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Heading back to where I started

  • September 4, 2009
  • RPh on the Go

The advantage of being a traveling pharmacist is the ability to make your own schedule. I think the last time I actually took a personal vacation was over a year ago. Of course, it was my own set design and not because I wasn’t allowed to take a vacation.

Of all places I choose to go was to Rapid City, South Dakota. It was my very first state that I worked as a traveling pharmacist back in 2000. The facility was on an Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital/clinic in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. The hospital was relatively small servicing a community of the Lakota tribe (Sioux Indians). I took a 4 hour ride from Rapid City to Eagle Butte to visit the facility, and to my surprise, the town has not change a bit. In fact, the same locally employed technicians that I worked more than 9 years ago are still working there.

It was a bittersweet experience working for the Indian Health Service. It was very advantageous for me to understand and respect the American Indians way of life. The Lakota tribe is full of rich culture and tradition, which I had the honor to experience with them. The work was filling prescriptions in the outpatient setting. I was the only pharmacist and I worked with 2 great technicians, who lived locally. It is great to get the weekends off because the pharmacy was closed. There is a pharmacist who lives an hour away who is on-call on the weekends. The pharmacy filled approximately 75 prescriptions a day. While manning the outpatient pharmacy, I also had to work in the inpatient pharmacy servicing a 6 bed hospital. It was indeed an experience I will never forget. The only disadvantage of my stay was gaining 20 pound during the 5 month assignment there. There is nothing to do in town and the closest town was the capital of South Dakota. Pierre, South Dakota was one hour away from Eagle Butte and it was a very small town with a 24-hour Wal-Mart. My typical routine was work, hangout with co-workers and their friends at the local bar, eat, sleep, and repeat the whole thing over again. My weekends are so special. I was able to visit Bismarck, North Dakota, gamble at the casinos, visit Mount Rushmore, attended bike week at Sturgis, South Dakota, and eat real Bison (buffalo) meat.

To actually come back to South Dakota during the summer months is surreal. This time I am experiencing my trip as a tourist and not pharmacist, who dedicated a good five months of his time working and living side by side with the American Indians. Even though they took me as one of their own, I am saddened of the hard life they lived. But if you were to ask that to them, they would say the simplicity of life is something they would not trade for anything in the world.

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