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Why I won't be marking World Pharmacists Day

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When is a pharmacist like a pirate? When it’s September, it seems. Pharmacists across the globe will be ‘celebrating’ World Pharmacists Day on 25 September. Only a week earlier, on September 19, people had rejoiced on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

As far as I’m concerned they’re both utterly pointless.

I hate special days. I hate their arbitrary nature, selected for celebration by some stuffy and disinterested committee. I hate their ubiquitous presence, how every single spot on the calendar is occupied by a different ‘day’ battling for attention. And most of all I hate the way they can’t stick to being a single day, but must gravitate out to encompass weeks, months or even years.

I understand why they exist. Charities desperately need to raise awareness of the issues they campaign about; a day of action allows you to focus your attention and create shockwaves. In a similar way to a social media thunderclap (when everyone sends the same message at once), a single impact can pierce the public consciousness and, if you’re lucky, make the national headlines.

The problem is that every issue wants to make this impact. Many valid voices are trying to get your attention, and the result is a mess. Desperate for greater awareness, charity issue days turned into months, and now different camps are in active competition when, really, they should be united; different charities will celebrate a ‘day’ for the same issue at opposite ends of the calendar.

There’s an interesting parallel with history, too. In the middle ages field workers got feasts day off. While we only have eight bank holidays, your typical peasant could have 10 times that many as various saints were venerated. Soon these days stop being about their individual causes, and simply about marking something. Today we’ve reached the same level of saturation, as Star Wars Day (4 May – see if you can work out why) plainly shows.

Does International Pharmacists Day change anything? No. Are most people aware of its existence? Probably not. And would it matter if they were? I doubt it.

Pharmacists would be better served doing as they always do: working tirelessly for their patients, regardless of the day of the year. International Pharmacists Day is little more than a smear in the diary, and its groan-inducing existence should be marked like any other: by strong, evidence-based practice from trusted health professionals.

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