As this post is being published, we are right in the middle of National Pharmacy Week, into the second half of American Pharmacy Month, a day after Pharmacy Technicians Day and a week and day since we celebrated Women in Pharmacy Day. A lot of honors, commemorations, and recognitions have taken place across the country in pharmacy - in hospitals, in retail stores, throughout communities, and on social media. We’ve done well to mark the occasion, to thank each other, to cheer each other on, and to motivate one another. Now what are your plans for next month?
Life, unlike sports seasons, goes on all year, every day, every hour. It is nice to be able to spend a month educating the public of our responsibilities to them and reminding them on what we do. Many organizations take advantage of Pharmacy Month to honor those working in their pharmacies with service awards and special recognitions, and that too is nice. Come November 1 the work of pharmacy will continue and it may go on for another 11 months before somebody again takes time to remember those working in the basement of the hospital or in the far corner of the supermarket, tirelessly doing the work of pharmacy, ensuring the safe and effective use of medicine in our patients. If there is any encouragement to maintain that tireless pace without getting too tired, it must come from us.
A favorite story of encouragement is the tale of the two men sharing a room in a nursing home. Call them Bill and Phil.
These two men share a room and much more. There both are quite infirmed, extremely limited in movement, restricted not just to their room but to their beds. They have no family; no visitors come. Their only distractions are their own conversations. Bill is assigned the bed nearer the door. He cannot move from a laying position and has been on his back for as long as anyone remembers. Phil, placed next to the window, is allowed to sit up in bed for one hour every day to allow fluid in his lungs to drain. The other 23 hours he must lay flat.
One afternoon many years ago, as Phil is raised to his sitting position, his roommate Bill, anxious for a view of anything but the ceiling above, asked him what he saw, and thus began a tradition that continued to this day. Each day, Phil, in his raised position, describes scenes from the outside world – the blossoms in the spring, the bright colors of summer, the falling leaves in autumn, the crisp snow of the winters. He tells of children playing, animals scurrying, young lovers holding hands taking in all around them. Whatever the season, whatever the weather, there is always something special happening outside that window, and for those half hours Bill would struggle in bed, tensing and releasing his muscles, building his strength little by imperceptibly little, working toward the day when he would be strong enough to lift himself, and join his friend looking out on the world.
On this morning the aide comes in to wake the gentlemen and discovers Phil had passed away during the night. She expresses her sympathies to Bill on the loss of his friend. After a while Bill asks if he can be moved next to the window. The nursing staff makes the necessary arrangements and moves him. There, struggling, slowly, painfully yet as carefully as he can, he raises himself up by the smallest of increments until finally he can get a glimpse of the scene outside the window. And there he sees nothing but the blank wall of the building next door.
Dejected he asks the nurse when she comes in why his friend Phil would have deceived him all these years, telling him of such a beautiful outside when there is nothing to see but a brick wall. The nurse, confused about this replied, “He could not have seen anything at all, Phil was blind you know.”
And now it becomes clear. Bill asked his friend what he saw, not what was outside the window, and what Phil saw was the beauty of the world and then something more. Phil saw each day, as he described the scene he saw in his mind, Bill was being driven to work to lift himself to one day be able to see the world Phil shared. Shortly a new patient is assigned to the room. Bill’s new roommate is placed by the door in the position Bill himself so long had been. His new roommate says, “Hi, I hope you don’t mind a talker for a roommate. I have no family and all I can do is lie here and look at the ceiling. Hey, since you are by the window, would you mind telling me what you see?”
We can learn two things from Phil and Bill. Always know that just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t not exist. And never underestimate the power of encouragement. The blind roommate Phil was able to create a world of beauty knowing somewhere out there was the world he saw, just not the one right in front of him. Bill, his bed bound roommate, found a reason to improve his position through Phil’s world of words, Phil knew his words were the encouragement Bill needed to work hard enough to affect that change.
We are doing more as pharmacists today than those who practiced fifty years ago because they saw a world where pharmacists would be more involved in direct patient care, actively dosing, conducting patient interviews, and administering the medication they would prescribe. It was with their encouragement that colleges enhanced education, physicians accepted our assistance, and regulatory bodies approved protocol arrangements so now the visions of then are the practice of today.
Where will your visions fit into the practice of tomorrow and what words will you say to encourage the practitioners of today to believe in your world?