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Vacational Work: Retail VS Community

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Ah, so this holiday time of year is upon is again, where people are more miserable than ever and even less understanding - in my opinion. Anyway enough of this Grinch talk. I like this time of year - there's nothing more appealing to an enthusiastic pharmacy student (like me!) than a busy dispensary. It's also pleasant to go back to the same pharmacy I worked in at the summer.

But seriously, work is busy. I know the country seems like it stops for a couple of days but is that really a valid reason to double up scripts? In some ways I find it funny. "The surgery’s shut for two days. Quickkkk! Bombarded the receptionists! I want my prescriptions and I want them now!" I suppose this bit of a moan comes from thinking about the differences between community and retail pharmacy whilst working. Some of you may say it is the same. But I don't think it is. The ideology is different surely?

I see retail pharmacy as a supply and demand type thing (which community pharmacy is really – it’s still a business). In this case, the drugs treating the patients disease-states and maintaining the patients well being are not important. The drugs are material possessions;
like clothes or food items. Supply is plentiful (OK not some branded lines) but there is a rush to get them as soon as possible without really knowing anything about them. Customers come, get and go.

University is not preparing me for this type of pharmacy in my opinion. I am not saying my university is not adequate or that the MPharm course is not appropriate for those students/pharmacists in 'retail'. If I wanted to run a business I would choose a subject where the profit is not at the expense of my client’s health. I’m not saying this is what retail is but it has crossed my mind a few times.

Community pharmacy is different to that of retail. Community considers the patient, their condition and well-being. It means being pro-active and building up a reputation/relationship with the individual to improve their condition (not ensure loyalty to a 'company'). In this idea all pharmacists should be in agreement, even though the reality of this idea is not what community pharmacy can be due to practicality issues. Reasons for this may include; lack of time, limited number of staff, increased script numbers and less pay due to contractual changes (not that I know much about this as a student, it's just a possible reason).

As a student the theory/idea of community pharmacy appeals to me, however the reality is far from theory in my eyes. MURs and NMS may be great ways to develop community pharmacy but these services are not without flaws. I think with any service community pharmacy offers - it takes two to tango. By this I mean both pharmacists and patients need to be pro-active. But how can you influence patients to be pro-active? The opposite side to this is argument is how do you ensure that a service is being given to the individual who needs it and not just for the financial benefit a company may receive?

Gosh. Blogging is difficult; I end up spending time drifting around in my thoughts than I do writing. Pharmacy philosophy - I think I need to get out more. Anyway everything I’ve written above is based on my opinion; I think I’m starting to get a bit too sceptical already. I hope other students have noticed the differences in teaching of community pharmacy versus that of practicality. I would hate that it’s just me going on a crazy tangent again!

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