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A gory day in the life of a locum pharmacist

"As a locum, you do not often get to know specific patients as intimately as a branch manager"

Locum life can throw a lot at you, but even C+D’s newest anonymous blogger didn’t expect his pharmacy to be turned into a make-shift triage centre

I am reluctant to detail too many of my most interesting experiences during my first of, hopefully, many blogs, but I feel it would be good to give you a taste of my life in pharmacy.

As a locum, you do not often get to know specific patients as intimately as a branch manager or regular member of staff. Maybe this is not a bad thing, but it does mean the job can sometimes feel unsatisfying – battling against a tide of prescriptions while trying in vain to remember which drawer the tablet cartons are hiding in, and whether or not you will be paid for a lunch break which you invariably had to forfeit anyway.

Just as the thought of getting a regular, salaried job was crossing my mind for the twenty-seventh time that day, Adam (an 84-year-old man taking warfarin) walked into the pharmacy with his son. Adam’s right hand was wrapped in a large bath towel saturated in blood – I am not exaggerating for comic effect.

Although I believe counter assistants are a great asset to pharmacists and indeed the profession, I thought I should take a look.

Warfarin has not done at all badly for a drug which is, essentially, re-packaged rat poison. However, right now it was having the effect of refusing to allow the bleeding – stemming from the stump of a former thumb – to stop.

Even though I appreciated Adam’s stoicism in persuading his son that the pharmacy was the most appropriate place to seek help, I thought it would be best if he went to hospital.

“Go to A&E! He needs a surgeon, not a pharmacist, there is only so much a dressing can do!” I implored the octogenarian. His son looked on, with a slightly pained expression that said: 'Told you so'.

The gentleman appeared unconcerned, despite the excessive bleeding, and went on to explain how it happened. Adam had been cutting some wood using a circular saw in his shed, when his border collie had excitedly jumped up next to him, knocking his elbow and allowing physics to prove a point which nobody had ever questioned – that a stainless-steel blade revolving 4,400 times per minute is substantially stronger than skin, muscle and even bone. The result of this rather gruesome scene, other than the obvious blood-soaked towel, was that his mortified son now had what remained of his thumb in a tupperware container in his coat pocket.

I eventually did persuade Adam that A&E was his best option and he left for the hospital, but not before buying a packet of cough sweets because: “It could be a long wait there, couldn't it?”

I hoped, for his sake, it was not.

The Locum has worked as community pharmacist in more than 200 pharmacies

The C+D Awards have launched a new category specifically for locums. Find out how to enter here.


Lucinda Jeffries, Community pharmacist

My best was a patients brother coming in to purchase some aspirin. Upon further questioning, I was grateful to intervene when discovering his brother was in the car with chest pain and they thought this might help. I quickly called an ambulance who came promptly to take him into A&E when they put the ecg leads on and found disturbances in his rhythm. Amazing what people think they can “cope” with!!!

Christopher Jay, Community pharmacist

There must be thousands of examples of first aid requests that pharmacists are asked to deal with daily. It's really first class that you looked to see if you could help, I've had numerous cases where first aid was requested by patients when only A and E would suffice. One such was from a market trader who had a huge rotten wooden splinter through the palm of his hand asking me to remove it, tetanus, infection, damage to muscle, bone and tendons all possibilities but he just wanted me to remove it. Too many

pharmacists don't get involved pretending their insurance policy forbids them from doing anything useful. Community pharmacists means just that, don't forget.


Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

The author has written some interesting articles on a day in the life of a locum pharmacist based on his limited experience in 200 pharmacies.Unfortunately the account is hardly representative of the day to day realities of locum life.

Perhaps he should write another account after he has worked in say around 6,000 pharmacies over a period of sround 20 years to see if his views change somewhat?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Might as well get involved. Just add to the list of duties performed for free. Community Pharmacy is getting better day by day.

Andrew Wilner, Hospital Doctor

Great story and nicely written! I've worked many years as a locum tenens physician (neurologist) from the USA, but  didn't realize that pharmacists worked this way as well! I think you definitely gave the correct advice to that patient!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

We used to call that the Friday-Night Special. There was a guarantee that someone would come in after preparing a lovely meal for their significant other and in the process managed to deal significant damage.

Maybe they should have just ordered pizza.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wow! That beats my best which was a butcher who took the tip off his finger with a meat cleaver.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Yes. Funny how there is always a butcher's shop near the pharmacy. Or is it the other way around?

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Never did find out what happened to the tip.....

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Pharmacy Manager
South West London