View from the ground by Sam Akram, MRPharmS IPresc FHEA

akram sam

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Earlier this year, when considering my annual pilgrimage to Ibiza, I dreamed about venturing further afield, where I could learn more about other people’s lives and cultures. I decided to take on a locum role on my day off to lubricate my budget (sad you may say, but there is no hope without struggle). I was offered an ‘exclusive opportunity’ to work in a city centre pharmacy. On my first day I arrived on time, and just from the sheer size of the place, I could see a very busy day ahead of me. Within no time at all, I had the blue scripts labelled and dispensed. There’s nothing quite like measuring out 32 individual doses of methadone, from 30 ml to 110 ml, at 8am after a battle with congested roads!

Later that morning, a lady came into the pharmacy and explained that she had had an earache for almost a week. I took down a history: pain in her left ear for 5 days; fever for the last 2 days; no vomiting; no discharge. I suspected otitis media but I needed a thermometer to check her temperature, and I could have done with an otoscope to look in her ear. I opened the drawers hoping to find a thermometer at least, but all I found was a warehouse-box size of condoms, a chlamydia testing kit, and piles of leaflets on weight loss.

I opened another drawer to find some kind of hand-held device—for a moment it felt like I had won the lottery, until I realised it was a carbon monoxide tester. I spotted a blood pressure machine from the corner of my eye but realised that using it would be a waste of an arm squeeze—it felt a bit like a patient going in to see an aesthetic surgeon for her glabellar lines only to receive a check for Babinski sign, just because the surgeon happened to have a fork in his hand at the time. I referred the patient back to her GP to request further assessment. This was the patient’s third journey back and forth. Unsurprisingly she reappeared 2 hours later with a prescription for a course of antibiotics. The remainder of the busy day flew by in a blur and before I knew it I was heading home.

The following day I noticed a text message from some friends: ‘We’re outside, where are you?’ I realised the message had been sent the previous night. Totally shattered by the locum shift, I had fallen asleep on the sofa and forgotten they were coming over. I decided to stick with Ibiza for one more year!