Expected and Unexpected Expectations

Some days, it’s a crappy day where the customers want what they want now.

Sometimes, you’re blind-sided by the nana who totters up to you. You think she’s sweet and docile, but then shows her true colours when she throws her asthma inhaler on the counter and demands, “Get me that one.”

Other times, you can spot the offender from the moment she marches up to your counter, looks at your name badge and disparagingly says,

“Oh. You’re a trainee pharmacist. I want to speak to the pharmacist.”

He’s busy, so she ignores you with folded arms. Her cousin knows exactly what she has, and knows exactly what she needs. It’s some sort of Inner Health Plus antibiotic detox. The probiotic? “No, it’s to detox.”

She can wait.

One of the girls figures out that her cousin did mean the probiotic. I explain the difference between regular and dairy-free capsules.

“Oh, I’m not sure which one to pick. My cousin will know. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

I give a 30-second slow-motion replay to the manager in the back room. Not 5 seconds after I step out, she’s back. She can’t wait. She’ll take the dairy-free like I suggested. Yes I’m sure it’s one capsules a day with food. At least she said thank you.

Anyway. That’s ok. I’ve come to expect it. It’s not why I gave my notice. That was because my internship roster would leave me double booked.


No, I know where I stand with some personality types. I learned to become more skeptical of the methadone and suboxone patients. Both drugs act as replacement therapy for drug addicts. My first experience with them was on my placement this past August and September.

Before rotation, it was obvious. “Be cautious with a drug addict.” But I wasn’t prepared for how nice they could be. They seemed normal. They didn’t all smell as bad as one patient whose stench rivaled dog vomit. (I’ll save that for my another post. The dog vomit, not the patient.) Some of them were lovely. I remarked on what a nice surprise it was, and my supervisor immediately returned, “No, you have to be careful. Especially with boundaries.”

This became clear when patients asked for more take-away doses than prescribed. Some got a bit uptight and angry, but backed right off when I asked if they’d like me to check with the pharmacist. No drug diversion for you! (There’s quite the market for selling suboxone doses.)


Ivan Pohitonov. The Gardener (1900)

Image via Wikipedia

Now, John Smith was one of the more interesting characters. He came every day for his dose. He racked up a large debt of unpaid government-subsidised doses since July and a whole whack of other prescription medications. He always had a story for why he couldn’t pay that day.

One day, close to the end of my placement, I asked if he’d heard about the new sublingual suboxone films. I listed some of the advantages, like improved taste (and didn’t mention others, like how hard it is to divert). He said, “Nah mate, I gotta get into the doc. I’ll get him to write a script then. I got skin cancer on the back of my hand. The doc needs to cut it out.”

I’d never seen skin cancer before, so I asked to have a look. He assured me that he’d had it several times before on his other hand, forearms, neck and cheeks. I asked if he’d used sunblock.

John protested, “Ah mate, when I started landscaping, there was no sunblock in those days.” I glanced down the photocopy of his driver’s license. He started working 20 years ago. Sunblock was definitely around then.

Well, what about starting to use some now? He waved me off. “She’ll be right, mate.”

Oh dear.