I thought I knew what pharmacists did, and then I became one

By Dr. Jordan Carmack (Pharm.D. ’14)

When I was growing up, my dad was the director of pharmacy of the hospital in our hometown. My first job after high school was in a mom and pop retail pharmacy. But it wasn’t until I got my training at Harding University College of Pharmacy and began my career that I realized what being a pharmacist was all about.

I am a clinical pharmacist at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I work with teams of physicians, nurses, social workers and physical therapists in a variety of areas in the hospital. My career has shown me how vital pharmacists are in patient care. Now, I know that the most important aspect of being a pharmacist is the patient. During my training, the patient was always just a hypothetical person whom I had to answer questions correctly about to succeed. In my career now, the patient is an actual person who has placed herself in our care, and now we must answer real-life questions. Sometimes the answers to those questions can be the difference between life and death.

One Saturday morning, I received a call from one of the ICU doctors with whom I work closely. There was a young woman in his care who had been in an automobile accident the night before. There was blood and swelling on her brain, and she was non-responsive. The doctor had her on a medication treatment (hypertonic saline), but it was not working. He called me to make sure there was nothing else we could do before he called her family to make a very difficult decision. I recommended another medication (mannitol), and he agreed, so I calculated a dose, prepared it and sent it to the ICU.

I went about my day, and, to be honest, I didn’t think about it much afterward. The next day, the same doctor asked me to come over to the ICU. I made my way over, wondering if I had done something wrong. When I got there, the doctor walked me over to a room, and through the doorway I saw the woman I had heard about the day before — awake and talking to her husband and child. The doctor said, “Jordan, because of your recommendation, this woman is awake and talking to her family today. I just wanted you to see this and thank you for helping save this woman’s life.”

I still get emotional every time I think about it. I don’t tell this story to sing my own praises. I tell this story to show people who are considering a career in health care how important their knowledge and role in this world can be. For every medication recommended, every prescription filled, every antibiotic given, every COVID-19 vaccine administered, etc. — behind all of that is the patient. It’s someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter. We are here for them. We even save their lives.

Categories: Alumni Profiles and End Note.

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