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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 All of that has been replaced by birds chirping, crickets singing and tree frogs croaking.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!