Monday, September 8, 2008

Just a reminder to myself

A day rarely goes by when I don't remind myself how lucky I am. I was able to go to college, get a professional degree and work continuously in my profession, even with all its frustrations. I have never had to worry about supporting myself or about finding a job. I make good money and I never take this for granted. But in my pharmacy career I've worked with many people who live paycheck to paycheck, and many of the technicians I've worked with have been single moms who just barely scrape by every week. I feel guilty when I hear them talk about not being able to buy things for their kids. These are some really good workers who I depend on to help me, and there's no way they would rather be receiving unemployment or welfare. They come in every day and work hard and know exactly when that paycheck will show up in their account.

A technician once told me that she and her son had used the food bank for a time, and it helped her get back on her feet. Another one told me that a pharmacist she worked with had loaned her several hundred dollars to get over a rough patch --- the pharmacist just said, "You need it, I've got it, just take it."

I don't want to get political, because (a) I'm not smart enough, and (b) if you get political these days, you will alienate 50% of the people in the room. But there are a lot of good people out there struggling, and I really hope things will get better for them. We are told that the gap between rich and poor is ever-widening in this country, and that's not America. I believe in personal responsibility and obeying the law. I also believe that if a Category 4 hurricane destroys your town it's not your fault, and that the richest country in the world should be able to lend you a hand. I wish kids didn't have to pay the penalty for their parents' stupidity, and I wish the parents were never stupid. We've got to get smart in this country --- no more sneering at the experts, no more cowboy-redneck stuff, no more smirking at someone who 'went to Harvard.'

I guess what started this was that one of my clerks told me she was looking for a second job and all she could find was a job working overnight in a convenience store, alone, for 7 dollars an hour.
It just bothered me and made me realize again how lucky I am, even as I whine and complain about the ups and downs of the crazy pharmacy biz.


PharmacistMike said...

You have a good heart. It is very difficult seeing others struggling to get by. It is unfortunate that we can't help them all.

Anonymous said...

I just learned my company is paying new tech hires $12/hr in my area. Now, you can't live on $12/hr in my area - not alone, not with someone, nope!

So - what kind of person will want that job? One who sees it as access to all kinds of drugs & at $12/hr to boot. Great - that adds all kinds of nasty stuff to my job. I gotta hold onto the techs I have! I'll give them gift cards for a job well done - thats the least I can do.

The economics of this era just baffle me. How could we have gone from such "good economics" to so bad in such a short time? Well - a war and a city full of self-serving politicians (thank you Mr's Bush & Cheney & all your kind) will screw up an economy in no time.

Now - we've got just awful choices - someone who doesn't know how many houses he owns running with someone who grew up & was a mayor of a city the size of my high school. This bunch who is running against someone who is book smart but not street smart with someone who was a presidential drop-out himself.

Is that all this country can find? Well - you get what you pay for I guess.

Anonymous said...

There is a time for everything, and now's the time more than ever for some real intelligent decisions in USA. Seems like that there's not a lot of people taking adequate time for intelligent reflection.

I believe first of all in the potential for goodness in my fellow human beings, and that given truthful information, intelligent choices could be made among options. That was one of the reason why got into pharmacy, but I am wondering more than ever, if my thinking was wrong about the intelligence and will of the ordinary person.

As the old Japanese saying...there is no medicine for stupidity. I see a lot of stupidity masqueraded as the jones' groupthink exercise--well, 'they' are doin' it, so it'll not hurt too much i.e. we'll be in the same boat, if I'm not responsible to think to do something that is right and incidentally what may be in the best for everyone.

(Some people believe that federally-sponsored healthcare insurance is the initial set-up for socialism--whatever THAT is, but look at what the country is doing for Lehman Bros., Fannie Mae, and subsidizing the agricultural industry with corn crops in the Midwest, and sugar beets in Wyoming!!! Is all that sugar good for everyone--why do agricultural extension agents give out free recipes for homebaking that are 2-3 times as sweet as need to be, or why does coca cola and other food producer have to put so much corn syrup in their products? Have you ever seen a low-sugar food manufacturer just put less corn syrup rather than attempt to replace the sugar with a nonnatural substitute? It's a matter of taste, I say, that's been indoctrinated into us from Day 1. Why do foods have to be sweetened to the nth degree? I remember an exercise we had in compounding lab where we used the sweetening equivalencies to come up with a replacement for sugar in a product for patients with diabetes. Why did we have to make something of the same degree of sweetness?

A lot of the patients in my diabetes or heart failure support group, say that they cannot drink 2, 1, 0.5% or skim milk because of the taste when they tried it once! I grew up on powdered milk--tasting whole milk was like eating a very rich creamy pastry. If not eating so much fat is better physically for a person, then we can intelligently make a decision to learn how to use less.

As for tech wages and COLA, I'm somewhat amazed when I fill in at some retail drugstores as a temporary pharmacist, that there are usually quite decent technicians to help that seem to have their heart in the right place with attempting to make sure that the patients are treated respectfully, though they may have been been recently promoted up from the jewelry dept. As a married college student with one child, I applied for WICHE ~25 years ago and tried to defray the cost of the milk purchases to the government with the store coupons I cut from the newspaper.

I will have this to say, though, from what I understood about older Japanese workforce, is that a person applied themselves and got into the appropriate educational experience setting then went to work for a company. The company assessed the applicant's attributes and found a job for that person, and they worked for the company in whatever training capacity was set up and advanced to a position that best benefited the company, and it didn't necessarily end up being the career path that correlated with the college education. I don't know how this worked with pharmacists, because of minimal licensure requirements, but their wasn't so much individuals carving out their own niche, so tech advancement from the garden shop in some of the giant retail box stores may be part of the same kaizen.

And, I do have to say, when I pick up shifts in some stores, it is a little disheartening when some of the super book smart kids seem to want to 'take over' the licensed RPh duties, but then that may be a matter of one or several teachable moments...

On the other hand, it is unsettling to realize that part of my angst about my wages (which are good; and my vehicle, house, etc. is all paid for), is to make sure there's ample in case I need to help out with paying for my child's college expenses, or unexpected healthcare needs for under- or un-insured relatives, and also if I find someone in a similar situation, level of experience, work output and job description where I work is making a heck of lot more than me. That seems to be the major gripe as a pharmacist, that others may be unfairly getting paid a lot more than me.

There is also the issue of disrespect, that I may accept less regard by others at work based on the fact that I make so much, that I'll do anything or endure any level of disrespect, just because I'm paid the big bucks.

So, in closing, it is unfair that such responsible techs are paid a wage not commensurate with their responsibility, that our national government leadership comes down to a two-person team (with some candidates advocating sole responsibility and NOT promising to work together with ANYONE at all), that others seem to want to disregard the possibility of universal government programs simply based on their misperception of the Socialist State, and some of us refuse to acknowledge use our own God-given (or however they developed) brains!