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The patient who changed me even before I became a pharmacist

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Source: JL / The Pharmaceutical Journal

My practice was shaped and changed by a patient before I even started pharmacy school; the patient who made me the professional I am today was my uncle.

During my teens, he developed terminal lung and colorectal cancer. We were lucky that we spent many years together after his diagnosis and I believe part of the reason for that was his doctor.

To this day, my family and I remember the doctor who helped him at every step of the journey. She was there not only to prescribe his medication, but also to be an ear to his worries, a hand to hold and even, I think, a friend. She visited him at the end of his life while he was at home, not because she had to, but because she wanted to. She had not only helped my uncle but also helped my family. I know my mam felt better when she visited; she at least didn’t have to worry about his care because nothing ever had to be chased up or fixed. My mam’s time wasn’t wasted on the phone to prescription lines or out-of-hours GPs. Instead, those precious minutes were spent by his side and that is a gift that could never be repaid.

It meant a lot to my uncle that he had that person there. He never felt like a number or an inconvenience, and if there was ever something he felt he couldn’t ask of us, he knew she was there to ask. Having terminal cancer is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, but her ongoing support made it a little bit easier.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but my uncle inspired me to make sure I have a positive impact on the world.

When we are in a pharmacy, behind the counter or on the phone, it is easy to forget about the person on the other side, with a family, a life, and problems we could never imagine. And sometimes those people get stressed or angry or frustrated, but when they do, I always think of what my family went through and what everyone else could be going through too. And it is because of that I have always tried to do that little bit extra. I’ve spent time with patients who seem to be struggling, and contacted key workers and GPs for extra support.

Pharmacy can be stressful and difficult, but I try to have patience in everything I do. If I can make the impact that my uncle felt, even in one patient, I think I will have done a good job.

emma boxer

Emma Boxer, preregistration pharmacist, University of Sunderland, and Whickham Pharmacy [now qualified]

Emma’s piece is the winner in the student and preregistration pharmacist category of our 2019 writing competition ‘The Patient Who Changed My Practice’.

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