What is it like being a pharmacist and a parent? In this article an experienced pharmacist with two young children discusses the topic.
Authored By: Timothy P. Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
[Last updated: 23 February 2019]
Contemplating your future can be fun. As a pharmacy student in Boston at Northeastern University I can recall pondering questions such as: What kind of pharmacist will I be? Where will I live if I settle down and start a family? What will it be like to be a pharmacist and a parent?
Eventually I graduated from pharmacy school in 2008. What followed was training to become an infectious diseases pharmacist and then working within the specialty of infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship pharmacy. During my eighth year as a pharmacist an event changed my life forever – my wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. Fast-forward to late 2018 and we welcomed child number two into our family, this time a beautiful baby boy. Today, our daughter is 4 years old and our son is 4 months old.
For a few years I have wanted to write an article reflecting on my experience as a pharmacist and a parent. The time to write about it has finally come. In the following I provide my expectation versus the reality I have found being a pharmacist and a parent. These expectations are things that I had pondered prior to becoming a pharmacist. I should note that this is not meant to be a generalization of what it is like to be a pharmacist and a parent.
Expectation #1: It will be easier to navigate the healthcare system because I am a pharmacist
Navigating the healthcare system is still not a walk in the park, but at least if we go to a clinic or hospital I have an idea of what is going on behind the scenes.
When it is time to go to the pharmacy I think we also have a clear advantage by understanding the operations of community pharmacy, which allows us to more easily predict what might work as we try to balance waiting for our medicines while avoiding a child having a tantrum in public.
One tip I have picked up is to use the drive-through pharmacy window to make for a smoother pick-up when the kiddos are along for the ride.
Expectation #2: Being a pharmacist will mean when my kids are patients I will be more informed and therefore less stressed
Being informed and therefore aware of all the things that can go wrong can be incredibly stress-inducing. Taking our 1 year old daughter to the hospital with a high-grade fever for a possible UTI was one of the worst experiences of my life. The stress level was more than what it would have been had I not known so much about medication errors in hospitals. That stated, I was of course better positioned to advocate for my daughter as a patient, but I feel the stress outweighed this benefit.
For this one, in my opinion ignorance can be bliss.
Expectation #3: It will be easy to dose medications for my own children
Reality: Somewhat true
Picking a dose for my children has been pretty easy. I use my knowledge, available resources (e.g., Lexicomp), and physician instructions to determine what a reasonable course of action is.
The hard part comes when it is time to actually administer the medication. I may measure the perfect 3mL dose of an acetaminophen suspension, but getting a small child to take the complete dose is an entirely different topic. Executing successful medication administration for young children is best left to the expert in my household – mom. Yes this is something that every parent deals with, but I thought I would be better at getting them to take their complete doses.
Expectation #4: I will be the go-to drug information resource for my household
Reality: Mostly false
My wife does consult me at times regarding medications, but she is a physician assistant and highly qualified to make drug information decisions on her own. In turn, I am not the go-to reference for all things medicine that I thought I would become. To be honest, it is kind of a relief.
When we do discuss drug regimens for the kids I notice that the “what if” scenario is frequently brought up and sometimes you have to move past getting your way and be okay settling on something that is reasonable.
Expectation #5: I will not allow my children to receive antibiotics unless they absolutely needed them
Reality: Mostly true
This has been a really tough one, because at the end of the day I am not a diagnostician. If a licensed pediatrician tells my wife to give our child antibiotics when I want to hold off, it makes sense that we should go with the person who is licensed to make that decision. That stated, we do challenge our pediatrician about pulling the trigger on an antibiotic prescription and I do try to limit exposure by tailoring duration of therapy by their clinical response.
Still, I hate to see anyone in my family need a course of antibiotics, because I am too familiar with the risks that it brings.
Expectation #6: It will be easier to say yes to vaccines, because I am a pharmacist
Prior to having kids I can recall thinking about vaccines and all of the anti-vaccine content out on social media and elsewhere. I wondered if the people pushing for less vaccinations would catch my ear and I would succumb to their propaganda as so many others have. This has not happened. I am 100% pro-vaccine. Our children get all of the CDC-recommended vaccines. They may cry from the shots, but I am smiling knowing they are protected. #VaccinesCauseAdults
Expectation #7: I will not give my children expired medications or hoard medications for them
Reality: Mostly true
We have not given our children expired medications (to my knowledge), although if it is expired by just a few months I probably would not have an issue with it. I have been in scenarios where we have medicine for them that is several years expired, but we always obtain some non-expired medications. We are better than I thought we would be about monitoring expiration dates prior to administering doses.
When it comes to hoarding medications we have done okay, but do probably have more than what is needed. It can be difficult not to hoard things for those “what if” scenarios. Watching “Tidying Up” from Marie Kondo on Netflix has actually helped us with our home medication inventory management.
Expectation #8: I will not have to use my BLS training on my own children
Thankfully no need for basic life support interventions to date. I hope it stays that way.
Expectation #9: I may decide to compound some medications at home, using my special pharmacist knowledge
I used two generic products to compound some diaper cream for my daughter when she had a rash. It worked great and was much cheaper than buying the brand product. It was actually a fun exercise.
Expectation #10: My kids will come visit me at work sometimes
As a student at a Wal-Mart Pharmacy the pharmacists used to have their kids visit them. The children would come into the pharmacy to hang out for over an hour at a time. I thought it would be a neat memory for a child to have, being exposed to the pharmacy profession at a young age.
I have always been a hospital-based pharmacist and small children really have no place in the hospital, so no kids coming to work with me!
Expectation #11: I will instill a passion for science within my children
Reality: Still working on it
I went into pharmacy because I liked science classes like chemistry, biology, environmental science, and microbiology. With my 4 year old I like to think we have been successful in fostering a curiosity for the sciences, but it is still too soon to tell. I am hoping books like “ABCs of Microbiology” will help make her interested in science.
Expectation #12: I will want my children to consider becoming pharmacists as a career
Reality: Somewhat true
In 10 years as a pharmacist I have to say it can be a rewarding profession that allows us the opportunity to have a positive impact helping those in need. While I am not excited about the ballooning number of pharmacy schools and pharmacy school graduates in recent years, I do think pharmacy can be a great career choice and hope my children will at least have it on the radar when they start looking towards college.
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