Do you have what it takes? blog by Ellen Kruize

OUDE PEKELA – Pharmacist assistant Ellen Kruize has the book: Educated Drug Dealer written. The book was published at the end of December. Ellen also writes blogs. In the coming weeks you can read it at All the characters in the stories are imaginary.

There is increasing aggression in the healthcare system. In the hospital, general practice and the pharmacy. It lives in the Netherlands. We have to tell a lot more and show how it goes on behind the scenes. I’d like to give you a look behind the counter. Working as a pharmacy assistant, a wonderful profession. With beautiful and less beautiful sides, as in any subject.

What a witch’s cauldron the pharmacy can be and what a dynamic profession a pharmacy assistant is. We used to be called pill-turners, and now we’re box-pushers. However, we are much more than that. Regardless of whether you work at the pharmacy as a delivery person, pharmacy assistant or pharmacist, we are ready to help the patient as best as possible. We do this in good times and in bad times.

We work in healthcare and we help patients use their medicines correctly. We do this by informing, by having a dialogue with patients, relatives and other carers. We become pharmacy assistants because concern is in our blood. I am proud to give everyone an insight into our special subject.

Ellen takes us into the hectic pace of her profession in a series of blogs.

Today’s part 6: Do you have it in you?

I think I was only 17 years old when I saw the poster with the appeal hanging in my high school. It was a large green poster of a woman in some sort of doctor’s coat. There was text on it, it was something like ‘Pharmacist’s Assistant’. Do you have what it takes?’ At the bottom of this poster was a website where you could sign up for a look behind the scenes at the pharmacy.

Working at the pharmacy… It hadn’t occurred to me yet! Until then, my plan had been to join the army. Mainly because I like action, and not unimportantly, I simply had to choose a profession.

The poster appealed to me. What would it be like in a real company? This was a lovely opportunity to explore a pharmacy. With my class we had already visited vocational schools where dull teachers preached to their own parish, that was not for me! In a company, I really wanted to see what it was like to be at work.

I signed up via the website. ‘When was I supposed to hear something? Would they find me fit to look at the pharmacy?’

More and more I thought about the next steps in life. At the end of high school, you make important choices. I was afraid to choose a profession. As if I had to commit forever. What would it really be like to work? I struggled with these choices before I saw the poster, and now this poster suddenly gave me perspective.

Fun detail: At school they offered me a career choice test six months earlier. Something completely different came out of that: I was going to become a mediator, that would be my calling. Now, 25 years later, I know better.

It was already graduation time and I hadn’t heard anything yet. The exam went well, my favorite subjects were chemistry and mathematics. In between, I could completely lose myself in the Harry Potter books.

School was really fun. I had a good time in class and I didn’t want to say goodbye yet. We were taught by good teachers. I was hoping for an invitation to see the pharmacy. Then I finally knew if I could continue to build on my future. There was the invitation. I was allowed to look at the pharmacy!

There I went, on my grandmother’s bike. My armpits were heaving with excitement. The weather was very good the day I cycled down there. Thoughts raced through my head: what if I like this? Then I will soon follow the training to become a pharmacy assistant in the big city. What if I don’t like it? So I have to look for something else… Could I do it? Is there a good sandwich to make with it? Could it have something to do with chemistry?

The old building looked different than I had imagined. In the past, in the village where I came from, we had such a large, stately building as a pharmacy. Perhaps this pharmacy had been located in this location for a long time. It looked like a house, I thought. Luckily my hair was fine that day. I locked my bike and took a deep breath. There I went! ‘Do your best Ellen, who knows you might be interning here later’, I said to myself.

I entered a small room. So small that up to four people could sit. There was a characteristic musty smell of too many people in too little space. I didn’t get excited about it. From the outside it looked much bigger and less old, it looked so dated. Even the computers were old. There was still a large picture tube behind the computer screens. It didn’t smell good and it looked worn. I took a seat in the small waiting room. There were also two patients. From the outside it must have looked like I was quietly waiting. Inside, I was on edge. I listened to what the assistants at the desk were saying to each other and to the patients. I noticed that there was little privacy. I saw the assistants looking at the computer to see if anything was ready. They then collected this and gave the bags to the patients.

As soon as it was my turn, I felt my face turn red. That was the excitement. For what I would think and for what they would think of me. I introduced myself and shook hands. The assistant opened the door to a room next to the desk. There I was…Behind the scenes!

To be continued


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