Sunday, March 25, 2012
Research: Pharmacists and Pharmaceuticals in Your Writing
The Rockville 8 welcomes licensed pharmacist Dave Hopkins to answer questions related to pharmacists and pharmaceuticals. Dave graduated in 1990 from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. In 1993, he completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He has worked in retail pharmacy since 1988 and has been a licensed pharmacist since 1993. Currently, he owns and manages his own retail pharmacy in Maryland which he has done since 2004. Dave answers questions for the Rockville 8.
We welcome your questions as well so if you have any research questions or any other questions, ask away!
1. What things relating to pharmacists or pharmaceuticals are unrealistic when you see them on TV, in a movie, a book or some similar venue?
Actually, I rarely see pharmacists portrayed on TV or in literature. The TV series 2 and ½ Men had a periodic pharmacist role and he was usually seen taking furtive sips from a codeine cough syrup bottle. Amusing but not really flattering or realistic. And of course who could forget the impoverished pharmacist who sold Romeo the poison with which he ultimately committed suicide? More flattering characters can be found most anywhere. I Googled the topic and there are several web pages that discuss the lack of pharmacists in fictional literature and I have included one of them here.
2. What is a common misconception the general public has regarding pharmacists?
I think, historically, we are often perceived as boring, curmudgeonly old men who hide in our pharmacy lab, avoiding the general populace. In a more contemporary setting we are seen as harried, overstressed gatekeeper’s who keep someone from getting their medication and blaming it on ‘insurance restrictions’ or the like.
3. What is your favorite part and what is your least favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is interacting with my patients and improving their health outcomes through my knowledge of pharmaceuticals. I always enjoy answering health related questions and get a real satisfaction when I can positively affect someone either through question/answer or by the medication I provide. My least favorite part is dealing with insurance companies. Despite what many people seem to think we don’t get a thrill from telling you your refill is too early or some medication isn’t on your insurance plans formulary. While I can empathize with someone over their frustration, I also must say my least favorite part of the job is being barked at over insurance issues, mainly since I have no control over them.
4. Beside you, what resources are there available to writers if they have a question?
All states have local pharmacist associations. In addition there is the American Pharmacist’s Association as well as several other national pharmacy trade groups. Most pharmacies receive free trade publications (such as Drug Topics) which describe current trends in the pharmacy profession. Finally every state also has a board of pharmacy which regulates all pharmacists as well as pharmacies operating in the state. In Maryland the board of pharmacy falls under the purview of The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the website is www.mdbop.org.
5. What would you like to tell writers that we haven’t covered here?
Pharmacists often work in different settings and have different skill sets accordingly. I have spent the bulk of my career working in retail pharmacy settings and my skills are very different than a pharmacist who has spent many years working in a hospital, a long term care facility, or perhaps a mental health facility. The one thing that remains constant among any competent pharmacists is the knowledge of medications and the uncanny ability to read extremely poor handwriting. This includes dosing, side effects, and their prescribed uses (yes when you get an antibiotic filled the pharmacist knows where and what your infection is based on the antibiotic prescribed). If you wish to have a hospital pharmacist in your writing then you should sit and talk to a hospital pharmacist about their job. The same goes for a pharmacist in any other setting. Most pharmacists are more than ready to talk about what they do and the amount of training they received in order to do it.
I hope this was helpful, after all I would love to see a story someday that had a pharmacist as the protagonist, or at least a secondary character more flattering than Shakespeare’s pharmacist.
Posted by Lisa McQuay
I have a husband, child, and a full-time job. As an adult it's nice to write down the stories in my head rather than let Barbie act them out. She doesn't have much range as an actress. Though she does have some great clothes.