Should someone who can’t use their hands be allowed to be a pharmacist?

I stumbled across this article the other day and was instantly interested.  A gal with cerebral palsy desperately wants to get into pharmacy school, but the physical requirements of pharmacy school may prevent her from getting in. From the author, “cerebral palsy interferes with her dexterity and she is bound to a wheelchair.”  The article also goes on to state that the “spasticity makes it difficult or impossible for her to do anything with her hands, which she often keeps clasped.”

As I read the article, my initial gut reaction was if she has the mental capability, the grades, and is better than the competition on that aspect, there needs to be a way to get this gal in.  I realize that it is easy to look at this from the outside and say “yes”.  All of the accommodations that will need to be made for her potential candidacy will be very significant.

I think back probably about 5-10 years ago prior to having kids, and I can’t help but wonder if my reaction might have been a little more rigid.  If she can’t do everything that everyone else can, she can’t be a pharmacist.  She won’t be able to compound drugs, do a physical assessment, check a blood pressure, and administer a vaccine.  She really won’t be able to do a lot of things that most pharmacists can do, but should exceptions be allowed?

As I look at the situation today, I can’t help but think about being one of the parents of this woman.  Watching your child grow up struggling throughout her life, not being able to do what other children can do, would be incredibly challenging.  It’s extraordinarily inspiring to me to watch people overcome enormous obstacles in life and pursue what they love.  Knowing the profession and obviously having gone through pharmacy school, she is capable of doing many pharmacist related activities.  With the rapid advancement of technology, I believe she would only be able to do more and more activities as her career goes on.

What role could she take on in her pharmacy career?  Could she be a world class pharmacy educator, going around the world promoting the profession she loves? Absolutely. Could she round with physicians and nurses and provide expert clinical advice? Absolutely.  If she is qualified to get into pharmacy school, I think it should happen.  There has to be a baseline cognitive competency, but should a pharmacy license be given to people based upon what they can’t do, or should it be based on what they can do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Written By Eric Christianson

December 20, 2015

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