I am that person who loves to dream and indulge in the possibilities of life. When I dream about my future, I often think internationally. Whenever I travel to another country, I often have practical questions about the area. “In what ways are pharmacies ran differently here?” “How is the way of life different from my home?” “How can I immerse myself in the culture here?” The purpose of these questions are not always because I am willing to move internationally, but because I genuinely love to see how people do life differently. I am a strong believer that when we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable for a period of time to learn about another way of life, we walk away with a more well-balanced, healthy perspective on life.
Here in Spain, I was so excited as we were given the opportunity to have one of my questions answered first-hand: “In what ways are pharmacies ran differently here?” As a part of Dr. Hartzler’s Holistic Diabetes Management class, each student was able to visit a pharmacy nearby named Farmacia Casaudoumecq!!! The purpose of our pharmacy visits were not to compare and see what country practices pharmacy better, but to simply learn.
We visited the pharmacy in three different trips (groups of 2 or 3). My classmate, Ruth Choi, and I were the first to go (guinea pigs, as we like to say). Because our pharmacist, Jorge, spoke very little english, the student visit groups were created with the intention to pair more experienced spanish-speakers with less experienced spanish-speakers. This was the first time I had ever been given language interpretation responsibilities like this. Our program directors met us at the pharmacy, introduced us to the pharmacist, and left! Yes, they just left! I was a little nervous for the first 4 seconds of us being alone, but by second 5, I felt more comfortable to speak. Ruth and I had such a great time at the pharmacy with Jorge, the pharmacist, Raquel, the technician, and the rest of the crew. They were phenomenal and shared so much information with us!
The country of Spain provides universal health care, where “every citizen has access to the promotive, preventative, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship” (WHO). Private health care is also an option. Obviously, this is very different from the United States, so we had plenty of discussion regarding this subject. The pharmacy team was more than happy to educate us on how the system runs and how they process transactions.
Pharmacies in Spain are generally set up a little different, where there are no medications out on the floor for over-the-counter (OTC) use. Cosmetics and other things, such as mosquito repellant and simple creams for skin irritation, are what you would find on the floor there. If a patient is looking for an OTC medication, they present their symptoms to the pharmacist, and the pharmacist makes recommendations from there. For about 20 minutes during our visit, they had a good ol’ classic pharmacy rush, so Ruth and I had fun going through the medications, looking for the similarities in name and/or pronunciation between the english and spanish names of drugs we recognized. One of the things I found interesting about the community pharmacy system in Spain is the absence of communication between the pharmacist and prescribing physician. Jorge informed us that that type of communication was not common outside of a hospital pharmacy. To me, it emphasized the importance of the presence of well-educated, critically-thinking pharmacists in Spain. This pharmacy definitely had that!
Overall, this was an absolutely great experience. Even though there were a lot of differences between what we learned about the Spanish pharmacy system and the United State’s pharmacy system, we felt such a connection with the team there simply because we all had the same focus: the practice of pharmacy. Watching Jorge and Racquel’s interactions with their patients made me feel right at home. The language, the system, and the setup were all different, but the smiles and compassion they gave to their patients were the same. Ruth and I left excited, immediately reflecting on how great of a time we had. We are thankful for Farmacia Casaudoumecq, their time, and their joy!