Lessons from the Wise

Micaela Leblanc

URI School of Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, Class of 2018

Ever since I was a child, I always enjoyed working with and learning from older adults and their life experiences, so as I move further in my pharmacy education and embark in my last year of pharmacy school, a career involving older adults has become more and more on my radar. One career path that I am extremely interested in is ambulatory care especially as it pertains to chronic disease management. At my last pharmacy rotation at the VAMC in Providence, RI, I got to work in an outpatient heart failure clinic and had the opportunity to treat and see my own patients.

One particular patient stands out to me. He was an 87-year-old man who was new to us and one day we received report that his weight increased by 17 pounds in two weeks. I called him and spoke with both him and his wife, a prior nurse in the prison system, and it seemed that he was getting progressively more short of breath with weight gain and ankle swelling. I scheduled an appointment for him to come in to our outpatient IV diuretic clinic where I got to meet him and his wife for the first time. He weighed 174 pounds at the time, had pitting edema to his hips, and could not walk far without becoming very short of breath. My preceptor and I diuresed him that day and scheduled him to come back again the next week for another diuresis. After the second diuresis, we scheduled him for an appointment to enroll him into our pilot home-based cardiac rehab program that I had the opportunity to help design. With this program, I saw him in clinic to teach him how to use all of his new equipment, such as a peddler, pedometer, and exercise bands. Then, my colleagues and I went out to the couple’s home and set up all of the equipment and made an exercise program with him. Weeks later, we received report that he was doing well and lost 30 pounds in a matter of one month and he was finally able to walk to his mailbox and through the grocery store without much breathing trouble.

Throughout the weeks of treating this patient, I got to know him and his wife very well and they were not only patients, but they became friends. It was one of my biggest pleasures that I have had so far in my pharmacy career to see this patient improve so much in the month that I treated him. The best part was that as much as him and his wife learned from me, I learned so much more from them. They taught me about life and how to truly care for patients. He is my success story and really solidified my desire to work in a field with older adults.

Within ambulatory care, I am most interested in pursuing a career within the Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) system because of my grandfather who was a veteran of the Vietnam War and Korean War era. My grandfather always spoke so highly of the VAMC and his medical care he received, stating that everyone took such good care of him. Everywhere he used to go, including the grocery store, restaurants, or the VAMC, he always used to ask people, “Is this service with a smile” (in a Tennessee accent, mind you) because customer service and friendliness were important to him. Being part of his family, I cannot even count how many times I heard him ask someone that question. Unfortunately, it was only after he passed away in December of 2016 that I realized how amazing of a saying it is and how I hope to be someone’s “service with a smile” one day. This is why I am looking forward to my career beginning and cannot wait to see where I end up in the future.

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