Our patients with addiction often feel little more than ‘animals’ in the pharmacy — we must change
"I just want you guys to know this: you are by far the best chemist that I've been to. I know we are addicts and that, but that doesn't mean we have to be treated like animals, so thanks for being kind with people like us."
Hearing this as a trainee pharmacist, I thought to myself, what has happened to our profession -- which many regard as their go-to healthcare provider -- for our patients to expect to be treated as less than human?
At the start of my training year, one group of people who came into the pharmacy, who were really patient with me, and understood my inexperience, were patients with an addiction prescription.
"No worries, me duck. You take your time. You'll be caring properly for others soon!"
These patients helped me ease into my new workplace, and their willingness to talk to me about their other medicines allowed me to build rapport with them, while improving my consultation skills too.
So, it was harrowing to find out that these patients were being looked down upon and even told to come through the back door to get their methadone supply. As a pharmacy student, I never expected to hear stories like these.
By talking to these patients, I learned that coming to collect their prescriptions gives them some normality in their lives. With many of them homeless and out of work, the pharmacy seems to give them a glimmer of a more stable life.
They are always keen to hear how my studies are coming along, and conversations have given me insight into their lives too. While this group are disengaged from society as a whole, they really value our relationships: "Tell you what, you guys aren't half brilliant."
Treating these people with respect is enshrined in the principles set by our regulator, but my story resonates with other preregistration pharmacists I've talked to. They have heard pharmacy staff calling the names of addiction patients aloud, and apologising to other patients and customers about the individuals' appearances.