20 Under 40: Natasha Nielson offers just what the doctor ordered as retail pharmacy director
While on the way to pain relief and recovery from any number of medical concerns, many Northwest Colorado residents will likely cross paths with Natasha Nielson, who brings her pharmaceutical expertise to the region.
Though myriad issues impact the healthcare industry at all levels, Nielson and her colleagues aim to improve quality of life for patients as much as they can.
In your chosen career field, how has the job evolved since you first began?
Just in the last few years, I think the way we practice medicine has changed drastically. More money than ever is going toward research and the development of new treatments and medications, leading to the use of these new medications to treat new and old disease states. The pharmacist is widely becoming more involved and a part of the Health Care Team, which is fantastic for our profession and for our patients! Not only are pharmacists included in the treatment decisions, but in some states pharmacists are allowed to prescribe certain medications. We all have the medication knowledge that helps us to make these important decisions, and it is great to get to see providers including us in that process.
How do you feel your line of work is different from someone in a similar job a generation before you?
The research and development of new medications is growing rapidly right now. That alone changes the way pharmacists practice now, as compared to a decade or two ago. We, as pharmacists, need to be constantly learning what these new medications are, how they work, and most importantly how they will affect our patient’s outcomes. I think this learning curve is what allows us to be so valuable to the Health Care Team, and helps providers make medication decisions with our guidance.
A decade or two ago, I feel like a pharmacist was viewed as more of a vending machine — the provider saw the patient, made the decision of how to treat them, and told the pharmacist what medication to put them on. The pharmacist did just that, then moved on to the next patient. Today, I hope patients feel a sort of continuity in their care, from nurse to provider to pharmacist, because I feel like that is what is happening and I am proud to be a part of that!
What kind of challenges do you feel like you and your coworkers will face in the next decade?
Unfortunately, our biggest challenge in the next 10 years is going to be facing and dealing with the opioid crisis. I do believe that a whole health care team approach is going to lend a helping hand. One part of this crisis is of course, the entering of illegal drugs into the US from other countries, and sadly something that the local pharmacists have no control over.
However, overprescribing, and overfilling, of narcotic medications is very real, and is one place that my coworkers and I can help make a difference. Working closely with physicians to take care of patients will help improve patient outcomes, and help identify areas of concern.
What is the most rewarding part of your job on a day-to-day basis?
Compassion is something I value a lot; one of the biggest reasons I have chosen the career I am in. Taking care of patients, seeing them win battles, big or small, makes my heart feel huge. I have heard others in my profession discuss what duties or responsibilities are “not their job” when it comes to patient care.
I feel that if it can make someone’s day better, or easier, or less stressful, why not jump on the opportunity to help where I can. We have no idea what other people are truly going through in their lives, and when I can help make a treatment decision with a patient, or work with their insurance to get something approved, or simply be a body for them to talk to; I can go home feeling accomplished at night.
If you hadn’t gone down your particular career path, what else would you have liked to do with your life?
Agriculture is very near and dear to my heart. Although I have no idea what area of study I would have gone into, if pharmacy school hadn’t worked out I would have sought out a career in the ag industry.
What types of jobs would you avoid at all costs?
I have got to raise a hand to all of the teachers out there. They have made me who I am today, and I know for a fact that it takes a special heart to be successful in the profession of teaching. I am not sure that is something I could succeed in! I love my own children with all my heart, but teaching them and other’s children would be quite a challenge.
How do you feel your work-life balance differs from those of your parents/grandparents?
I think being a “professional” in our generation is becoming normal, or a sign of success. But then you still have that home/family/work balance that you want to succeed in as well. I was raised to go after your goals and put all your effort into reaching your goals; but when there are two large goals in life — successful at work and raise a family — you have to find the right balance.
My mom and grandmas were able to stay home with their young children, and luckily work a schedule that mimicked a school schedule as their kids grew up. I think this is the hardest challenge for our generation. Many professional jobs have differing, changing, or long hours; and for women in today’s workforce, makes this balance a little more of a challenge.
How do you feel everyday life is better or worse in 2020 with certain technology shifts?
Technology makes many tasks in my profession much easier. From ordering medications, to receive electronic prescriptions, to getting printed labels for prescriptions bottles, we couldn’t run the pharmacy without technology today.
What kind of strengths or weaknesses do you believe your generation brings to your career field?
The desire to find cures and treatments for disease states is helping to push forward the research side of pharmaceuticals. The way we can adapt to and learn how technology is impacting our career and jump on board with it, makes for a strong group of coworkers as well. I think, for the most part, that we all want to be a part of the bigger picture of the Health Care Team; and therefore we are striving to work closely with physicians to help take care of our patients. We are taking the initiative to want to be a part of our patient’s healthcare.
How do you feel your generation fits into Moffat County’s future?
The future of Moffat County is unknown, as it has been for generations before me and, I am sure, generations to come. My generation will become the dominant age of the workforce in this county, be it from nursing, to coal mines, to the power plant, if it isn’t already. I am proud to be a part of this community and in the future it holds.
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