A Handful of Change

Has anyone else had this experience?

I was at work with a headache. In the past, when I worked on nursing units, if I had a headache I did one of two things:

  • Bum a couple of ibuprofen from a coworker
  • Borrow a couple of ibuprofen from the satellite pharmacy, which is more honorable than leaving your shift because of a headache

Now that I work in an office, without a home-base nursing unit I had to fend for myself. So I took the elevator from the Lower Level (read “basement”) of the building where my office is to the first floor where the outpatient pharmacy is located to buy ibuprofen the way I imagine non-nurses do.

photo by JParadisiRN

photo by JParadisiRN

Staring at the shelf I was instantly confused by the small, and what appeared to be identical, generic boxes labeled “pain reliever.” I fished my glasses from out of my purse to read the small print labels so I could distinguish acetaminophen from ibuprofen, and aspirin-they were all packaged very similarly. Once that was accomplished, I had to further identify the dosage I wanted- 200mg tablets, from the low dose, “junior” strength of 100 mg tablets. I’m still confused if “junior” means suitable for children, but by now my headache was worse so I let that go for another time. There was also a formula for both doses  labeled “sleep enhancing.” I assume that means it contains diphenhydramine. I just wanted #old-school #ibuprofen #thankyouverymuch.

I finally found the product I wanted. I waited my turn at the cash register. The box of ibuprofen cost $4.19. The clerk patiently waited for me to count the dollar bills in my wallet. I had four. I knew I had a bunch of change in my coin purse, so I told her I would pay in cash.

Has anyone else had this experience? I stared at the handful of coins in my palm trying to count out nineteen cents. Except for the pennies, I couldn’t tell the coins apart! When did quarters shrink to nearly the size of nickels, and what happened to the pictures of Jefferson, and Washington? The Roosevelt dimes looked familiar. The rest of the coins resembled foreign money.

The clerk showed me I had to turn the quarters over to find Washington, and I discovered there is new nickel, which is the Return to Monticello nickel bearing a full-face image of Jefferson, replacing his profile. She waited while I counted out nineteen cents. She said she has a difficult time telling them apart too.

My headache was raging by now. Furthermore, I  suspected the clerk of being polite. After all, she serves the ill and the elderly all day long. I wondered if I had just experienced the first sign of oncoming dementia. I was spooked.

Since then, I’ve been reassured by friends and coworkers that the coins have indeed changed. They have stories similar to mine. I guess I should empty my coin purse more often. I can’t help but wonder, however, between the look-alike packaging of generic drugs, and our changing currency, how are patients getting by?

One thought on “A Handful of Change

  1. It is extremely difficult to deal with the healthcare system when you’re sick….hence the invaluable existence of the “Nurse Navigator”….

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