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How my pharmacist helped me through IVF

Building a personal relationship at the pharmacy helped me through this challenging process

“And then it gets really crazy…” I’m explaining the end of a horror movie to someone. Before the conversation is over, we’ve moved on to discuss her friend’s daughter who successfully had a baby after conceiving with in vitro fertilization (IVF). This conversation could go on, but it must end—not because we have to go anywhere, but because it’s time for the next customer in line. The person I’m talking to isn’t my family member or even an old friend. She’s my pharmacist.

My pharmacist-patient relationship

Since starting IVF earlier this year, my Walgreens pharmacy and fertility clinic have become like second homes. Fertility treatments require multiple medications a day—usually for 10 days or more. This can mean getting very familiar with your Rx supplier. During this time, I somewhat accidentally formed a relationship with my local pharmacist. She’s given me comfort during my erratic, ongoing fertility journey.

We have a funny, yet comfortable routine. I teach her about horror movies. I often wear movie T-shirts, and she asks questions about them—which I happily answer. In return, my pharmacist shares hopeful treatment stories with me. She asks how things are going without prying. She educates me on information I didn’t know before.

One cycle, instead of ordering medications in bulk, I purposely got them in pieces. It gave me an excuse to get out for long walks. Plus, I’d get to talk to my friend at the drugstore.

Anyone doing treatments knows that no matter how great a clinic is, the industry isn’t perfect. Sometimes you’ll feel unsupported or confused. Repeated cycles are more common than you might expect. Returning to the pharmacy multiple times is likely your reality, and stellar pharmacy customer service makes it a lot easier. Becoming friends with the staff there has made the whole process a little easier for me. Apparently, the feeling is often mutual. According to a recent study, those in the pharmacy field who spent more time with patients and customers performing clinical interventions and counseling were happier with their jobs overall. 

How your pharmacist can help

Talking to your pharmacist can help you feel supported and knowledgeable about any medical treatment—especially if you’re dealing with a condition that’s serious, or ongoing. 

Having a strong pharmacist-patient relationship is beneficial in more ways than one. They’re experts in:

  • Prescription counseling 
  • Medication interactions
  • Allergy considerations
  • Vaccinations
  • Drug pricing 
  • Ways to save

They’re easy and often free to access and trained to help.

Their training and education protects patients from drug interactions and medication errors. They’re literally “the last line of safety before the patient goes home,” says Richelle Marracino, MD, a family physician in San Bernardino, California.

Behind the scenes, teamwork between doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, and pharmacist is imperative—despite electronic prescriptions lessening the need for their interaction. Even with the best care, prescription issues will arise. A patient might need guidance on dosage or directions. A pharmacist can catch something that went unnoticed by the rest of the healthcare team, such as an overlooked allergy to the medicine prescribed. “We’re all part of a team, collaborating in the care of our mutual patients,” Dr. Marracino says.

In fact, when one of my fertility meds was higher in cost than others, my pharmacist was the one who told me. After the initial shock that someone cared to check, I explained that I was clueless. Two days later, after a talk with my healthcare provider, I got the medication for a better price. My pharmacist did that for me, without being prompted or asked. Now that is true health (and wealth) care. 

RELATED: How much does IVF cost?

Pharmacists are more essential than ever

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, being able to rely on pharmacists and pharmacy staff is more important than ever. Vaccinations at local pharmacies became not just useful, but essential—and because of COVID-19, laws expanded to allow technicians to administer vaccines as well. “That decision turned out to be extremely beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says James Lott, Pharm.D., the founder of Scripted. “Pharmacists were able to administer millions of vaccines to people in just about every zip code. When pharmacists are allowed to do more, it’s beneficial for all communities in terms of access to (basic) healthcare.” It’s just another example of how vital their role truly is to the neighborhood they serve.

For me, what started as a transactional interaction has morphed into something else: a relationship bound by the walls of my local drugstore. When I’m picking up my meds on a hard day, I’ve found that talking to someone who shows interest makes all the difference. For that, I’m grateful to my pharmacist.