Bringing Theory into Practice – The Post-Master Life of a Clinical Pharmacist

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July 22nd, 2015 – I still have a vivid memory about that day asI sat in one corner of the Cruciform Building, University College London and stared at my computer screen, showing a word document entitled ‘Dissertation.docx’. After a moment of praying, I hit the enter button to send the command to the printer. Five minutes (and seventeen British pound sterling) later, I had two hard copies of my dissertation in my hand, ready to be bound, submitted, and of course, marked!

That was the end of my sleepless nights in London. That day marked the end of my academic journey in the Master of Clinical Pharmacy, International Practice and Policy programme at University College London. While walking down Euston Road to reach Brunswick Square, where my campus is, I felt the amazement sparked inside me. I could finally complete all the tasks from the school! Now I’m only a mark away from the MSc title!

I still remember all the time I spent inside the school’s library to read journals, finish the assignments and do the revision. I love libraries the most, as I always have a hard time not to procrastinate in my own bed room, because bed rooms are for bed time business and one cannot simply use it to be productive. Thankfully, UCL (and London) provided me more than enough places to study and concentrate on my assignments.

I have to admit, doing the MSc has not been  an easy task. I did the battle not only physically, but also mentally. There were times when I felt so low, especially when they announced the mark for a particular assignment or exam. When this low time came, crying was the only remedy that worked well for me.With such an enormous effort, I believe I could easily gain the A-mark in Indonesia. But here? even a 70 out of a 100 worth a celebration!

But God’s will is beautiful in His time; those hard works were very well paid off with a Merit qualification for me! I officially graduated as an MSc! Yay! And as a present to myself, I did a UK and Europe trip shortly before I left London and went back to Indonesia.

Going Back to Indonesia

While some people have the intention to stay in the UK after they graduate, since the beginning my plan is to go back to Indonesia. Why? First, my study was funded by a scholarship from the Indonesian government (LPDP scholarship). Second, my qualification as a pharmacist is only valid within Indonesia territorial. And third (oh, pardon my blushing cheeks), because someone is waiting for me to walk down the aisle and tie the lifetime knot! September 17th, 2015 – I looked down to see Jakarta from the Garuda Indonesia’s window, and after 22 hours up in the air, I finally reached the country that I proudly call home.

Job Hunting Drama

The first two weeks after I arrived in Indonesia was my ‘honeymoon’ time. I did not care so much about getting a new job. I preferred to enjoy most of my time, did all the things I could not do while I was abroad (including spent a whole day in beauty salon and did head-to-toe treatment for less than Rp400.000, or £20), ate every delicacies I could not enjoy abroad (Mom’s home cooking!). But after two weeks lived a paradise-like life, I started to be aware that I have limited saving in my pocket, so I could not be unemployed for too long. I left my previous job prior to my departure to London; thus, I came back to Indonesia as an unemployed person. My master majors in the work of pharmacist in a hospital, and I planned to stick to the area. Since I was in London, I already have a list consisting of the hospital names to hunt for. My major, clinical pharmacy, is quite new to hospital life in Indonesia, and as far as I know, not every hospital has the post for clinical pharmacy’s work.

Applications had been sent to the promising employers, LinkedIn profile had been updated. I checked my mailbox once every fifteen minutes and my phone was always in my hand as Idid not want to miss any little update. Then the first interview call came! I lived in my parent’s home in Bandung back then and the interview took place in Jakarta, so I travelled a day before by car and slept over at my friend’s house in Jakarta. I was so excited for this interview because the hospital is one of the largest in the city and the reputation was well acknowledged.

However, fate did not favour me that time. I got very bad diarrhoea the night before the interview! I suspected it happened due to the unhygienic food I bought that night, and I think my stomach was not ready for the transition between London to Jakarta’s air. And that condition surely was the worst state to be in when doing a three-hour physiological test, I had cold sweat during the test and my stomach hurt a lot. As I predicted, I did not make it. But thankfully, another chance came some days after and I did not want to ruin it anymore. I really took care of my health and performance. So, I passed the physiological test stage, I did the user interview smoothly and few days later they informed me that I was accepted!

When I was about to prepare to sign the contract, unexpectedly, I received another two offers from two different hospitals! They were very tempting, due to the hospitals’ reputation and prestige. After some consideration, I decided to go for the offers, and surprisingly, the tests were held on the same day; one in the morning and the other one in the afternoon. It was quite tiring to go through two tests and interviews in one day, but thank God I made it! I got accepted in those hospitals as well, but finally I chose the hospital where I currently work.

When it comes to the question of ‘does the abroad master’s degree title help while searching for a job?’, I’ve been thinking, it does help during the screening stage: the employers may put your resume in their priority list, expecting that you have the ‘international flavours’ you can bring to the working environment. But at last, it always depends on the person’s personality. An abroad title does not necessarily mean superiority over the local ones; it’s the person’s overall outlook that will help the employers decide. Thus, do not take the master’s degree title for granted; do well, behave well, and that will stregthen your degree qualification wherever you got it from.

Conquering the New Place

Working as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital is both challenging and rewarding! (Photo Courtesy of Pixabay)
Working as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital is both challenging and rewarding! (Photo Courtesy of Pixabay)

Every one shall agree that working in a new place is full of challenges. You meet new colleagues, new rules and new environment. I always regard myself as an easy going person, but still, I experienced that sort of hardship in my new workplace. I am placed as a clinical pharmacist in the critical care unit. The works that I do here is pretty much the same with what I did during my hospital placement in London (you can read my previous post here about my master year here). I do the ward visit, monitor patient’s medications use as well as coordinate with doctors and nurses to bring the best of the medications for the patient.

The first few weeks were quite hard. And may I remind you, this is critical care unit. The cases are more complicated than in the usual ward; working in this unit requires advanced knowledge and critical thinking. After office hour, no matter how tired I am, I try to have some time to study, to deepen my understanding of the cases I met earlier that day.

In hospital life and health care practice, we talk about experience. No matter how bright you are academically, little experience will be less favourable. Experience is the best teacher to know variety of diseases and patients’ condition. And unfortunately, I was ‘green’; my experience was much less than the doctors and nurses in my work place. Thus, at first I felt that I was not really welcomed in the team. It’s the same, with or without me. Moreover, as I said earlier, not every hospital is familiar with clinical pharmacist work. It made me have to do extra effort to be recognised by the team. And of course, the only way to achieve that is to be a reliable clinical pharmacist. I have been trying my best to prevent medication errors, to provide trustworthy information about medications for the doctors before they make their decisions for the patient’s therapy.

Everything is Beautiful in Its Time

Day by day passed unknowingly, and now it is my 13th month working in the hospital. Thankfully, I have made a lot of progress! I got the ‘acceptance’ from the critical care doctors and nurses. I feel now I am more acknowledged as part of the team. When it comes to problems regarding patient’s medication, I will be the first person they call. The questions vary, sometimes about the physical compatibility between two or more drugs (critical care patients can receive as much as twenty drugs in a day!), sometimes about the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics profile of the drugs. And may I remind you, the calls can come anytime, even at 2 AM or six hours before my wedding matrimony! And I have to pick up those calls and provide the answers ASAP  since there is critical patient in the other line who demands quick response.

But truthfully speaking, I don’t have any objection. It’s my task and responsibility as a pharmacist. And it’s an honour for me to contribute to patients’ care! Working in health care area is not always about making money. One should have at least a glimpse of passion there. As its name says, it’s about caring to people. And that is my everyday reminder to myself; that I work not only for the purpose of making my life, but also for other people’s life.