Trials of an Intern

Nearly a year ago, I started the learning process to become a Pharmacy Technician. From February last year to December, I was in class, learning all the crap needed to make me capable to handle drugs, understand the mechanics of various diseases, the legal aspects of the pharmacy, and a bunch of other shit that is in a pile of books and papers on the shelf on the other side of my room.

This past month, I’ve been putting all that to actual work experience. As part of my course, I’m doing an internship in a retail and hospital pharmacy. This month, I’ve been working in retail.

For anyone who has worked retail in any field of employment knows that dealing with people can vary from good, even enjoyable, to down-right painful and homicidal. Add to that all the knowledge and responsibility of handling substances that can treat people’s illnesses, or potentially kill them. Oh joy.

I have to write a report of my experiences as part of the course. I’m sure it will be nice and diplomatic.

This isn’t gonna be that kind of report. Mind you, this won’t be nasty or anything like that. It will be just my experience, sans bullshit.

First off, let’s start with me. To say I was stressed about starting would be like saying The Planet formerly known as Pluto is kinda far away. I was sweating. I had a headache. I was a mess. I was afraid everything I barely knew from class would be utterly forgotten when I stepped behind the pharmacy counter.

Thankfully, the majority of the people I was working with were unbelievably patient. I think they could tell I was nervous, with all the sweating and panic-stuck look in my eyes. They were supportive, but didn’t always hand me the answers. They let me make mistakes, weren’t afraid to point them out, but in a supportive way, as so that I’d learn from it. I wasn’t the quickest study, but I did catch on.

Notice I said “majority”? Well, there was one person who wasn’t as supportive or understanding. I’ll call this person “Larry” (my favourite go-to name). As the weeks passed, Larry tried to follow the pharmacist’s example of helping when I needed it. But more often than not, Larry was short with me and showed contempt for my very existence. Imagine a tubby, sweaty slob of an uncool teenager plopping themselves down beside the coolest, most elitist girl in high school. Imagine how she would look upon such an invasion of her personal space, like that tubby teen was a walking-talking plague. That is how Larry would talk to me. Larry was the prissy drama queen, I was the tubby teen.

The funny thing is, I felt, and still feel bad, for Larry. He was great with customers, knew the system and the drugs. But as I learned in the year of in-class time, just because you seem to know everything, doesn’t mean you actually know everything. As I’ve been told numerous times, the pharmacy world is small. Good word of mouth travels slightly slower than bad. Hopefully, as Larry gets older and matures a bit, he’ll realize this and makes sure to treat “everyone” with respect and patient, not just the patients.

Another thing I learned during my time was that patients can be utterly clueless about the medicines they are putting into themselves. Yes, I understand some of the drug names can be long and hard to pronounce. I’ll forever have a hard time saying many of their names. But if I was taking them for some reason, I would make sure I knew what they were and why I was taking them. Many patients are knowledgeable. But some have no clue at all. They walk up, and ask for a refill. When you ask them which prescription, they mutter what they think the name is, or describe that they were the little red and white ones, but now they are the little blue and white ones. *sigh*

I think the most important thing I have learned since I started my internship is that all the stuff I learned in class makes up about one-third of what I actually do in the pharmacy. Medical terminology and anatomy, not used at all in retail. The computer system does the majority of the things my class struggled with. The important things that are relevant in the retail pharmacy, like the legal stuff and the details of the health care system, were glossed over too quickly. In short, if I had applied for a position as a pharmacy assistant, worked in the field, I’d probably have learned more practical and required information in a year than sitting in class. But I guess these private colleges have to make their money somehow.

I still have one more week in my retail placement. I’m hoping it will go by quickly and painlessly. I originally thought retail was where I wanted to go. Now, I’m not so sure. I have no idea what my hospital placement will be like, but hopefully, when it is all said and done, I can get a decent job so I can put my focus back where I want it.

On writing!

By the way, I wonder where I’d be if the employment councillor had supported me in finding a writing-related job, instead of ignoring my choice and suggesting I choose a career from her list? Yeah, it was my choice, but if she had allowed me to follow my strength, instead of filling a quota, maybe I’d be closer to something exciting, instead of just another job.


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