Do you ever feel like you are out of sync with those around you, or that you are constantly stepping on people’s toes? As a locum pharmacist – not based in any one place – I regularly do.
I won’t deny that when I arrive to work at a new pharmacy, I’m hoping for a straightforward day, without missing CD scripts, staff absences or a patient kicking off because I (the store) forgot to order a prescription for 84 strawberry Fortisip the day before I arrived.
But the feeling of being out of kilter with a pharmacy isn’t just down to a difficult day, but a sense of being out of step with the rest of the pharmacy team. To my eyes, the full-time technicians, dispensers and counter staff all move through the pharmacy with a grace and awareness that I haven’t mastered, and it often makes me look like a bull in a china shop.
As a locum in a new pharmacy, I am not allowed to join the fray. Instead, on arrival I am swiftly shown to the counter, and told I will remain there all day. They will indicate where the toilet is in relation to my current position, and – if I’m lucky – they offer me tea.
I check my prescriptions and speak to patients when appropriate, and everything generally goes smoothly. At least until I find I have been given a wrong item – the wrong strength inhaler, for example. At this point I think: “No problem, I will look after this myself. I am a self-sufficient locum pharmacist.”
I gaze around me and try to locate where the inhalers are kept. I have to ask for help twice. When I eventually find them, I knock over a precariously piled tower of Spiriva, and have to pick them up under the impatient gaze of an accuracy checking technician.
When I finish cleaning up the mess I caused, I rush back to the ‘safe space’ I was allocated. In my haste, I nearly topple a technician who is zooming round the pharmacy searching for a special that was delivered that morning. She looks at me suspiciously after accepting my apologies.
Sometimes I think I am not suited to the transient life of a locum. I think back to the last time I was in one place for a long time – during my pre-registration year. I wonder if back then I was able to anticipate the movements of my colleagues. Was I part of the choreography?
I do notice that when I locum for a prolonged period in the same store, I bump into pharmacy staff less often, and they grow more tolerant of my invasive presence.
Is this because they have finally given in and adapted to me? Or is it because I’m finally starting to move to their groove?
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