Ingrid Dehrls carries nostalgia for an earlier era at Pfizer. She held her job as a pharmaceutical representative for 32 years before retiring. She wanted her job to be emotionally rewarding. She loved going out to dinner with doctors and meeting their families. When she thinks about staying until 2 a.m. to teach nurses, a smile shows up on her face and her soft brown eyes light up.
Then, 15 years ago, Pfizer changed its regulations. When Dehrls thinks about how company politics took those moments of connection away, she wrinkles her nose and her voice becomes somber. More than that, competition dominated the company as the years wore on.
And you might be surprised by her opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine.
This interview was conducted on a sunny day at Tackapausha Nature Preserve and has been edited for length and clarity.
Where did you work before the pandemic?
I was a pharmaceutical drug representative with Pfizer for 32 years. It’s a really good company. It became difficult after a while because of all the regulation changes. I retired just before the pandemic started.
What kinds of changes?
The company started laying people off 15 years ago.
In the old days, I was able to give different classes that the company offered. For the staff of the offices or the hospitals. Let’s say for instance, how to interact with elderly patients, what those patients were going through, so that the nurses would have an understanding.
One of the ways to have access to physicians was having lunch with them because during lunch they’re able to give you a few minutes to talk. They’re very busy people. Then we had to start reporting the lunches. So, some physicians were like, “Ah, I don’t want to take part in that.”
What was the most difficult thing about your job, aside from the regulations?
I’ve had very good bosses and I’ve had very bad bosses and the last one made our lives extremely difficult.
Did it get more competitive 15 years ago when they started cutting the fat?
At that time everybody was trying to prove themselves. So those people who were not working very hard, they got rid of them. They told us they tried to make it as objective as possible. A consulting company would be the one doing the cutting.
What was your favorite thing about working in pharmaceuticals?
I developed a lot of good friends. At the very beginning, the physicians could bring their wives, their spouses. I got to meet them. Of course that changed at the end, but that was fun.
Sometimes, programs at night with their nursing staff. Let’s say 11:30 p.m. to 12 a.m., 12:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. I would come home 2:30 a.m., 3 o’clock in the morning.
Since you were in pharmaceuticals, were you one of the first people to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I have to tell you, not really. I waited a while.
Why did you wait?
It was a new vaccine. When I sold drugs a lot of physicians would be like, “I want to try it on my next patient today.” Other physicians would tell me, “I’m going to wait at least six months.”
Let other people take it first?
Yeah, and see what happened with them.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Whatever your goals are, just go for them. It may take a while. I worked during the day and I went to school at night because I could not afford to go full time. I’m so glad that I did because it made me very resilient.
Listen to the full interview here: