Hi, my name is James McMurray and I’m a community pharmacist. I qualified in 2008 and, after a few years of working for a pharmacy chain, I decided I would like to do further training.
Community pharmacy is not just about filling prescriptions and shop selling. There has been a movement to increase our involvement in managing chronic conditions, and also in helping people choose medicines for minor things.
The best part of my job is helping people. However, the complex conditions patients suffered from – and their related personal, social and sometimes even spiritual problems – could baffle and overwhelm me. I was looking for a new perspective on this, and on the meaning of health and illness itself.
About this time, I became unwell and sadly found little relief. On a suggestion I went to see a doctor who was a member of the Faculty of Homeopathy.
I liked the way the doctor took my case; asking me what had changed, what I liked to do and what I was like as a person. He explained he would choose a medicine that reflected as much of this information as possible.
I knew very little about homeopathy; it had been mentioned only briefly when I was an undergraduate. So I looked into getting additional training and enrolled on the medical homeopathy course at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine.
The course is fascinating, informative and, above all, practical. To learn homeopathy from knowledgeable and inspiring practitioners, in such an historic surrounding, has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. It’s definitely the most I have ever enjoyed learning and found it especially uplifting, considering my targets for reviews of medicines use, prescription sign-ups and customer care surveys had been getting me down a little.
Soon I was able to integrate homeopathy into minor ailments advice. If I was sure it was appropriate and safe, I tried to recommend a remedy along with all my other advice and product suggestions. I received great feedback from customers – and still do. It’s very special when someone comes in just to let you know you have helped them.
Also, I was able to extend my interest in medicine generally. I found myself starting to understand patients on an individual level, not just as sufferers of this or that disease but as people. This really helped me put my work into a new perspective and become more empathetic and resilient.
The “soft skills” of history taking I learnt on the course have helped me in every aspect of my work with the public. Learning about the history of homeopathy led to an interest in Anthroposophic therapies – it has really widened my view of medicine and life.
Though I find this interesting and sustaining, I’d like to emphasise that homeopathy isn’t just an abstraction: it’s a science and an applied therapy that has helped both me and many of my patients on a day to day basis.
[Photo: Barry Wright Photography]