Practice Spotlight: Military Pharmacists in Afghanistan part 2
Unlike in Canada, where supplies usually arrive within a day of ordering, the maintenance of a sufficient medication inventory in Afghanistan can be challenging. Most orders take a week or more to arrive from Canada, and unforeseen events such as a broken-down plane or an operational need to ship nonmedical supplies more urgently may cause further delays. The military pharmacist must occasionally be creative, using connections with counterparts from other countries to meet urgent demands. This may mean researching and providing guidance to the rest of the medical team on appropriate use of medications that are not normally available in Canada. This knowledge is just one reason why the presence of a pharmacist is so highly appreciated by the rest of the staff.
Overseas deployments typically last 6 to 7 months, with a 3-week leave at some point during the tour. The military pharmacist works 7 days a week, with perhaps 1 or 2 days off per month if workload permits. He or she is on call 24 hours a day to respond to clinical questions from the medical staff, to deal with medical supply issues, and, of course, to treat incoming trauma patients. Despite the long hours, the intensity of the work, and the traumatic nature of the injuries seen, the opportunity to work at the R3 MMU is viewed by many military pharmacists as a highlight of their career. There are few things more rewarding than helping fellow soldiers, of any nationality, or civilian victims of conflict and seeing the relief that shows in their eyes with the realization that they will receive a level of care and respect as high as would be given anywhere in the world.
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