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    Five Tips for Surviving a 12-Hour Pharmacy Shift

    It's something every pharmacist knows well—the long shift. Here's how to make it a little more bearable.


    Many cups of coffee

    3. Caffeinating

    No amount of preparation can substitute for sufficient caffeinating, so drink up! This beautiful little chemical has been helping pharmacist survive these long days for decades. Tell your doctor if you are concerned about the cardiovascular repercussions of high caffeine intake. 

    As pharmacists, we understand that a good dose of caffeine will still only last 6 hours. Therefore, even the Starbucks Venti Blonde Roast with an estimated 475mg of caffeine is unlikely to get you past 3 pm. Continuous IV infusion is impractical and a 12-hour caffeine patch has not been developed just yet. For now, plan on asking your 3 pm tech to bring you in coffee on their way to work.

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    Jason Poquette, RPh
    Jason Poquette is the director for outpatient pharmacy services at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and an APPE preceptor for ...


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    • Anonymous
      Ugh, reading your article makes me regret ever going to pharmacy school even more
    • [email protected]
      Hi Jason, I'm unsure if most of this is serious or tongue-in-cheek humor - I personally like the humorous parts! As an ultramarathoner and 25+ year pharmacist, and someone trying to change the exact unacceptable working conditions you mention -- NO pharmacist should work a 12-hour shift as the number of medication error rates skyrocket, the physical and mental negative impacts wrack the body and system, etc. -- I'd have to offer up some amendments to your first and third points, but these are secondary to pharmacists starting with a firm "No way" to the 12-hour shift request/requirement of some employers. For example, you should NOT focus on carbs if you're into endurance - blended carbs, proteins, fats, electrolytes and your last two points (footwear and hydration) are needed. Continual intake of carbs only make the system work less efficiently over long periods of time. Receptor downregulation and desensitization, and systems-wide adjustments over time, make caffeine intake ineffective over the long haul and only set the system up for hardships if/when caffeine withdrawal happens. Best to not depend on it in the first place but certainly not to use it long term. (My PhD was on adenosine pharmacology - the main receptors of caffeine's actions...) Mental preparations are crucial for any success (I'm also a positive psychology coach so this is definitely preaching to the choir on this point) BUT even the best mental prep will be brought to its knees if there are other and continual mental onslaughts and physical hardships. My recommendation here is to focus on the PROBLEM(S), not the supposed solutions. Again, nice piece if this is more humorous but I'm afraid it is more serious than that? Gary Keil, PhD, RPh
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