Life at UBC: Losing a Little Sleep Is Worth It to Care for Patients

Life at UBC: Losing a Little Sleep Is Worth It to Care for Patients

On behalf of pharmaceutical manufacturers, UBC provides Patient Assistance Programs to support patients in times of need. As a staff pharmacist, I am able to provide assistance to patients using medications for conditions such as narcolepsy, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Narcolepsy in particular requires frequent consultations because the complexity of the medication’s dosage makes accidental overdosing common. Instead of calling 911 or their doctor, many narcolepsy patients reach out to me first.

My pharmacist colleagues and I rotate on-call shifts so that someone is available for patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Recently, a female patient called in the middle of the night. She was crying and scared. She had forgotten that she’d taken a dose of medication and, a short while later, took another dose. I asked her to explain exactly what happened. When I learned the details, I told her she would sleep really well that night and would be groggy in the morning, but she would be just fine. She started laughing and thanked me over and over. It was rewarding to hear the relief in her voice.

I remember one of the first pages I received when I was on call overnight. The page came at 3:45 a.m. from a gentleman with narcolepsy who couldn’t sleep. At that point, there was nothing I could do for him medically because he was not due for another dose of medication. Still, I stayed on the phone with him for 45 minutes. We just talked until he felt like he could go back to bed to try to sleep.

The majority of late-night calls I receive are from patients, like these, who suffer from narcolepsy, a disease that affects 1 in 2,000 people in the U.S. Many of these patients have been deprived of adequate sleep their entire lives, causing depression, pain and anxiety. Although these patients go through the same sleep stages as other people, they don’t stay in those stages long enough to replenish hormones and enzymes, so their bodies can’t restore the energy they need.

Listening to these patients has helped me gain a perspective I didn’t learn in pharmacy school or while working in a retail pharmacy. I now have a greater understanding of what many patients endure to get the healthcare they need. If I have to lose a little sleep to help them feel better, that’s OK by me.

If you’re interested in joining our patient-centric team, you can search and apply for open positions here.

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