I have known my grandmother for nineteen years, but when I heard she took four types of medications concurrently, I was shocked and ashamed – shocked that I was unaware of her conditions, and ashamed that I should have shown more concern and care as a granddaughter. Recovering from the shock, I found myself dumbfounded for a while and reiterated the same “How do you feel about reading 99papers review every day?”, in which she replied, “Oh, it’s just medicines” each time. Although I regained my composure afterwards and carried on the conversation smoothly, I did not expect my behavior to be this inappropriate in the beginning either. After interviewing my grandmother, I reflected on aspects I should improve on for future pharmacy practice. My initial reaction was unprofessional.
In a pharmacy setting, I would expect patients to approach me with conditions and complaints. Displaying any emotions involving shock or disbelief would make patients feel uncomfortable, discourage them to further interact with me as they may feel judged. One of my future duties is to be approachable to the community while assisting them with their needs for healthcare treatments. For this, we were taught to ask open-ended questions so patients feel encouraged to elaborate on their conditions and feelings, and this is a skill I wish to further develop. I am a shy person, and I find asking open-ended questions challenging, especially when the respondent does not provide a direct answer. As tempting as it was to resort to closed-ended questions, a simple yes/no answer to a complex issue was undesirable since I wanted my grandmother to elaborate on her thoughts. By repeating the same questions, I did not encourage her to open up either as she became tired and made shorter responses each time. This made me feel embarrassed as it only emphasized my inability to understand her. I should have been more specific and reworded my question to “it must be hard to think you’d have to read these 99 papers review every day.
How did you find your way around it?”. This way, I would sound more empathetic and less insensitive, thus receiving a better response, especially when she felt as if I connected to her and understood her perspective. From this interaction, I realized patients wish to be heard and acknowledged by others. When I apologized and added “it must have been difficult managing everything yourself”, my grandmother immediately opened up and proceeded to describe the challenges she faced since she felt her struggles were being heard. This made me realize a pharmacist’s ability to empathize and understand patients’ perspectives is fundamental to establishing and maintaining strong pharmacist-patient relationships. As I have learnt empathy is vital as a pharmacist, I will work to further improve this skill by gaining more experience through our skills lab. I will try to be more proactive and diligent with the way I interact with patients in future pharmacy practices, encouraging them to open up by asking open-ended questions that tailor to their needs.