In this light-hearted article two infectious diseases pharmacists share why it is their favorite specialty, providing perspective on what makes it so special.
Last updated: 6 June 2020
If you are considering or are in the field of pharmacy, it may be a decent time to consider infectious disease as a specialty area to pursue. Unless you have been under a rock at the bottom an ocean on another planet, you are aware there is a novel coronavirus circulating globally and it is kind of a big deal.
While pandemic viruses rightfully get press, the “regular” day-to-day of infectious disease pharmacy is also vitally important and just happens to be ridiculously interesting if you let yourself get into it.
It is not just about bugs and drugs either! Infectious disease pharmacy allows you to become a master of many disciplines. These include the “hard” sciences of pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and microbiology as well as the social sciences. Antimicrobial stewardship particularly adds an element of psychology, sales and entrepreneurial spirit to the day-to-day management of patients with infection from a micro and macro perspective. Given this dynamic overlap, infectious diseases pharmacy is in a way like science at its best: raw, methodical, theory-inducing, and important work for human kind!
Given that we have found a passion for infectious diseases as a pharmacy specialty, we felt it may be worthwhile to share with others why we feel this way. Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps this will help spark interest in a potential future career path. Either way, we hope you enjoy.
Here are a few reasons why infectious diseases is our favorite pharmacy specialty.
#1. Every decision is dynamic, involving at least three variables: people, drugs, and microbiology
When distilled, each clinical decision any pharmacist makes typically involves the balance between safety and efficacy of a particular treatment for an individual patient. Infectious diseases adds the microbiology aspect of the infection and microbiome of the patient into the equation. It certainly complicates the matter, but it also adds interesting nuances and prompts you to think about how both the infection and treatment of the infection may impact the patient now and in the future.
The microbiology part of infectious diseases also allows you to understand microbiology culture techniques and newer technologies such as MALDI-TOF, PCR, and PNA-FISH. Getting to know your microbiology lab lets you peel back the cover of the “S/I/R” microbiology reports and really helps understand the bug/drug interplay within a given environment.
Oh yea, and the L in MALDI-TOF? It stands for laser, so you could say we use laser beams to do our jobs!
#2. Every treatment regimen or stewardship intervention is unique
There are guidelines and best practice recommendations. There are also studies of varying quality and applicability. However there is no absolute playbook, no two people or places are the same, and ultimately, we base many decisions on first principles and then extrapolation. This pushes you to have detailed knowledge of the patient’s physiology and microbiology and mandates a tailored approach to treatment. It makes each day unique and exciting to face such a challenge that we know can have a positive impact on another person.
From a stewardship perspective, implementing strategies to improve antimicrobial usage is not a cookie cutter approach. You get insight into the culture and the politics of your institution in ways you would not normally have access to. After all, stewardship is a group effort, not something just for pharmacists!
#3. The treatment recommendations and education you provide impact patients and society
Antimicrobials are the only class of medication that have a transmissible loss of efficacy. Infectious diseases, stewardship or both – using only what you need when you need it is the covenant we have with society, because the more we use antibiotics the more we lose antibiotics to drug resistance.
We are uniquely positioned as antimicrobial stewardship and infectious diseases pharmacists to directly impact prescribing practices as well as provide a nudge towards shifting the culture of prescribing. This can happen in the hospital, community or around the dinner table/whatever people are doing to congregate and eat these days. On the tough days, this can motivate you to keep at it.
On this point in a way, our job is to save the world (from little tiny things we can’t even see)!
#4. It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work
Antimicrobial stewardship and infectious diseases pharmacotherapy is a team sport, and when the team is successful the patients win. Having the opportunity to work with a diverse array of skilled practitioners as well as be directly involved in the betterment of our community is truly a reward. We are fortunate to have a cause to champion that so many people quickly rally for.
Every day infectious diseases specialists connect the dots using information from a variety of sources to ultimately decide how to attack an offending microorganism. It is truly amazing to engage in such battles with an unseen army each day.
In closing, we hope that you have enjoyed this article and that it leaves you with an idea of why infectious diseases is our favorite pharmacy specialty. We hope that if you are in the healthcare field you have the chance to engage in activities related to antimicrobial stewardship and we want you to know that we appreciate everything you do to help protect our precious antimicrobial drugs!
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article represent that of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of any previous, current, or potential future employers or other organizations in which they provide service.
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