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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Update and Question For The Masses

  I know I haven't posted much recently. With the onset of colder weather, I am struggling with worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Typing is difficult. Working is difficult. Being patient with my patients is difficult. Being patient with my employer is most difficult. In an industry where speed is valued over anything else, there isn't much room for someone who has difficulty moving quickly or needs help getting lids off bottles. Luckily, I'm a good manager and my store is doing well enough that some of my short-comings are over looked.
  The question I wanted to pose to the masses is this: Are certified pharmacy technicians considered healthcare professionals? I want to state right away that my answer to this is a resounding "YES"! However, I think there are some employers who do not agree. My company made the decision several weeks ago that if a technician worked in a store that had the pharmacy closed on Thanksgiving or Christmas, that the technicians had to work one of the holidays as a front-end cashier. What kind of message did that decision send to these valued employees? It said, "We don't think of you as healthcare providers. We don't care that you already had plans made for your holidays (the decision was passed down a mere 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving). We don't care that you had to study and pass a certification exam. On these days you are no different than the unskilled, minimum wage cashiers that we employ." Now the next question is: What message did this decision send to the customers of the store? Many of these customers were regulars to the store. They saw their pharmacy technician behind the front counter selling cigarettes. That, in my eyes, was the wrong message to send. The techs had no choice in this but yet their reputation as a caring healthcare professional was tainted by this decision made by some out-of -touch corporate flunky who was probably trying to impress someone. And who didn't have to work the holiday himself.  Not to mention the fact that because it was a holiday everyone that worked was getting paid double-time. I don't know, I'm not a business major, but that math doesn't add up to me. Minimum was vs. CPhT wage? Hmmmm!
  Anyway, I would like to hear some thoughts on this subject.  I actually had one of my best technicians quit over it. She went to work for a PBM where she has a cubical, a desk and an hour lunch break. She evaluates prior authorization requests. It sounds to me like she made the right decision, don't ya think? Let me hear from you on this. I would like to know if any other companies made such a stupid decision to try and alienate some of their most valued professionals.


Anonymous said...

As an older pharmacist, my understanding of pharmacy tech certification is that it is a months-long course at the most, and most of the skill-training is learned on-the-job.

When I worked as a nurse-aide, the training was the same in length and depth. I think that I would consider the two technical positions similarly, with the real value placed on a caring, intelligent, helpful but not highly educated person.

I certainly wouldn't think that the nurse's aide should fill in for kitchen staff in a nursing home on a holiday, and the attitude at that business was wrong. Pharmacy techs are not 'just cashiers'.

In some of the hospitals I worked in college towns, as a matter of fact, the pharmacy (and nurse) techs held doctorates, even, in related fields.

On the other hand, I don't believe that pharmacy techs (and nurse aides) can run their own show without the licensed health care professional supervision.

Anonymous said...

I have just started having symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Even though I know its hereditary, the bent fingers, aches in feet, knees, and hips are still a puzzle. And, I find that I don't fly up and hit the shower as fast as I used to when the alarm rings in the morning. 'I feel your pain'. On the other hand, I'm starting to realize the results of chronic pain, even though I find that getting up to take acetaminophen in the middle of night helps dull the ache so I can get back to sleep.

Abbey said...

Thanks for your posts. As new pharmacist, I like your insight into the profession of pharmacy. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Caveat right up front. I’m a Cpht, who worked 26 years at Wag. 13 years as Management, the rest as a Cpht ( got out of management because I was tired of being an *glorified stock clerk*, plus I wanted my life back!) I also wanted to help people- pharmacy seemed ideal to me (and it still is!)
We had that policy come down the last 2 years I worked there. Did I think it sucked? You betcha! Part of the “perk” I felt in having the extra work, certifications, pressure etc. was that we had a better schedule than the average clerk. They didn’t have to do CE’s. They didn’t have to deal with life and death situations as we did (though I know the buck stops/stopped with the Rph, we still were a major cog in the wheel). As a former member of said management, I definitely get where you’re coming from re: pay scale. I was a very expensive Cosmetic clerk that Thanksgiving! But I did it. Partly because that’s just how I was raised, and partly because I felt that my manager really hated the whole situation, but his hands were well and truly tied. He had been told that the stores would be checked by L&P, and if pharmacy techs were not scheduled, head would indeed roll. Since he was a prince of a manager- I worked to help him. He always had our backs- I felt I needed to have his.
We also had one of my fellow techs quit over it, but quite frankly I think she was 3/4ths of the way out the door as it was. And was no great loss in the bargain- she had a hard time showing up for any shift on time, let alone a holiday!
I appreciate you, and every other Pharmacist that thinks that we “lowly” techs are “healthcare professionals” or recognize the work we do. I know a lot that don’t act that way- and it always did irk me no end. Maybe I’m unusual, because I love my job. I work hard at it- and I’d like to think (at least I’ve been told) that I’m damn good at it. My PIC used to always lean on me, especially when he referred to me as his “insurance specialist” lol!
And that’s my .02, for what it’s worth.

lovinmyjob said...

To Anonymous (#3) I would like to offer my thanks for being a team player and realizing that your manager's hands were tied (although our manager didn't have to work, did yours).
To Anonymous (#2) thank you for the understanding and support. You will be in my prayers along with all who suffer with this disease.
To Anonymous (#1): a healthcare professional doesn't necessarily have to be able to run the show alone. I don't know one medical doctor that could run his practice alone. There's just too much to do. I can tell you appreciate your techs and that is all I ask. Our techs do handle life or death decisions. We are only human and can miss things. Just today I missed a forgery that my technician spotted and kept me from dispensing. That may not have saved a life but it did save my butt.
Abbey, Thanks for the support!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for offering some respect to the lowly Cpht!
To offer an answer from the technician's point of view; are we health care profesionals? Well, I know that I am. But I've certainly seen (and worked with) some who are not! It depends on the attitude, professionalism, training, curiosity, ethics of the employee. I think it also depends on whether or not the Pharmacist treats the tech as a health care professional-- both of my bosses value and respect me, and trust my instincts.
* By the way, I'm glad to have found a pharmacy blog that isn't all vitrol. I love my job!

Anonymous said...

I just looked up the definition of proffesion in the websters dictionary and it says "a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation". I Think that means a yes, they might not have the same length of training as us, but they have pretty specialist knowledge. Someone said that they wouldnt be able to run the show without the pharmacist, well I am a pharmacist and sure as hell wouldnt be able to run the show without their support either.

I definately think they are professionals, especially if they are registered technicians (I am UK based) as they are goverened by a professional body and have a set of professional and ethical standards that they must work to. I would never want my techs used as shop fodder as they are better than that.

WarmSocks said...

If you have symptoms of RA, you need to see a rheumatologist. The sooner the better. RA is not hereditary, although there *might* be a genetic component. Tylenol won't do a thing to stop joint damage; DMARDs are much better for autoimmune diseases. Good luck getting a referral from your PCP to a rheumy.
disclaimer: IANAD

Anonymous said...

I work for Walgreens and no technician in my district or indeed my entire MARKET was required to work Thanksgiving or Christmas as cashiers. The idea was not even suggested. Why are other markets doing things against company policy?