REALITIES OF AN INTERN PHARMACIST
Back then in pharmacy school, I remember walking into the microbiology laboratory for the first lab session of the day. Every pharmacy student, especially those from the premier pharmacy school knows how tough it is to prepare for micro labs, your lab notes, your lab coat, lab kits and all, everything check!! Before you are allowed in.
I remember walking in and as unusual as it seems, one of the first comments Dr. Akinkunmi bellowed out that year, was that. "I guarantee, you all will be disappointed when you finally become pharmacists and you get out there". A rude awakening at that time, but I came to understand that fact when I graduated and of course, started internship.
Before I started, there were movements especially during the high points of covid-19 to get a place for locum. It was in vogue, and there was this excitement about getting to practise all I have learned in school. But little did I know that out here, it's a different ball game entirely. It was a rude awakening for me.
Worst of it all, was someone suggesting he would be paying me 500 naira per day. Never have I heard of this before. I would literally be getting my own 2k after the week. My thoughts were in the lines of, I did not go through all that rigor in OAU to be told this. I would rather stay in my house, type for long hours, rack my head and make some money. The see finish 🙄. To be fair, some others promised to call me, but we all know how it goes around here now.
So sooner than later, colleagues started getting internship spots and of course, I had to find a way around mine too. It was all stealth moves, as everyone saw it as a form of competition. It was all hush hush, and all I kept seeing was status updates, thought we were all affected by this Corona virus. Mine had to take lots of calls, lobbying and the visiting of strange offices. At some point, I questioned the rationale behind all these. Is it that important? And some even had it worse.
I had to start making some moves too. I started spreading my documents around. Of course, I would have more chances if I applied to more places. And to think I was only a distinct student passing through pharmacy school. So quantity over quality; at this point. Boy, I did spread them all around.
Some of these places were very far from home, and parents quickly voiced their concerns. I mean it was during the thick of covid-19 and restrictions. So these were very valid fears. Dad was so sure i would contact covid in one of my travels, and then come home to infect everyone 😔.
Well, to cut it short, one of my seniors called me and was like hey, the teaching hospital in your state needs intern pharmacists too, and they pay reasonably well. Let's not do the dollar conversion though. Got the call that morning, and I hurried into my clothes and zoomed off to the hospital. Submitted my documents and after weeks of going back and forth, I was accepted and the journey started.
As soon as internship started, one of the first things was everyone's obsession with my hair. I spot a cool ass Afro cut, and everyone seemed to have an issue with that. Hey! Dont you know you are a pharmacist now, your hair cannot be like this. You are not a thug! These were some of the common words, and I wondered how my hair affected my learning. The few times I had issues with it, was when mum thought sars was going to arrest me some day. Valid fear if you ask me.
Took days, before I complied; but we move still. In the initial months, it was hard to keep up with the 8'o clock time for resumption in the morning. It was really serious. Well, after series of yabs here and there,it has been sorted. Then now to the nitty gritty of the work.
It was not long before I discovered that the hours I put in, the running up and down to get medications and medical consumables available for patients did not correlate to the fee I was being paid at the end. This was also going to take up space, I mean it was at the centre of everything I do. Conversations withered, and I failed to keep up with many promises.
The side hustle also took a hit, as I was messing up deadlines with my freelancing, at that time. Specifically, I still think if tony had a chance, he will kill me. Pharmacists are also grossly underpaid in a system that pays councillors far higher than even professors. Trust me to chip in one or two words about nigeria. You are always a means to an end in the healthcare sector, and I quickly got that.
The monotonous nature of the work soon came to fore; I certainly will not be spending my life sitting behind a screen and pushing pills. Pharmacy school training sure thought us more than all that. Where is the versatility in the profession?
I didn't study pharmacy for this. But I must confess, things are changing though and it can only get better. Dont get me wrong, hospital pharmacists are a wonderful bunch of people. Probably the best sets of pharmacists you will meet. But more needs to be done in the aspect of welfare.
Another thing I quickly learned was that patients differ, and on most occasions, smiling more than frowning gets you into trouble. I was almost lynched the other time; when you are coming to work, you leave your other concerns aside. The patient is your priority. There were always some good days though.
On these good days, you get to meet some folks who like what you do, and understand that sometimes you might be fatigued by it, while on other days, you meet some other folks, who think you are there to rip them off their hard earned cash. Well, some pray for you when they get their drugs on time, or you help resize, trim some sachets of drugs to fit their budget.
There are some times you also get unexpected offers of some promising to introduce you to their daughters for marriage. Another wanted to recharge my line. All these little gestures, sometimes makes it worth it.
One thing I also learnt was that as you meet a lot of people, you have to make sure no matter what they say to you, it does not affect you or mess up your day. There are other times, humanity gets the best of me, you just add some money to help a patient complete his or her meds and they dont stop praying for you, but how many can I help. The need for a stable health insurance that covers everyone. We cant state this enough.
As an intern pharmacist, you get to actually review prescriptions. Some you review with the senior pharmacist in charge, and some you review with the doctor. Well, contrary to what I have always known, there are actually some lovely doctors, you review their prescription, and they come and thank you in person, or they send a thank you note.
I was going on and on about malaria treatments with my new doctor friend the other day. Although I am still "chief" to him, and he is "leader" to me. We have not exchanged contacts, probably till the holy spirit comes through.
I feel this is long enough, as I still have many tales but just know, the night calls are the worst. You get a break in your first month, and after, you are fully brought on board. For the night calls, drama is on another level, from the many pregnant women coming in, and of course you have to prepare their pregnancy kits, To the folks who always thinks you are too slow. I am the only one serving all of you here, and my license is still young. What to do chief?
Nights calls are crazy, from 7, you are chilling and by 9 boom, everything becomes crazy. It's like everyone is suddenly sick at once. Lots of talk and all; well I lock the doors though, I cant fight. I have lots of stories, and I think I might have to write a book when I am done with this phase.
It has been a mixture of both the good and bad, as expected. But one reconciling fact is that the nigerian healthcare sector is severely underfunded and attention needs to be paid in time. The other day, I met some folks who were delayed because they could not offset a bill of #6000. Where are the talks on health insurance leading to?
Lest I forget, I do stir up political conversations from time to time with anyone that cares to listen. Twitter will not put me on trouble. I have managed to avoid queries, at least for now. Well, till I come again, with more tales, selah😎.