Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sorry, but Appearance Matters

In pharmacy you have to be very detail-oriented. You've got to notice the small things. You've got to catch the one little out-of-whack thing that sticks out in a huge pile of repetitive, routine and otherwise unremarkable tasks. Anyone who works in a dispensing pharmacy has to accept this and be prepared for it -- there's no way around it.

How do you get someone to 'care' about their work?

By 'work', I don't mean correctness of the actual prescription - that's my responsibility to sign off on. But along the road to a finished prescription I sometimes get frustrated by the lack of attention to details that may not affect the final product but still indicate someone who just doesn't care enough to pay attention.

Like, for instance, the label that is slapped on cockeyed on the bottle. Okay, it won't kill anybody -- but it looks crappy and some of the more observant customers might wonder if the person preparing it took the right amount of time with everything else. Appearances matter -- to me anyway. Same if the customer's name is mispelled or their address is incomplete. I've checked prescriptions that are to be mailed out where the address labels have been mixed up between patients, or where the address is mis-typed and doesn't make sense -- but it's already passed through several pairs of eyes that just didn't look at that part. Misspelled words on labels bug me too --- I know, we're lucky if the patient even reads the label and there's probably a lot of them that wouldn't notice anyway -- but darn it, I just don't like letting that go (although I am forced to when things are really crashing around me).

Patient drug information sheets that are crumpled up and stuck inside the bag like trash. Bags that have been ripped open and re-stapled shut so they look like crap. Patients who are supposed to get easy-open caps and don't because nobody sees the indicator on the label. I don't ask the technicians to fix these things for me -- I usually do it myself. Should I feel embarassed at my pickiness? I don't think so. I think prescriptions should look professional even if the $4 crowd is determined to de-value them.

Another little pet peeve ---bad handwriting is not restricted to doctors. People will jot down catalog numbers of things we need to order and I can't READ it!! Okay, do we owe that person 106 tablets or 166? And you can be sure that the person who wrote the illegible note is long gone. Just a few extra seconds on their part would have saved me a whole lot of time.

I don't go complaining or chasing after the people who do these little things -- I think some people just 'care' and some don't and I'm not interested in nagging anyone. Some people do a job so mechanically that they forget other people will be looking at the results of that work in a different way. But it does bug me when the person doing the sloppy work doesn't have to deal with the consequences of their sloppy work.

I'm anal retentive, I guess, but that's what I get paid for.

8 comments:

WonderTech said...

Hallelujah. This goes double for any computerized inventory system tracking/ordering by NDC number. Our store is in inventory hell yet no one can cram it into their head that the last 2 numbers may slip past the "did you grab the right thing off the shelf?" checker but I'm far too often the one taking crap for our out of stocks and having to explain to patients we had to reorder their medication because the unit dose box my braindead coworker ordered (again...) isn't covered because of the unit dose NDC. Hey, it's not like you had to spend 15 minutes punching 90 tablets out of their blister packs... And "Terribly sorry ma'am. I know we told you 2 days ago that antibiotic needed a prior auth, but they were just submitting it with a unit dose NDC and completely misinterpreted the rejection message. Yeah, she's kind of a dumbass.."

I used to point out little things like that when people were consistently doing them wrong, but I gave up when I realized they were never going to care enough to retain that information. Now I've just adopted your philosophy and focused on cleaning up the messes behind the scenes..

BigD said...

Don't let everything slide. When I was a tech I didn't realize the importance of these issues and nobody took the time to explain things to me (too busy of course) It wasn't till pharmacy school that I developed professional pride and discovered the importance of the little things. Most techs don't have the education and won't unless you speak with them. You can do it in a nonthreatening way as well as lead by example.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

BigD, you make a good point. Sometimes I just hesitate to do it because I feel like I get the "eye-rolling" response. My good technicians are quite receptive, though --- but then again they're not usually the ones who are sloppy...

Ron said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. When I see a label that says "Take 2 tablet..." or safety tops on EZ open patients meds when the tech has to initial right bloody next to the EZ symbol, I want to strangle them, or scream. Most often, I just sigh and do it myself. Good post...

pharmacy chick said...

Everybody has their thing and mine is presentation. They had a name for it in school "pharmaceutical elegance". Straight labels, smooth tape,etc. We were taught that when you open a jar of cream NO cream should stick to the screw top. Its always been an issue of mine and I never hesitate to send back something that is sloppy. I also hate mis-spellings. Everybody had done it "apin" for pain or "atke" for take. Its just part of the rushing we do. Nevertheless, back it goes. It bothers me to no end to have messed up tape and sideways labels. What does it say to the patient when you hand him a bottle that looks like a toddlers craft project from pre school?

Its too bad that some manufacturers have forgotten pharmaceutical elegance. Some generic products are less than elegant of late. Kudos to Mylan in my opinion for having the most beautiful presentation of both bottle and tab/caps. If I had my way, we would stock everything they made. Unfortunately, the company signs contracts for stuff I dont particularily care for.

Anonymous said...

I love my techs, they have great attention to detail, the labels products always look very smart and professional when they are prepared. I wish pharmacy companies thought like that. I agree that the packs on some genercis and even a lot of brands are rubbish, some of the new hayfever products we sell I am embarassed to recommend cos it looks like something you might see at the impulse counter of a pound store. We have one branded prescription item (cant remember which at the moment) whose box is a dirty yellow colour, you know that yellow that white things turn after a few years. Well a patient ahd it and brought it back to complain how old it was. Well done big pharma

Pharmer Jane said...

It's a matter of taking pride in one's work. I am dealing with this issue where I work with a few people. They just can't seem to understand why I think it is important, and I get sighs and rolled eyes when I send it back for looking like crap.

Historically Crazy said...

My pharmacy manager, still a practicing pharmacist, used to get on my case about getting the labels on straight. It was irritating to have him take them off and re-do it, but now it's a rare Rx that leaves my hands with a crooked label.
I think his attention to detail (like yours) has taught me to be the same way with my work. I am DEFINITELY not that organized in another other capacity of my life, but at work, I am super anal about details. My family has received Rxs from other pharmacies that just make me cringe - misspellings, crooked labels. The worst was when they changed my mom's generic brand without informing her... Changing generic brands might not be a big deal to some, but to me and some of my patients, it is nice to know that the person behind the counter cares enough to inform you.