Sometimes I dream of working a 9 to 5 job. Where I can SIT at a desk, wearing something other than a blue polo and khaki pants, and sip a cup of HOT coffee. I could have had such a job, or most any job for that matter, but I chose to become a retail pharmacist. When people ask me why I chose to become a pharmacist I don’t really have a good answer. To be honest, I kind of just picked it. Although I was always a really good student (if that was a paying gig, I’d be a permanent one) and loved to learn, I didn’t grow up aspiring to be anything in particular. But when it came down to it, I had to choose something so I chose to focus on a career that played to my strengths in math and science.
I breezed through pharmacy school. But all of the coursework in the world could not have prepared me for the hardships that come with the profession. I will assume that most of you reading this are like my typical customers: that you assume I am overpaid for counting pills and putting them in a bottle. But please allow me to tell you what a typical day in my shoes is really like (cue rant).
I breezed through pharmacy school. But all of the coursework in the world could not have prepared me for the hardships that come with the profession.
Typically, I arrive to work 15-20 minutes early to prepare for the day. Mind you, this is unpaid time, but necessary for me to start my day with peace of mind. But that peace is instantly interrupted by the person standing outside the gate who simply “just has a question.” Who cares that I am juggling my coffee mug, work bag, and purse. Let me drop all of this and help you right now I think…Then I file the daily paperwork, start up all the equipment, and log-on all the registers so that I can open on time. But of course this isn’t good enough for the person in the drive thru, who obviously can’t see our posted hours, incessantly hitting the call button for service. I go over to “kindly” remind them that we are not open yet. At this point I wish that there were blinds I could hide behind to get some work done.
Who cares that I am juggling my coffee mug, work bag, and purse. Let me drop all of this and help you right now…
Right from the get go there is work to do. There are orders that were placed overnight and pre-dated scripts awaiting my attention. But the phone rings. It is a customer wanting to know if their script is ready. I “kindly” remind them that it wasn’t due to be filled until today and I just opened so they need to give me a minute. What I really wish I could tell them is that the magic elves didn’t show up last night to do it so I guess I would have to. I am already annoyed. Meanwhile, my coffee is getting cold. It is no wonder I have taken a liking to iced coffee. Fortunately the next few hours are usually uneventful and I can get some work done. But when 10 o’clock rolls around, all hell starts to break loose. I honestly could use the degree of commotion around me like clock work. The doctor offices start to send their e-scripts. And there are errors on them or drug interactions that are flagged, which cause me to stop what I am doing and pick-up the phone to call them for clarification or alternative therapy. But I am put on hold. And I hold…and hold…Then people start to stop by after their appointments to pick up their medications. And they have questions. So, I stop to counsel them. Then they remember they need to get some immunizations. So, I stop to do that.
But when 10 o’clock rolls around, all hell starts to break loose… The doctor offices start to send their e-scripts. And there are errors on them or drug interactions that are flagged, which cause me to stop what I am doing and pick-up the phone to call them for clarification or alternative therapy. But I am put on hold. And I hold…and hold…
When I come back to my work station I am told that I have phone lines waiting for me. Oh joy! Line 1 is a doctor’s office getting back to me, line 2 is another pharmacy calling for a transfer, and line 3 is a customer complaining that they got yellow pills instead of the white ones that they like. Where is the spot on the wall where I can slam my head? Oh wait, now the cashier at the register needs a manager override…how am I suppose to run over there while I am on the phone? At this point I wish I could clone myself. And my work area looks like a battle zone. It is covered with sticky notes to remind myself to call this person, order that drug, document this, and report that. And what is that over there…why yes, my now ice cold coffee. PERFECT! That is just how I like it. And I have been too busy to notice that it is way past lunch time. But what does that matter? It isn’t like I get a lunch break or any break for that matter. If I am lucky I can grab a snack during the course of the day. But if I can’t eat it with one hand while working with the other, it just isn’t going to work for me. At this point I think to myself that I should have warning labels like the medications I dispense. Mine would say warning: hangry!
At this point I think to myself that I should have warning labels like the medications I dispense. Mine would say warning: hangry!
As the day pushes on I become immune to the deafening noise of the machines around me. From the fax machine, to the printer, to the overheating computer, to the labeler, to the dispensing robot, to the overhead loudspeaker, to the phone…and let’s not forget the phone. I HATE the phone!! It never stops. I swear people just sit at home hitting redial. And if all of that isn’t enough to push my buttons, something usually breaks. Which brings me to another thing I HATE: technology. Typically someone jams something in the drive-thru drawer, or the robot malfunctions, the registers shut-down, or the fax machine won’t connect. All of these are things that I cannot fix!! I just want to do my job. What is that again? Oh yes, I must dispense medications. And my location dispenses a lot of them. So I get back to work and before I know it the day is winding down and the end is in sight. I have been so busy that I am completely unaware that I have yet to use the restroom or eat. I think I might have super powers! I can easily work a 12 hour shift with little to no fluids, no food, and no restroom breaks. Unfortunately, I become acutely aware of the last one the minute I sit down in my car to head home.
Typically someone jams something in the drive-thru drawer, or the robot malfunctions, the registers shut-down, or the fax machine won’t connect. All of these are things that I cannot fix!! I just want to do my job. What is that again? Oh yes, I must dispense medications.
Just as I am getting ready to close down shop, in walks a customer. I listen to their sob story as to why I HAVE to stay and fill their prescription (as if the other 12 hours of the day weren’t good enough for them) and agree to fill it quickly. But after handing over their medication, 5 minutes after close, do I get a thank you? NO! I hear them mumble, “I can’t believe they are only open until…” SERIOUSLY? At this point my feet (and patience) can’t take any more! I have just stood here for the last 12 hours and then some. And sometimes, when I am really lucky, I get to work until 10pm and go back in at 8am the next morning. It is like I never leave. Seriously. I think the phone rings in my head while I sleep.
I wish I had more time to spend with my customers, but the day’s work just doesn’t allow it.
But don’t get me wrong. It isn’t all bad. It is worth all the while when a mother thanks me for being open on a holiday to fill her sick child’s antibiotic or when I can help an elderly lady understand how to work her new blood glucose meter. I wish I had more time to spend with my customers, but the day’s work just doesn’t allow it. Most pharmacies are understaffed and overworked. We have to deal with a lot. And while that paycheck makes it easier to get up and face it all, it cannot buy back all of the birthdays, weddings, or holiday celebrations that I have had to miss. While each job has its ups and downs, that 9 to 5 starts to sound better and better.
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About the Author…
This WIRL was contributed by Shelby Ricketts, PharmD.Add to favorites