This week’s Update module focuses on patients with newly diagnosed conditions. Looking through the advice made me think back to my first experience of this ilk and how, at the time, I felt thoroughly unprepared.
During my pre-registration year, a patient asked to speak to the pharmacist. I was sent out to gain experience and guided the patient into the consultation room.
“How can I help you today?”
“I was at the hospital with my fiancé Karl this morning and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”
I was lost for words.
“I was hoping to find out more because we didn’t really take on board what the doctor was saying.”
I had nothing to offer but silence.
“What will this mean for Karl and I?”
My silence was becoming deafening.
The patient was clearly upset and anxious about what the future would hold. As a pharmacist, I should have been supporting her but my panic got the better of me. Flashes of BNF monographs popped into my head; I remembered the lecturer droning on about dopamine agonists and the word ‘tremor’. None of this helped me discuss Parkinson’s disease with a real patient who had a newly diagnosed partner.
Eventually, I managed to regain my wits and briefly explained the nature of this chronic condition. I asked her to come back in with her fiancé at a time that suited them the next day, when I would sit down and talk to them about it in greater detail.
That night, I went home after work and started to gather information on the condition, while mentally preparing myself for the questions the couple would inevitably ask. When I saw them the next day, we discussed the condition, the consequences for them and how treatment would work. Afterwards, they thanked me and genuinely appeared to have benefited from the informal chat. I felt a huge amount of satisfaction from the consultation and hoped I would have more experiences like these in the future.
I can’t recall the last time I set aside time like this for a patient. I don’t know whether this is because I have more knowledge now and do not need spend so long researching a condition, or because the demands of community pharmacy mean I have less time for these ‘chats’. Either way, this week’s Update module has reminded me of the importance of pharmacy in patient care – especially for those with newly diagnosed conditions. On that day, I wasn’t just a man in the dispensary wearing a white lab coat and putting stickers on boxes – instead, I was a trusted healthcare professional helping a family through a tough time.
Read more by Kristoffer Stewart