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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Greeting

I just wanted to post a short one this time to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas. Please remember why we celebrate this day and give thanks for our Father's everlasting Gift. May you all have a beautiful time with your loved ones. Appreciate them while you can.
Thanks for all the support I've received in the short time I've been doing this. I'm learning so bear with me.
Have a safe and happy New Year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

T'is The Season!

  Ah! Christmastime in retail! The most wonderful time of the year. I know alot of my colleagues who hate this season. They've been jaded by years of seeing Christmas "stuff" on sale since October, have had it in their "back rooms" since July, and have been inundated by Christmas music on the in-store broadcasting system since the day after Halloween. I used to be like that. In fact, I spent years not "doing Christmas" at my house because of it. I don't have children so I could get away with it and Santa wouldn't put me on the bad list. But then I made a decision. I decided that I would not allow corporate, retail America to spoil my celebration of this most wonderful season! This season (not just one day)  is a celebration of the birth of Christ! Our God loved us so much (and still does) that He sent His Son to us! Christ loved us so much (and still does) that He stripped Himself of all the glory, riches and honor of life with the Father to come into this world! He started life on Earth as we all  do and from that lowly position He became hope for this world! What's not to celebrate! So I do "do Christmas" at my house now. I put up the biggest tree I can find and I load every branch with as many lights and ornaments that I can find! Each ornament I place in praise of a most generous and loving God. Each gift I give is a mere representation of the Gift I was given! I sing along to our in-store broadcasting system because even secular songs are joyous because they celebrate this season!
  So, to all you Scrooges out there, make your own decision. Don't allow corporate America to steal the joy from this season. We live in a wonderful country that has turned Christmas into a money-making season, but at least we can celebrate the birth of Christ without threat of imprisonment or death. There are many, many countries around the world where Christians have to celebrate in hiding. We live in one of the greatest countries on Earth, where we can celebrate openly and where our freedom of speech allows us to write blogs such as this. I am truly grateful to my God for what He has given to me. That is why I now celebrate, fully, totally and completely at my house!
  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patient vs. Customer

  I've been doing alot of thinking lately about what constitutes a patient and what constitutes a customer. The easy answer is that a patient is someone in need of medical assistance whereas a customer is just there to buy something. Easy, right...or is it? Patients buy medication so that makes them a customer as well. Should we include a caveat that says they are only considered patients if they are obtaining the medication for "legitimate" use? I know, we're only supposed to be filling the rx if it's for legitimate use but we are in the real world not FDA/DEA-land where everything is black or white. When there are drugs on the market such as Suboxone that are obviously for questionable patient to begin with, things get more into the grey area.
  What about people buying OTC products and asking your advise: patient or customer? How much time do we spend on this transaction? We all have encountered the "patient" who asks us a question about an OTC product and they only want us to agree with them they don't really want our advise. Our time is money. Do we waste time on these people or cut it off quick. They are, after all, only making a purchase of a few dollars anyway.
  How about the person on the other end of the phone, who doesn't fill their prescriptions with you but their pharmacy is closed/mail-order and they just have to ask this question now? About 30 seconds into the conversation you realise that they don't want to hear what you have to say, they just want to argue or they just want to talk. Once again, our time is money. Lately, I really don't have patients for these "patients"! I really don't have patients for these calls when I have people standing in line waiting for counseling on the rx that I just filled and they just paid for.
  I think as pharmacists we have given away our information for far too long. I know it started out as the mom and pop stores that knew all of their patients by name and were neighbors with most of them. Of course you'll give your neighbor advise for free when it's needed. Then this morphed into pharmacists working for corporations who used this free advise to "draw customers in". It was a form of public relations in both cases. These days with everybody and their brother on some kind of drug do we really need this kind of P.R.? The demand for our services is such that we should no longer have to give it away. The question is how do we change? After decades or even centuries of free advise how do we start charging? How do we set a price tag on our knowledge? Obviously the MDs have figured it out. Who will be the first pharmacist to say "You don't get your prescriptions filled here so I will not answer that question until you give me your credit card number."? The computer help desks do this why  can't we?
  So let me know how you classify a patient vs. a customer. I would really like to know. As for me, I'll continue giving away my knowledge because that's what my employer demands of me, but I won't like it and if it's not life-threatening, I may tell them to call their own pharmacy. I don't care if it is mail-order and you have to be on hold forever!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Medicare Part D Rant

  OK, its that time of year. I'm not talking about open enrollment; I'm talking about the time of year when a larger majority of Medicare Part D recipients enter the dreaded "donut hole". I agree that its probably the most asinine way to manage this system and I really can't understand the concept, but its there and we have to deal with it. My biggest gripe about it is the people that act totally, completely surprised that there even is such a thing. Where have they been to not know about this? They act like the government is personally attacking them or, better yet, that the pharmacy is just trying to screw them. The majority of these recipients are over the age of 65 correct? Do they not remember the time before Medicare Part D when they had to pay full price for their meds every time? I mean, for God sake, I can remember when this plan started! Why can people not be grateful for what they have received instead of complaining about what they think they deserve? I guess I just don't get it. I really think that part of the problem is that they don't realise how much  their drugs normally would cost when they only have to pay $1.10 all year. Maybe we should start having our technicians point out to them how much their insurance saved them each time they check-out. Even my grocery store does that! Maybe it would make our patients a little more grateful. Not to mention the fact that they still get a discount even in the donut hole, its just not what they are used to. Every now and then I run into someone who gets it and is happy to hand over whatever money they have to because they either know how important the drug is to their health or they realise that things could be a lot worse for them without this insurance. Even when I point out to most patients that when they enter the donut hole they will get a $250 rebate check from Uncle Sam, they are still pissy with me. I had one lady say "If they are going to treat me this way then I guess I just won't take my medicine and die!" What is that about? Who are the mysterious they and how is dying going to teach them a lesson? I guess it just frustrates me because I do realise how much my insurance saves me. I personally use one medication that would cost me over $4000 per month if I didn't have insurance. And I take alot more than just one medication. Ingratitude annoys me. I can handle when people are not grateful for my services, that's just part of the job, but to not be grateful for a system that saves you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month is crazy and more than a little selfcentered.
       On a more positive note I do encourage my patients to be, well...patient. The donut hole is going to close eventually. Also, this time of year, don't have them buy a 90 day supply when the plan year will start over at the first of the year. I also use this opportunity to teach them about their formulary and making sure they give a copy of it to their doctor. Let's face it, most drugs have a less expensive alternative. That's what formularies are all about. The docs are going to write for whatever drug they have samples for, and we all know that this translates into whatever drug is newer and more expensive. I mean really, do you have to give your patient Seroquel just because they don't sleep well?
   That brings me to another point. I would love to have a law passed that says the docs have to put on the rx what its being used for. Not only would it help us with proper counseling, it would help us to ascertain it there is a less expensive alternative that we could "lobby" the doc for. I think this may be a law in some states (California maybe?). With so many drugs being used off-label we often have a guessing game on our hands when counseling. How many of you have counseled a patient receiving Metformin that it is used to lower blood sugar, just to find out they are using it for poly-cystic ovarian disease?  I have a doc in town who is prescribing Victoza for weight loss!!  If the state boards think counseling is so important then how about making it easier for us to do it more effectively. How many times have you counseled someone on a med and they had no idea what they were taking it for? What did they go to the doc about anyway?
  Well, enough of my ranting. I do make a point of kindly pointing out how much a patient's insurance is saving them when they complain about prices. I personally  remember a time before rx insurance and I believe that the advent of insurance is what has driven prices so high. , but that's a subject for another post.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Are We In Such a Hurry?

  That's the question for this post. Why are we in such a hurry all the time? Somehow we have been brain-washed into the mentality of "fill it quick"! Why does a prescription have to be filled so fast? Well, some might say its because the patient is waiting and they don't feel well. OK, I can sympathize with the not feeling well patient, but how long did they spend at the doctor's office? I can bet it was more than 5, 10 or even 15 minutes, so I'm not really buying that one. Others will say, that the sooner they get their meds the sooner they will feel better.That is such a load of crap! Most "sick" patients are getting antibiotics which, I believe I remember from school, don't work instantly. Yes, these patients may be getting cough syrup or anti-nausea meds which will make them "feel better" but a few extra minutes of suffering isn't going to kill them. A miss-fill just might! The other patients are the ones in pain. I agree, they need pain relief, but honestly when you're hurting badly enough the prescription could be filled in record time and it wouldn't matter. In that situation, five minutes fells like an hour. The sick or in pain patients I really do sympathize with but why do we rush ourselves with the prescriptions for chronic meds or refills? I have actually seen pharmacists and techs in such "hurry-up mode" that they were out of breath! AND THEY WERE WORKING ON REFILLS THAT HAD BEEN PHONED IN!! There is something seriously screwed-up with that. How did we get to this point?
  I believe that this "hurry-up" mentality has seriously undermined the credibility of this profession. We complain about our patients having a fast-food attitude with us, but we encourage that very attitude every time we rush to get a prescription filled just because the patient complains about our wait-time or threatens to go somewhere else. We cave in, no one forces us to! Why is that? Is it because we know we can speed it up if we need to? Are we afraid they will go somewhere "faster"? We have been pressured by the patient and our employers to work faster and faster. And, like the good little worker-bees that we are, we have complied, but at what cost? There is a price paid for this by the patient and the employer if there is a miss-fill, we all know that, but considering the volume we do that is really rare. But, if you really think about it, we pay a price every day, every hour and every minute that we press ourselves to perform faster and do more. Our profession pays a price in respect and image when we become so performance oriented. It needs to stop!!
  With all of that said, I personally maintain a wait-time of under 10 minutes on average. I can do this without the stress of being in a rush for the most part because I have trained my staff to be efficient rather than fast! I have worked in high and low volume stores and I can say I have never felt rushed or over-whelmed. I maintain efficiency by not allowing things like cell-phone, facebook, twitter, blogging, e-mail or long personal phone calls  to steal my time. I'm there to work not to socialize and I'm sure my employer agrees. I see pharmacists that waste their time on stuff like this and then wonder why they are so far behind. They usually try to blame it on not having enough staff or they try to blame it on  the staff. That's usually when I drop the bomb of being able to breakdown the wait-time indices to see where the delay has occurred. I've also gone so far as to watch security videos to see who is doing what and when. That's sneaky but sometimes necessary. After all, I work with the same techs as all my other pharmacists to so I know what is possible if we just stay focused. Do you remember freshman chemistry when they taught us about the rate-limiting step in a chemical reaction? Well, I've always thought of the pharmacist as the rate-limiting factor in filling a prescription. Nothing can leave the pharmacy until it passes through me (our work-flow makes it pass through us twice), so I control how fast or slow things get done. When I am steady and unstressed so are my staff members. That trickles down into their demeanor with the customers. How the customers are treated ultimately results in a better experience for them, they are willing to wait for their prescription and they are more willing to return. So building our business is not all about speed (which some say equals convenience).
  So, my friends, slow down, take a breath (or bathroom break)  and enjoy yourselves. Be at peace and create a peaceful atmosphere by not rushing yourself or your staff. They will love you for it, they will enjoy their work and your patients will be well taken care of and want to return. Just remember: YOU ARE IN CONTROL!!

Monday, October 25, 2010


  My last post was about my getting robbed at my store. Apparently, Opana ER is the new Oxycontin out on the streets. I thought I was up-to-date on that stuff but this one slipped by me. I guess because I refuse to stock Oxycontin, I was unaware of the change over to a new marking on the tablets that make them not as valuable on the streets. Its just too bad that Opana has to have such a unique shape. There are times when I wish all drugs were "round, white pills". Other times I don't. Like when patients don't know the names of their drugs or why they take them.
  Anyway, you would not believe the grief I'm getting for how I handled the robbery. Everyone has an opinion about what I should have done. It ranges from knocking the guy over the head with something to refusing to hand over the goods to telling him that I didn't have what he was asking for. I had one person say that the pharmacists are the problem and that if we didn't give up the drugs so easily there wouldn't be so much junk on the streets. All I have to say to that person is that the next time someone robs me I'll give the robber their address and tell him they have plenty of what he wants! I'm really! Why in God's name would I risk my life for an inanimate object? I hope I'm worth more to this world alive than the drug is with me dead. And what exactly was I supposed to hit this guy over the head with? My spatula perhaps? Telling a lie about what I have in stock isn't real brilliant either considering the doors to my "safe" are glass and all the guy had to do is look for himself.
  Luckily, my company says I handled it by the book. In fact they say I could write a training program on how to handle robberies. So, for once they're on my side.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

So, I have to pass this on to my colleagues. My pharmacy was robbed today at "note-point". That's right, I got the standard note handed to me. It was  full of misspelled words and grade-school grammar. It went something like this: Give me all your Opana 40's. If you don't I'll be shooting you... That's all the further I needed to go. I saw what he wanted and the threat made. It was, however, a funny thing that the note said he would be "shooting" me, but the dude didn't have a gun. He had a knife. It was a rather large knife, but still how does one "shooting" anything  with a knife? Obviously, he had not attended the Pharmacy Robbery 101 class that is given by the local crack cooker. And Opana? Really? I asked if that was all he wanted and he said yes. No other drugs, no other strength and no cash. Weird. I gave him what he wanted and had my tech call 911 while I waited on the next customer. The show must go on, right?
Seriously, it was a bad, scary experience. If it's never happened to you then thank God everyday. My advise to all those who have not had this experience is to be prepared. Rehearse what you would do and how you would act before it happens.  Think like a hopped-up on crack, desperate criminal to think of things that could happen.  And I know you all  know this but it can't be said enough: Don't be a hero! For the most part, these drugs do not belong to you so who cares if they are stolen. If you own your own store, then the insurance will cover your loss. I would rather file a claim for inventory loss than have my spouse file a claim on my life insurance.  Also, if your company offers counseling, don't be too proud to accept it. We often have to put up a brave face in front of our fellow workers so a counselor can give you an opportunity to vent. I love my job and I don't want to be frightened every time I have to work. Post-traumatic stress can be mild to severe even if no one was injured. Its your perception of danger that causes the stress no one else's. More than ever before we are on the front-lines of the illegal drug trade. If some one's doctor decides to cut-off their drug supply for whatever reason these people can and will become desperate. Desperate economic times will tip the balance of those on the edge of the illegal drug trade. They may try stuff that normally would be off limits to them. Anything is possible. So stay safe. I'm going to take a bubble bath!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Vacation! Nine whole days of it! What is it about vacation that we love so much? Even if we love our jobs vacation is sweet relief. I rarely go anywhere on my vacation, I'm what you would call a "home-body", but the simple truth is I just like my house and I don't get to spend much time in it. Vacation just gives us that school's-out-for-the-summer kind of feeling. Its freedom! Its knowing that I can sleep-in tomorrow. Its knowing that I can sit on my back porch with a good cup of coffee, my dog and a book (my Kindle actually) and savour the moment. Just being able to linger there without constantly checking my watch to see if its time to get ready for work. Vacation for me is not having to put my make-up on or to spend twenty minutes just trying to decide what to wear.Vacation is freedom from all those things that being on a schedule and being in the public eye demands of us. A big thing for me is freedom from the telephone. Over the years I have grown to hate the telephone. When it rings at our house my husband knows that he better answer it because I sure won't! Its an intrusion into my private world as far as I'm concerned. My phone is for my convenience not someone else's. Anyway, my phone philosophy could be an entire blog post all by itself. Vacation is peace and quiet. (Am I the only one who's noticed how noisy a pharmacy can be?) No phones ringing, no computer printers printing, no drive-thru bell ringing, no screaming kids crying, no in-store music playing and no robot running! All of that has been replaced by birds chirping, crickets singing and tree frogs croaking. This is a day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad He did!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Workplace Relationships

  No, not that kind of relationship! I want to talk about our relationships with one another. How do you, personally, look at your co-workers? Do you see them only in relation to their job title or as real people? Do you treat them the way you want to be treated or do you gauge how you treat them with how they treat you?
  Wow, that's alot to think about. I know that I spent years seeing the people around me only as huge name tags. You know: TECHNICIAN, MANAGER, SUPERVISOR, PHARMACIST, etc. They weren't real people to me. The technicians were just tools and of course upper management were just pains-in-the-ass who didn't appreciate me. What this resulted in was a "battle-field" mentality every time I went to work. I was on the offensive with my techs and the defensive with my supervisors. I was fighting a two-fronted war and I was determined to win!! Man, was I a jerk! I came across as demanding, uncooperative and just plain mean. I was not a team-player and it showed! The problem with all this was that it wasn't the real me.  I wasn't really like that at all, but I was young and insecure and thought that I had to prove myself. After all, pharmacy school doesn't really teach us how to be a pharmacist it only gives us the knowledge needed while we are busy being the pharmacist. I know I wasn't taught how to manage or motivate subordinates or how to (gasp!) submit to upper management while still maintaining my personal integrity. Basically, I was winging it!!
  Well, it all came to a screeching halt when a charge of  workplace harassment was filed against me. The most devastating part was that the person who filed the claim had never worked with me, but the company had to take it seriously anyway. How ironic! I was crushed by this charge because I knew, deep down that there was some validity to it. I had been a jerk; no doubt. Now my job and reputation were on the line. How I responded was critical to my survival. To make a long story short, I had to humble myself, apologize to those I had offended and re-evaluate my approach to those around me. I had to see and deal with these people as real people with real feelings and a real capacity to contribute to the workplace. They were assets not competitors.
  That was a long time ago and these days I get to know my technicians. I take an interest in their lives and I listen to their ideas and concerns. Now, I don't mean getting personally involved as in going out with them after work. That's just not my thing, but you have to make your own decision about that. What I've found is that my techs respect me rather than fear me. That kind of relationship is healthier for all concerned and much more productive.
  As for upper management, I've had to have an attitude adjustment. After all, I work for them. As long as my company doesn't ask me to break the law or violate my moral code, I feel it is my obligation to follow their policies and promote their programs. After all, they have been in this business a whole lot longer that I have. What this attitude does for me is to get me off the defensive and onto the team.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Playing at Work

Just so I don't come across as always preaching at my fellow pharms, I want to discuss something more lighthearted: play. That's right, play. I like to play at work. You know, laugh, joke, generally have a good time. I've worked in pharmacies where as soon as someone cracks a smile the pharmacy manager snaps," Less laughing, more working!" You get that "wet-dishtowel-thrown-on-the-spirit" feeling. My first thought (and often my first verbal response) has often been, "I thought I was working. What do you call those 200+ prescriptions I just processed?" Ours has always been and always will be a job of multi-tasking. Can't one of those multi be having fun? We often think that having fun means we're not paying attention to what we're doing, and that can be the case, but not always. I can allow my staff to take five minutes out of their down time to laugh a little. Just the other day my staff and I were practically rolling on the floor laughing about dressing up like a "crack-head" for Halloween! After going into great detail about how this would be done (laughing so hard that tears were running down our faces), we decided that neither corp. nor our customers would appreciate our humor. (Actually, some of our customers would probably think they were looking in the mirror, but that's a subject for another blog.) My point is, that this interaction took about five minutes but the overall feeling it produced lasted much longer and influenced the general atmosphere of the pharmacy in avery positive way. When I became the manager at my current store, I swore to myself the the words, "No laughing" would never cross my lips. Many of you are thinking, "Yeah, but I have staff members that won't stay focused if I allow that kind of behavior." Well, I've had those same people working for me. What I've found is that I can still allow the fun, I just need to be able to refocus their attention when its needed. It takes some effort. Its like directing a conversation; your can motivate that person to "get back to business" by some other means. Even if its just saying, "OK, we need to focus.", but doing it in a non-judgmental, non-belittling way. Its all in the delivery, in other words. If we allow our people to relax and laugh a little they'll be more productive and they'll accept direction more readily than if they're tense and already on the defense. Being this kind of supervisor inspires people to want to work for you and over time you'll spend less time managing and more time doing the pharmacy stuff you were trained for. So, live a little, laugh a little and somewhere in there fill a few prescriptions.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Adler Principle

How many of you know who Alfred Adler was?  Well, To make a long bio short, he was a psychiatrist. Unlike Freud, who believed in the "pleasure principle", Adler believed in the principle of  "striving for superiority".  In other words he believed that man existed merely to become superior to others.  How sad is that?!  Even sadder is my observation that many pharmacists practice this principle without truly being conscious of it (some are very conscious of it).  I see pharmacists who belittle their patients in conversations with their staff and I also see those who try to prove their superiority in their interactions with their patients. (We won't talk about physicians let alone nurse practitioners, we know we're superior to them. HA HA)  I'm not talking about being in control of the situation or having ultimate say in what goes on in the pharmacy. That is your job. What I'm talking about is that "I'm better/smarter/snottier, etc than you are" attitude that all of us are guilty of at one time or another. I would like you to really examine your own behavior. Listen to yourself interacting with your patients. Do you purposely use medical jargon you know they won't understand just to prove your intelligence? Do you treat your Medicaid patients differently than others? That's a big one there! Do you constantly have to out-wit your patients? All of these things show not only a lack of sensitivity but a lack of professionalism and maturity. Not to mention underlying insecurity. If you find yourself doing these things maybe you should re-evaluate your attitude or your choice of careers. We are here to serve our patients and to educate them. Acting superior is not a servants attitude. If your offended by being called a servant, then again maybe think about changing attitude or careers. Proving your intelligence does not  educate anyone. It just intimidates them into not wanting to ask questions. Is that really your goal as a pharmacist?
   The next question is: Do you treat your staff the same way?  Are you a prima dona in the pharmacy? I'm not talking about properly supervising, but just plain acting like an ass? I'll give you an example. I worked with a pharmacist once who wouldn't even help clear a paper jam in the printer. His excuse: "I went to school to be a pharmacist not some computer geek."  Really?! Well, I put gas in my car and I didn't go to school to be a mechanic! What a jerk!! And another thing, don't talk down to your staff. They are not two-year-olds. They are adults and usually can understand multi-syllable words. Here's the really scandalous thing: Sometimes they are right and you are wrong! GASP!!  In fact, some of them have been doing this longer than you have and their experience should be acknowledged. Learn to differentiate between your specialized knowledge and their experiential knowledge. It just may save your butt some time. You just may learn something from them. (Double GASP!! Now shut your mouth before you swallow a fly.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Complain or Not to Complain, That Is The Question

  We derive a certain pleasure out of complaining. Come on, admit it. Complaining brings humor and relief in times of stress. I do my own share, believe me! The question is, are we making it a habit? That is the big, big difference! If everything that comes out of your mouth is a complaint in some form or another then you have made it a habit.  Habits have a way of turning into life-styles. Is your working life-style one of negativity?  Does it just seem like a black cloud descends over you the minute you get to work?  Listen to others that you work with. Have they also formed a habit of complaining?  I tell you, its contagious!  It will spread through a pharmacy quicker than the common cold, and it will be more deadly to the over-all attitude and service level than any cancer I've seen.  I've been there, and I've personally been the one to start the epidemic!  I'm not proud of it, but now that I know its a problem I recognize the early warning signs and stop it in its tracks.  If I say something negative and one of my techs responds with something else negative, a red flag goes up for me that says, "stop this now!".  My pharmacy is usually pretty up-beat  even on our busiest days.  Often when we have fill-in pharmacists they will comment on the difference in our store. They can't always put their finger on it, but its something that makes them enjoy their day and want to come back.  I know it definitely allows me to go home feeling less like I've been "beat up" than if I've done nothing but complain all day.
   What we tend to not realise is that by complaining all we are doing is rehearsing the problem over and over. And each time we become more and more irritated by it.What most of us also don't realise is that by complaining we have victimized ourselves.  A victim is some one who is not in control of their lives.  Their situation and the actions of others is controlling them.  Don't be a victim in your own pharmacy!  Refuse to be a member of the "bitch and whine club". You'll be surprised that after awhile the attitude of the pharmacy will change.  There will always be those few who refuse to change because they enjoy being a victim. Don't be one of them!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Have You Reached Your Pinnacle?

  That's the next question I want to address. Have you, as a pharmacist, reached the pinnacle of your career? Is there no goal in which to strive for any longer? Pharmacy school was a huge goal for most of us. We learned to set our standards high. We were in tough, competitive surroundings that challenged us every day. Then real life hit us in the face. We actually became pharmacists. Now what? It can be a real let down to achieve the pinnacle so early in life. The majority of us don't want to become "upper management" because we still want to practice "real pharmacy". Without even realizing it we become lost. We were so used to striving for a goal and now there is no goal other than the next paycheck. Work becomes mundane at best and then add to that the pressure to perform that both our employers and the patients put upon us. We start to hate our jobs. Ugh another work day!!
  So where did the hatred begin? Lack of a goal. Pharmacists for the most part are very goal-oriented, but our "goal-setter" gets stuck on "high" during those 6 years in school. We just can't be satisfied with anything other than the highest goals. Well my friends, learn to unstick your goal-setter. Learn to set small, daily goals and be content with them. I actually spent a year one-time just trying to make a particular patient smile and acknowledge me. He would always come to the pharmacy, pick-up his Rx and leave without saying a word or making eye-contact. By the end of that year he was not only smiling and making eye-contact but he was joking with us as well. That was some goal to achieve! Setting goals that positively affect other people's lives is much more rewarding than selfish personal goals. After all, we did get into this profession "to help people", right? (That's a joke, kind of, see my earlier post titled "Still in Love After All These Years")
  What I'm talking about is not lowering your expectations , its changing your focus. Are you focusing your goals only on what you can attain for yourself or are your goals focused on what you can bring to the lives of others? We often complain about rude people being selfish (which is true) but if your goals are only focused on yourself aren't you just as guilty? Isn't your own selfish attitude going to affect your quality of care for your patients? We may need to change our focus from what we receive to what we can give. Giving with no thought to "return on investment" is a form of love. Do you bring love to your workplace? Think about it and have a great day!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Enough of The Introspection...For Now

  So where do we go from here? When I talk about loving being a pharmacist I am truely talking about loving your chosen profession not necessarily your employer. I know that the vast majority of us work of retail chains these days. I have worked for 3 major chains since starting in this business. We have to learn to differentiate between our profession and our employer.  That is very important in maintaining our professionalism. I am a pharmacist 24 hours a day but I only work for my employer 8 of those hours (I know some of you still do 12 hour days). No matter who we work for we are responsible for maintaining our professionalism. We represent ourselves first then our employer. We can't fall into the trap of allowing our company to dictate what to do and how to act. We are not helpless little lambs here! We are professionals and should act like it! We can make our own decisions! We all know how the law works, right? State law can narrow or make more strict federal law. What I'm talking about is the same principle. Let your company give you general guidelines but set your own standards. If your standards are more strict than your company's then so be it, but don't allow your standards to be lower. At the end of the day you have to answer to the state board, to your conscience and to God. Your employer will throw you under the bus with any one of these.
  We need to remember the definition of profession. According to Webster's Dictionary it is as follows:

       Profession--an occupation that requires extensive education or specialized training

That's us, we have had extensive and specialized education and training. Bottom line, that means we are smart enough to think for ourselves. There are plenty of things each day that irritate, annoy, harrass and disturb us but we are in control of the situation. No one else. We set the tone of the pharmacy. In my experience even the rudest technician will change if they see that the pharmacist will not allow this behavior. Be a leader in your pharmacy. Even if you're not the department manager you can be a leader in attitude and comportment. Please, don't be sheep herded along each day waiting for the axe to fall. Be a leader. Be an influencer. Your environment will change.
  I think that's all for now. Think about these things, have a great day, and love what you do!

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Moment of Reflection

O.K., after re-reading my last post I thought it was only fair that I also revisit my reasons for entering this profession. After all, I wouldn't ask you to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. So here it is: it all came down to just wanting to escape my high school guidance counselor's office. "What the....!" you may say. The truth is I was called into the counselor's office and put on the spot. "What was a straight-A student like me doing with the rest of my life", were the kind of questions she was putting to me and I felt trapped. At the time I was volunteering as a candy-striper at the local hospital and happened to be working in the pharmacy, so I told her that. Now, I really did like working in the pharmacy, but I had no thoughts of going to college. That just wasn't something my family did. But to escape her office I said I wanted to go to pharmacy school. She made me fill-out an application for the local college's pre-pharmacy program before I left. Now I was in real trouble because the spark had been ignited and I realised I really did want to go to college. I spent a few agonising weeks trying to figure out how to broach the subject with my dad. I went to him one night with all the facts and figures of what I would need and to my utter astonishment he agreed with no argument! Wow, I was going to college!
From then on it was a series of events, that could have only been orchestrated by a loving God, that set in motion my career path. After starting college, a local pharmacy called me to see if I wanted a job. I had never even heard of this pharmacy, but I said yes with no hesitation. This place was awesome! I did everything from cashier, to delivery boy, to janitor, to compounder, etc. They were not only a pharmacy but a home health care center as well. I got to learn all about ostomy supplies, wheelchairs, hospital beds, breast pumps, post-mastectomy supplies, etc. It was the most rewarding experience of my life and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me. I came into contact with young pharmacist and pharmacists who had been around since pharmacy was only a 3 year degree. I learned that I could go to college with "financial aid". I had never heard of this before. So, now the spark was a full blaze and I just had to go to university to complete what I had started. And the rest is history. There were more miraculous occurrences that kept me in school, but I won't bore you with that.
So, my point with all this is what? Well, I guess the point is that we all have a reason for going to pharmacy school. Some reasons are more noble than mine, but everything I experienced working in that pharmacy cultivated a love for this profession. I wanted to be like those people! I saw the patients respecting what those pharmacists had to say. I saw the love that they had for their profession. I saw them making a difference in the lives of their patients everyday. You may say, "Well, yes, but that was then and people are different now and we are busier now than ever." To that my response is I don't think so. We filled on average 600 presciptions a day, we serviced 3 nursing homes and the county jail with unit dosed meds, and that was all before the fancy computers and work-flow that we have now. Yes, some of the people have changed but the majority have not. We have changed! We have become too "busy" to notice when someone genuinely needs us. We are insulated from the patients by technicians, cashiers and automated telephone services. We have become too bitter or resentful to do our jobs the way they were meant to be done. The bottom line is that we can only change ourselves and how we respond to the situations and people we encounter. If you hate your job maybe you are the problem.
I know that's a strong statement, but I've been there. I spent years hating my job and moving from job to job. Then I realized that the common denominator in every situation was me. Moving from job to job was not going to fix the problem because I was the problem and no matter where I went I was there. I had to change! So, take some time to consider this. Are you the problem? Does your attitude need to change? Think about it...we'll talk later.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Still In Love After All These Years

I know to some of you it will be a shocking statement to say that I love my job. Yes, retail pharmacy has been my gig for 22 years and I still love it. But more and more I am seeing so many young pharmacists who are thousands of dollars in debt for their education and they hate their jobs. What a sad, depressing and hopeless position to be in! I'm hoping that those of you who fall into that category will be encouraged by what I say in this blog.
Stop and think (all of you) about why you decided to go to pharmacy school. I'll give you a minute.....ok, what did you come up with? I do not want to hear any of that mealy-mouthed "I wanted to help people" crap either! That's a given, we all want to help people. At least I hope; in the beginning. I need you to go deeper than that. Why pharmacy and not medicine, nursing, physical therapy, or any of the other healthcare related professions? Why this one? At some point something about this job was appealing to you. Figure out what that was.
If after all that soul searching all you came up with was that your local pharmacist drove a nice car and lived in a nice house you are in the wrong profession! Let me tell you, if you hate your job then no amount of money will make you feel better because you will have to spend eight hours of your day doing something you absolutely do not want to be doing just to make that money. Eventually, you will hate the very thought of going to work and you will resent your family for making you feel obligated to go because, hey, little Jimmy needs braces and little Sarah just has to have dance lessons or she "will just die!". Ladies you will resent the time away from your kids and guys you will resent your wives for spending all the money you grudgingly earned, etc. You have to love your job enough to walk out that door every day not knowing what the day will bring. So, if you don't love it at least try to get to the point of liking it and maybe, just maybe, the romance will blossom. Open yourself to the possibilities!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

First Timer

Hi! This is definitely a first for me. I have never even visited a blog let alone thought about publishing one. I know I'll make lots of blunders along the way, but I also know that some of the things I have to say are important. Of course, as with any blog it is entirely my opinion and I want to hear your feedback/comments. After 20 years I can still say that I love my job. For those of us who do this every day that is alot to say. Some may say I'm crazy or in denial, but I really do. My mission will be to encourage you to love your job as well or at least no hate it so much. I also want to be a source of wisdom for the next generation. Does that sound errogant? Any of you that have been doing this as long as I have know that we have wisdom to share. If we haven't learned something by now then there's a problem bigger than hating the job! I want to try to keep this blog upbeat. There are too many blogs out there from angry, disillusioned pharmacists that, quite frankly, make us all look bad. If I were a patient reading those blogs I would never trust another pharmacist as long as I live. I would think all pharmacists were angry, resentful, people-haters who would do nothing but laugh at me for my ignorance of their world and my need for medication. Yes, laughter keeps us sane at times but when it turns mean, we have turned mean. I don't want to be mean in this blog. Do we have an understanding? We can voice our concerns and frustrations without trashing the people we are supposed to be serving. Anyway, I want to keep this light-hearted and positive. That is my main goal. Let's enjoy this, shall we!