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Pharmacology, or something like it

I am in the semester of my program in which pharmacology is a main focus. Let me rephrase that, my main focus is pharmacology.  For many of my classmates it’s just another class with take-home exams. But I want to really understand why I would prescribe what I prescribe.

I keep remembering the words of a midwife friend who shared her struggles with medications when she first became a midwife. When you are the midwife, people expect you to have answers.  Women would show up in her office with a list of medications they were taking and ask, “are these safe?” She admitted to the frustration this caused her, having little familiarity with most of the medications she would see.

I can understand that now.  My midwifery clinical is very “woman problem” focused, treating vaginal infections or prescribing prenatal vitamins or birth control. Once I saw a client with PCOS, and once we diagnosed someone with rheumatoid arthritis, but most pharmacology has been the same 5 medication classes. Even my pediatric clinical was very antibiotic or antifungal focused. It’s the nature of the primary care beast, I won’t have much to do with children who are struggling with leukemia or other “big” problems.  Their care will be in the hands of specialists.

I read recently that most physicians have about 120-128 meds they know and use, and that becomes the extent of their pharmacological prescribing. I can accept that to a point, I have definitely seen that there are some meds that you just use over and over and over. But at the same time I keep hearing my friend and the frustration she has when her clients expect her to know everything about the meds they have been taking – even though they have been prescribed by someone else. I want to have a firm foundation so when this happens to me (because I fully expect it will happen to me) I can quickly find the information my clients will need.

But I have another reason for being so interested. I want to understand the way the chemicals from medications interact with the body so I can better understand the differences between a “natural” or herbal treatment  and a standard drug. No, I don’t have an extensive herb knowledge. But a girl has got to start somewhere with her learning.  This is where I am right now, so I am jumping in with both feet. I’m off to work on my take-home midterm.  Wish me luck.

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