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Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.

September 16, 2008


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   The joys of moving from theory to practice. 

   I had a strange dream last night, allow me to tell you. Don’t worry, it’s related to pharmacy, even only a little. In the dream, I was in the pharmacy, standing in the dispensary and musing over the BNF, when a man with long black hair strode up holding a Minstrel aloft. A minstrel, that is, as in the sweet.

I looked at him, trying to figure out what he was up to when he gave me a prescription. It called for a powder to be compounded. Normally I’d call the pharmacist over, but this was my dream. 

‘OK’, said I, ‘I can do this for you. Have you had this before?’

   ‘Yes’, said the man and asked whether the powder could be sweetened with the minstrel. I took the minstrel (I told you this was a strange dream, so bear with me). A lecturer from my college showed up and told me to triturate it in a mortar, but the mortar was behind the tills near the front of the pharmacy. I went over and started triturating the Minstrel, but somehow it started multiplying. My dream skipped a beat and I found myself surrounded by Minstrel powder.

   ‘Argh!’, I remember thinking.  The powder was in piles around the counter. I was worried about being marked down for making excess. I had to hide the evidence. I started scooping up the minstrel powder and putting it onto a shelf under the tills. The lecturer came over and, as I had guessed, wasn’t happy at all about the excess Minstrel. ‘This is not in the Pharmacopoeia!’ I said, somehow trying to make up for all this.   I had to bin the Minstrel powder, so I ran in and out of the shop, depositing it near some bushes (I have no idea where the bushes came from, since the pharmacy is in an industrial estate. The last I remember of the dream is sitting in the pharmacy, feeling depressed and wondering if I should have gone into illustration instead. 

  These past two weeks have been interesting, to say the least. I edged my way slowly into the dispensary and have been getting to know all the Prescription Only Medicines and the way the MPS computer program works. We use McLernon’s MPS in the pharmacy.  This is how you use it: it opens up to a general tab where you can enter in your patient’s surname. If they have been there before, their name will come up in an automatic list and you can select it and go straight to the ‘Enter New Script’ selection. If not, you can enter a new patient. For this you put in their name, address, GMS number (if applicable) and their date of birth if they’re a child. You can then go through to the Scripts part. Here, you select the Scheme they’re claiming under, or if they’re private, then ‘private script’ is selected. From there you can type in the product. It should come up. Now and then it doesn’t. It might be under ‘ethical’ rather than ‘personal’.  I’m still not sure what that means, but I need to find out.

     The most common script that comes in is GMS, followed by private scripts and coming behind both of those, the EU claims and Hospital Emergency or Long Term Illness. It doesn’t hurt to have some background knowledge of how the schemes work before you set foot into the dispensary.

       For these of you who are planning their first Boots Summer Expedition, here’s how the drugs in the dispensary are divided- or, at least how they’re divided in this pharmacy. In the very back, you have a fridge in which you’ll find things like some antibiotics, vaginal rings,  suppositories and so on. Above this fridge is the selection of  birth control pills. The most commonly prescribed of these are Noriday, Yasmin, Yasminelle and Cilest. You have to watch out for Noriday, though, since it’s taken once a day only, whereas the others are taken twice a day. Beside the birth control is the antibiotic section. Most times they come as powders, to be made up by the pharmacist. On the label it states how much water to qs. Remember to shake vigorously and tap the bottom before you make it up, though, otherwise it sticks to the bottom and you won’t be able to get it off!

   On the wall beneath the antibiotics in our pharmacy is a list of the different antibiotics and the therapeutic programme for each. Particular care needs to be taken with pediatric drug management, so those have to be checked in the BNF. There’s a childrens’ BNF out as well as the adult BNF, so we use that.

    The main drug drawers are arranged alphabetically by dosage form- the tablets, then the creams, gels, lotions, suppositories, eyedrops, nosedrops, inhalers….sometimes this changes depending on the drug and you’ll find Codis behind Nu-seals, for example, because they both contain aspirin. Keep an eye out for quirks like this.


Time to explain the title of this blog post. When you’re sitting in the lecture hall, lights dimmed, people around you talking about the movie they went to see last night and the red pinpoint of the laser pointer whizzing around the projected slide, the material on the slide seems about as far from reality as it’s possible to be. You don’t feel connected to the material and it’s easy to think to yourself, ‘How/when/why am I ever going to need this?’ when confronted with yet another kinetics problem to solve. I haven’t yet had to use kinetics in the pharmacy, but that’s not to say I never will. Working here has been fantastic for my pharmacology memorization skills- looking at names of drugs all day does aid in learning them. Of most use so far though, has been Practice of Pharmacy. The hours spent in front of the computer figuring out the fine details and loopholes of each Health Scheme available from the HSE does come to fruition. This makes me happy- my time there has not been wasted! 

    One of the pharmacists there is a year older than me and I found out she’s moving back to Dublin in September. We’re planning on going for a few coffees together- it’s always nice making new friends!  She went to Trinity, so she’s giving me a few helpful pointers for the year ahead, always good to know.

      Well, that’s it for the last two weeks. It sounds abbreviated, but believe me, it takes up a lot of time just getting accustomed to the dispensary. The BNF is my new best friend. 

Only two more weeks to go- it’s strange to think of my time in Boots Westport nearing its end. I’m settled in and I’ve made friends with the people working here. I’ll be sad to leave and to go back to watching my bank account nosediving like a lemming on a mission. 

Remember the Fish Oil clinical trials? Well, it turns out one of the main problems with taking something to improve your memory is that you forget to take them.

    Maybe I should look into getting some compliance aids for myself. I’ve found that putting them near something I use a lot (the kettle, my handbag) seems to help. The trials continue. 

     Until next week— 


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