Monday, July 26, 2010

This time it's not about the customers' cell phones

So I'm sitting in the tiny 'back room' of the pharmacy eating lunch, surrounded by other employees' purses, backpacks, etc. and several times while I'm sitting there people's cell phones are going off. They can't hear them, so they ring multiple times and go unanswered.

Putting aside the question of why people will call other people's cell phones when they KNOW they are at WORK (??), I at least give these employees credit for leaving their cell phones in the 'back.' That's where I leave mine, and once in a while I might go back and check it, but it stays there.

I've got to believe most pharmacy workplaces have strict policies on cell phones, don't they? Mine apparently does not. Some of our managers are really lax about it, and I'm seeing more and more people working while carrying their cell phone in a pocket or (more often) just leaving it on the counter. Granted, it's generally out of view of the customers, but when I ask somebody a question and realize they are not answering me because they are deep in text-messaging concentration, I do a slow burn. Never mind talking on the damn thing in the middle of the pharmacy.

Is this a problem for anyone else or do I just work in an incredibly lax place? I'm debating whether to ask "upper" management to tighten things up a little and make it a rule that cell phones stay out of the general work area. They'll definitely do it, because they probably don't realize it's going on....but then again I'll be the bad guy if someone finds out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

At Least It's Friday..

After finishing a long session with someone whose expensive, sustained release pain medication was too soon to fill because he had been taking approximately 4 times the dose that was prescribed and didn't discuss this with his doctor so there was no way I was going to tell an insurance company that we confirmed that he HAD consulted with his doctor when in fact he had NOT.... (and this is the kind of thing I love to get on a Friday afternoon)..... I turned to the next prescription.

A beautifully laser-printed, signed document with just the essential information. We'll bang this one out in 45 seconds, I thought, until the technician brings it back and says, "what should I put for the directions?"

Here's exactly what it said:
"1 each 2 times a day 1 tab po qam orally." (quantity, 30).

This was one of those psychotropic meds that could be taken 100 different ways.

A call to the office phone number on the prescription revealed a fortress-like phone triage system finally ending in a voice mail.

This is why your pharmacist is kind of cranky sometimes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Lovin' It??

Customer drops off Vicodin prescription and says he'll be back in a few minutes. I get 'refill too soon' reject. Hasn't filled the prescription with us recently and the reject doesn't tell me anything else. I get the distinct feeling this customer's going to protest the resulting situation (that being, no Vicodin for you today) and I log onto the new Prescription Drug Monitoring website so I can be armed with the reason. He filled the same prescription (120 tablets!) four days earlier at a CVS in the city. Busted.

He pretends to not quite understand what I'm telling him but very quickly gives it up.

Wow. Something that worked that way it was supposed to . Who knew?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Survey Says........

I admit it, I bury my nose in Vanity Fair magazine every month. The last page is always devoted to the Proust Questionnaire, a 'personality' questionnaire usually given to a celebrity or other famous person. The answers can be serious, creative, funny, or a combination of all. I think my favorite answer was Conan O'Brien's, when asked, "What is your idea of perfect happiness?" he answered, "A walk on the beach with my Israeli bodyguards."

Anyway, I always wanted to try it -- it's a little harder than you think, but kind of fun.
Give it a whirl.

The Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
( Nerd alert! ---)
Being in the middle of a really, really good book that I can't wait to pick up every night.

What is your greatest fear?
What isn't?..... but let's start with making a mistake at work that hurts somebody.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Rosie the Riveter.

Which living person do you most admire?
Tough choice. One pair that comes to mind is Bill and Melinda Gates, for using their great wealth the way it ought to be used -- to save lives and try to change the world.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
An overblown sense of their own importance.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Expensive food treats.

On what occasion do you lie?
To protect the weak.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
At the moment?..My upper arms.

When and where were you happiest?
Right after becoming licensed as a pharmacist -- I had a full-time job, my own car and my own apartment... everything I had worked for, and I was happier than a pig in shit.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
More confidence.

If you could change one thing about your family what would it be?
Make it larger.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being (I hope) a productive member of society.

If you died and came back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?
A career girl, like in a Doris Day movie, in late 1950's Manhattan.

What is your most treasured possession?
My home.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Watching a child leave the pharmacy with an openly harsh and uncaring parent.

Who are your heroes in real life?
People who face aging and illness with dignity and humor.

What is it that you most dislike?
Those who celebrate, and propagate, ignorance.

How would you like to die?
Fast asleep. On second thought, scratch that ---- like Thelma & Louise.

What is your motto?
Be responsible for your own happiness.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Footnote to the Last Post

A couple of comments to the last post made me want to add just a few thoughts. The point I was trying to make (and it's a source of tremendous frustration to pharmacists) is how much time I have to spend some days doing guesswork. I don't mean answering questions or offering advice; I mean trying to get basic information from people whose responsibility it is to provide that information TO ME so I can do my job (and no, I don't think it's the worst job in the world at all). I'm a pretty experienced pharmacist and I can work with some pretty small shreds of information, but there comes a time when I simply can't guess anymore.

There's a subset of otherwise capable people, for example, who will NOT learn the names of their medications. Now, I don't expect them to be able to spell it or even pronounce it that well, but I do expect someone to have a basic idea of the medication's name and what it is for. If you want a written list, please ASK ME. I'd be glad to provide it --- in fact, that IS part of my job, as opposed to the insurance agent/postal clerk/coupon detective/phone operator stuff which is not. I also think people should have an idea of when they need to replenish the supply of that medication (how about when those last few tablets are rattling around in the bottle?) Call the phone number on the label and read me the prescription number. That's it. I will do the rest.

However, if you don't have the bottle you'll need to provide me with a little more information. When I worked in hospital pharmacy we had seriously ill people admitted who had NO CLUE what medications they were taking. Not ONE clue. It was left to someone else (the overworked resident, brand new RN or overwhelmed night pharmacist) to figure out. People who use prescription medication need to know what medication they take. This is not JUST FOR MY CONVENIENCE. IT IS FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY.

And my main point was that we accept this lack of responsibility because it's 'medicine',
it's being sick, it's health care, it's "I'm the patient", it's 'what are they giving me'---- and yet we would laugh at someone who walked into a furniture store and couldn't articulate if they wanted a chair or a coffee table. And the wrong prescription medication has a lot worse consequences.

To the commenter who was frustrated with trying to pick up 6 prescriptions every month ---
I really do sympathize with you. Pharmacy is an over-regulated, very labor intensive business where the human factor takes a front row seat. Most pharmacists I know dislike the 'auto refill' process because it rarely works well for anyone. My advice would be to find a smaller pharmacy with people who will work with you and give you a little more personal assistance. Give them time to work on it and hopefully it will save your sanity.

Thanks for all the great comments!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When Will Other Businesses get their act together and run like a pharmacy?

When you think about it, retail pharmacy is sort of a unique undertaking, and after a long day filled with customers' inattentiveness, strange requests, weird questions, lack of information, non-English speaking interactions, half-believable stories and total guesswork as to what THE HELL they really want I keep wondering what other retail businesses would do if faced with our average day.

For instance, I tried to imagine, the......


1. "I need to get a dining room chair -- well, maybe more of a bar stool or a recliner.... I got one a while ago, it may have been blue or green, but it's some sort thing you sit on, anyway, made by company starting with 'S' or "W".....could you check your computer to see if I've ever bought anything like that before and can I get another one? Go ahead, read me the list and I'll see if anything rings a bell."

2. I talked to someone in your Chicago store who said they would figure out what it was and then call you and have you put it aside for me. I don't know who I talked to . Can you call them?

3. if I describe my dining room to you can you tell me what I might need or what's missing? -- and then how much it (whatever it is) will cost?

4. I have a discount coupon for some kind of chair or table but I didn't bring it with me. Can you look me up on your mailing list to prove that I did get one in the mail so you can give me the discount price? Or, can you call my wife/husband at home and they will read it to you? How long will that take?

5. My neighbor's' going to pay for it. You'll have to call him to get his credit card number.

6. I think I bought a sleeper sofa back in 1989 that was only $200. Why is it more now? It's always been $200.... or maybe it was a desk......anyways I know I bought it here.

7. I'm having company tonight -- can you give me a couple of chairs to get me through the weekend and I'll (maybe) come back next week and get the rest.

8. I need six of them, but once you get it loaded in my car and the paperwork is totally complete I'll probably change my mind and only decide to take three.

9. I lost that lamp I bought 2 days ago... is there some way I can get another one without paying for it again?

10. You know what? ---maybe it's actually a rug I'm looking for......

And remember, furniture can't kill you. I think the average furniture store employee would walk away from this pretty fast, but in pharmacy it's just another day.