmacy.

I started my MPharm course being a mum. As much as being a mum is wonderful and is a blessing that doesn’t make the struggle any easier.

Now I’m on my final year, I could say being a student is more than a full-time job for me and being a mum is a 24-hour job.

During my time at the university while being a mum, I lacked the support to help me overcome those difficulties and I had to make it on my own. Although, I had the full support of my husband, we both needed support and help in what we went through.

At the start, I thought it was just me going through all of that. I thought maybe as a mum, I was not capable of raising a child. The doubts took control over me, and I already have had depression and anxiety which was a separate issue for me that affected my life a lot.

There are some students in my course who are parents. As the course progressed, we started sharing the struggle we go through together. We talked about  how hard it is to juggle between house work, childcare, cooking and social life which seemed impossible.

I started to think that it wasn’t just me but all of us, students with children, are in the same boat struggling together without knowing anything about each other’s struggle.

A few months went by and then I came across Pharmacy Podcast Network on Instagram and through it I came across the lovely Pharmacist Suzanne Soliman from Chicago, USA. She is the founder of Pharmacist Moms as you already all know. I got inspired by her, so I tried looking online to find something similar in the UK which supports pharmacist mums, but I couldn’t. Instead I found how pharmacists can help new parents and mothers.

 

I contacted Suzanne and now we are going to work together to start a branch of Pharmacist Moms in the UK.

 

Very excited 🙂

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

 

On 3/6/19 my colleague and fellow pharmacist mom, Kathy Vest, PharmD, CDE, BCACP, and I met in a parking garage at 5:30am. With bellies full of coffee, pączkis, and butterflies, we drove 2.5 hours to Springfield, IL.  We were invited by the Illinois Pharmacists Association (IPhA)* to attend a committee hearing for HB 1442 (contraceptive prescribing bill) as ‘clinical experts.’  Yes, surreal! When you get this type of call, how could you say no? So I confirmed that my husband could take the kids to school, put on a blazer, and pushed my imposter syndrome aside.

In the 17 years I’ve lived in Illinois, I had never gone to Springfield. The day before, the nurse practitioner I work with said, “Good luck down there. It’s a one-horse kind of town.” I had never been to a committee hearing or even seen one on TV. The building is beautiful – if you are fan of architecture, Abraham Lincoln paintings, and marble columns for days, then check this place out. The committee hearing was in a small room with rows of chairs for the public, a small table with three seats for the presenters and 5 rows of tables with comfy chairs for the representatives. Each seat had a skinny black microphone on the table, with a push button to activate a green light alerting you, “It’s go time.” With ~30 lawyers and ~30 bystanders watching us, waiting for us to speak, my mind shuffled between ‘You know this stuff, it’s no sweat!’ and ‘How did I get here?’

I knew HB 1442 pretty well, as I participated in a couple of conference calls with the sponsor a year earlier. Since it was first introduced three years ago, Representative Michelle Mussman (with the help of IPhA) has been trying to get this bill passed. That morning she said to us, “It’s just been passed in the 10th state. We could have been 3rd.” Kathy and I been learning and conducting research on pharmacist prescribed contraception for the past few years. We know the pros and cons. We know some pharmacists are excited and some pharmacists are apprehensive. We knew clinical questions would come our way. We suspected the lack of an age limit in the bill would spark some debate. What we didn’t expect was for a woman’s age to the deal-breaker for so many voting representatives. Together with Rep. Mussman, the OBGYN physician to her left, and our IPhA representative, we explained that women of all ages are currently obtaining contraception – from their physician or online. If this bill is passed, a patient wouldn’t have to wait for a doctor’s appointment or a package to come in the mail. Rep. Mussman explained the potential negative medical and socioeconomic outcomes of an unplanned teen pregnancy. I’m happy to report that not one lawyer questioned a pharmacist’s ability to provide this service. At one point, a representative asked me, “So you are willing to take responsibility if you dispense the wrong/inappropriate medication?”  And I said, “Yes, just like I take that responsibility on a daily basis.”

The bill passed this committee hearing and is now on its way to the House floor! I felt like I did my duty – as a pharmacist and as a woman. I felt empowered that our voices matter. I felt American. I left thinking, why did it take me 17 years to drive to Springfield? I reached out to Laura Licari, PharmD, current president of IPhA, for her insight on this topic. She reassured me that advocacy at the state level was not always at the front of her mind (phew, I’m normal). She started her journey with IPhA when her mentor asked her to serve on the Board of Directors, which she wouldn’t have considered if not for that push (women helping women=love!). When I asked her what sparks advocacy, she told me, “When you realize that the Pharmacy Practice Act dictates your scope of practice, you also realize that every pharmacist has the power within them to advocate for change to that scope of practice through the legislative process.” When I ask her about a pharmacist’s limited time for advocacy, she admits its hard to keep up (I’m beginning to think Laura really gets me). She informed me that both IPhA and ICHP are monitoring over 6,000 proposed bills. She said, “If you feel like you don’t have the time or the expertise, make an investment with your membership. In doing so, your organization can sift through all those bills and alert you to the ones that are most relevant to your practice and profession; also you can build a diverse network of pharmacy professionals. Over time, just like me, you’ll learn about the legislative process and how you can affect change. Until then, your contribution helps both IL state associations attend meetings with legislators, organize Pharmacy Legislative Day, and monitor that long list of bills that can potentially help or harm our profession.”

My experience in Springfield made me think of how much advocacy we do DAILY as moms – for our families and ourselves. Phone calls to schools, networking on the playground, and negotiating who gets Mom’s laptop first are just a few examples. There have been times when I didn’t press the button on the skinny black microphone at home. There have been times when I CHOSE not to advocate for myself. Nervous to speak up, unsure how much it would help in the long run, and confused by the newness of motherhood – there have been silent times. Thankfully it didn’t take me 17 years to realize that in order to have MY needs and desires met, I needed to speak into the mic. I’ve hustled to obtain childcare when I need to exercise – even at 4:45am! I’ve explained to my kids how important my career is to my overall health – and their wellbeing. I’ve asked for alone time and tried not to let the guilt pull me back into the driveway.

I asked my colleague and friend, Kathy, who was with me in Springfield, if she thinks there are parallels between MOM and PHARM advocacy. She said, “A few things I’ve learned about being a Mom are that 1) I wear a lot of hats as a Mom and that can be challenging (house manager, school volunteer, basketball coach, etc), 2) there is no rule book for how to be a great Mom, 3) being a Mom often comes with feelings of vulnerability, and most important, 4) I am not alone in feeling like this!  Being a mom has shown me the importance of community and supporting each other since it can be one of the hardest, yet most wonderful aspects of our lives. Involvement with pharmacy organizations has been a great way to communicate my ideas, perspectives and experiences, as well as learn from those of other pharmacists.  And recently getting involved with legislative efforts has shown me that we all have the potential to contribute and how critical our voices are to help important causes to move forward!

Here’s the superheroic takeaway: Going to Springfield reminded me that in all aspects of our lives, there is a skinny black microphone with a button ready for you to push it. When the green light is on, well, you already know what to say.

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist (be.superheroic@gmail.com)

*Are you a pharmacist practicing in Illinois?  The Illinois Pharmacists Association is offering a 10% discount for new members, courtesy of Laura Licari. FYI: she’s only the 7th woman IPhA president since 1880! Use code PRES10 at www.ipha.org.