What to do, the case of the unhappy pharmacist

I read an article today at the CEO Blog of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) that talks about the predicament of the retail/community pharmacist.

According to the post “Pharmacists feel it when they’re asked to fill hundreds of prescriptions per shift, provide immunizations on demand, make outbound calls to promote adherence with patients and to do so with less technician help because management just saw another big contract pricing level get cut. And pharmacists are feeling less respected as the supply of pharmacists has increased and employers find positions are easier to fill.”

It’s strange to see the same issues pop-up day after day, month after month, year after year. I remember the exact sentiment coming from organizations and community/retail pharmacists when I entered the workforce back in 1997; almost verbatim. The author of the article goes on to say that “we [APhA] are doing everything we know to advance medication use and improve patient care by creating and promoting new opportunities for pharmacists”, but that too is the same thing the organizations have been saying for more than a decade. The problem isn’t necessarily at the level of the professional organizations, but rather at the grass roots level.

I tried retail pharmacy for a brief period of time shortly after graduating from pharmacy school. I quickly realized it was no place for a pharmacist. The environment has very little to do with patient care and everything to do with business, i.e. making money. I dare say the pharmacy is a loss leader for many large chains. Of course the true community pharmacy often provides real patient care, but those pharmacies are becoming extinct.

I worked part time in a community pharmacy at the same time I was working the night shift in a hospital in the bay area. It was one of the best jobs I ever had. I still hold the pharmacist I worked for in high regard as his knowledge of and compassion for his patients was second to none. He took pride in building relationships with every person that walked through his door in need of a prescription, advice or simply an understanding ear.

With that said I see retail pharmacists continually complaining about their work environment, their patients/customers, their employers, their hours, their lack of help, the general lack of quality personnel, etc. What I don’t see are those same pharmacists doing anything to change it.

The way I see it there are three things you can about a bad situation:

  1. Live with it, in which case you should stop complaining about it. This is what my wife tells me when I start whining about something at work. For me this rarely works as things that bother me tend to grow in irritation over time. Kind of like a rock in your shoe.
  2. Change it. I’ve done this a couple of times. If you don’t like something about your work environment and have the power to make it better by all means change it. This works better when the problem is small or not dependent on a large organizational change.
  3. Leave. I’ve done this a few times in my career. It’s not worth the headache or the negative impact on your life, or worse, your health.

If you follow any retail/community pharmacists on Twitter or lurk in their chat rooms you’ll find a lot of very unhappy people. I’ve never understood that. Why do that to yourself? The professional organizations have the ability to recommend practice changes, but they can’t force a business or healthcare organization to adopt those recommendations. You, on the other hand, can make an immediate and permanent change in your situation. And don’t try to tell me that I don’t understand or don’t know what I’m talking about because I’ve been there and done that.

I’m just sayin’.

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