President's Message - Roses and Thorns

by Tom Westerkamp, ICHP President
May 9, 2013

“We can complain that a rose bush has thorns, or we can rejoice that a thorn bush has roses” - Abraham Lincoln

I love that quote. It resonates in my brain as I drive along I-55 and think about the ICHP Spring Meeting with MSHP in St. Charles, Missouri. It’s a warm, beautiful day to drive with the sun roof open to let the wind blow out all the stale winter air in the car. As the wind swirls around my head, it helps blow out the mental cobwebs from a long winter.

How often we get caught up at work or at home looking at the negative aspects of our jobs or our long “to-do” list at home. There is so much to do. There are so many projects to complete. There is so much I need to accomplish this week…or month…or year.

Our list of tasks to complete at work is like the thorns. They can be painful, or at least, undesirable. Evaluations to be finished, reports to be written, slide decks to create, journal articles to read, meetings to attend, carts to be stocked, orders to be profiled and filled, IVs to be prepared, presentations to give, classes to attend, exams to take – the list seems endless. While we are in the midst of these endless day-to-day tasks, they do appear to be thorns. We may lose sight of the patient care we are providing, the medication therapy we are preparing, the patients we are educating, the patient families we are comforting, the students and future pharmacists we are teaching, or the knowledge we are gaining for future interactions with patients.

It’s all about our frame of reference. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It’s easy to complain about the tasks (thorns), so that we lose sight of our role, our professional purpose. It is much harder to get to the mindset that we want to get to work or to school to celebrate how lucky we are to be in a position to be helping others. Our activities, our work, help others. Our efforts improve drug delivery. Our drug therapy knowledge can help reduce costs and improve patient care. Our actions at work or school can inspire others. What we do every day for patients helps create roses. It’s up to all of us to try to see them.

There were plenty of “roses” at the Spring Meeting:

  • Insightful presentations that helped inform us of new drug therapies, and new ways of treating patients, including an amazing video asking each of us if we would treat patients differently if we knew what they were thinking and worrying about
  • Wonderful break-out sessions where informal discussions occurred
  • Poster sessions where real Q&A took place and students began to blossom with confidence
  • Roundtable workshops where smaller groups had meaningful dialogue with mentors
  • Residency directors and preceptors compared and contrasted programs
  • Time to scope out upcoming job opportunities
  • Time for shopping along the historic cobble-stoned streets of St. Charles with quaint shops and historic markers
  • Time to see old work-friends to catch up on their family lives…laughing and big smiles when old classmates got to see each other and reconnect
  • Time to share family pictures and see how rapidly friends’ children are growing up
These were the roses I saw.

One can either see the roses and the positive attributes that a professional meeting provides or complain about the location, timing, or cost of the meeting, and see only the thorns. One can look for the rosy faces of the patients we are helping and caring for, or see only our thorny to-do list getting longer every day.

It’s up to each of us, every day, to decide what we will see.

Thanks for caring.

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