Monday, December 13, 2010

The Wretched Question

Pharmacists often complain that when someone hands us a prescription their first and only question is, "How long will this take?" Sometimes they don't even hand it to us first. Sometimes they themselves have already decided how long it should take (as in, "It's just some cough syrup", or, "how long would it take to just refill an inhaler?") I've gotten used to it, but there are just some days when I hear it over and over again, and it REALLY gets on my nerves. In fact, it discourages and depresses the hell out of me, especially when it is super busy and I am working my butt off to try and take care of people as best I can in a professional manner. Even the customers who don't speak a word of English know how to say "HOW LONG?" And no matter what you tell them, they're back hovering at the counter 5 minutes later. I can't think of anyone else in the health-care chain who gets asked immediately and consistently, "how long will this take?"

It's really impossible to explain to people that putting the pills in the bottle is the least of our worries. The required record-keeping, regulations, requirements of the insurance companies and error-proofing procedures are formidable even without the unintelligible and nonsensical prescriptions that often come our way. And of course there's the simple factor of volume, which is inversely related to the number of staff working. No need to go over all of that again.

Anyways, as part of my 'bucket list' one day I am going to turn the tables.

Patient: I have some questions about these prescriptions.
Me: Sure. How long will this take?

Patient: I have no idea how to use this inhaler. Can you go over it?
Me: Sure. How long will this take?

Patient: Can you recommend something for this gunky cough I have and also something for my kids' acne?
Me: Uh, how long will this take?

Patient: Can you call my doctor and get me something for my migraines and then call me when it's approved and then mail it to my home and then call me when my credit card declines?
Me: OK. How lo-----

Well, you get the idea.


Anonymous said...

my wretched?- can you do that now? no. it will take an hour, and the reason you were seen on time, and the reason everyone else will be seen on time is that we will not do this today. and you showed up late. and have had this problem for months. but we will schedule you for an hour at your convenience in the near future.

Grumpy, M.D. said...


I'll just leap across the desk and strangle them, myself.

Anonymous said...

I had this lady today come in and ask the dreaded question. I told her it would take about 15 minutes and we'd have it ready. She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, "I'll take them to Wal-Mart." Because I was already backed up and short staffed, I just muttered, "Ok, have fun waiting 2 hours!" About 45 minutes later, she shows back up with an attitude and hands me the rx's again. She asks how long, and at this point, as the labels were piling up, I said I can have these ready in 30 minutes. She said ok, can you do it any faster? I so nicely, said, "Ma'am it'll be 30 minutes." I had to laugh when I walked away from the counter because in the time she left my store the first time, went to Wal-Mart and came back, she could have had her rx's filled and been at home!

The Redheaded Pharmacist said...

It is especially frustrating to me when I have a patient drop off a prescription, demand that they need it immediately, and I look down and the prescription is dated several days ago. I just think if it was that urgent they would have brought it in for us to fill earlier! But you are right, people have this preconceived notion about how long a prescription should take to fill. The problem with that is the fact that no one actually knows everything we do to get that prescription filled for them.

pharmacy chick said...

oh yes, my 5 most hated words in pharmacy.."How long will this take"
I think I have written about this before but you have certainly done a nice job in the "turn the tables" portion. I did have my own moment monday: A guy came to the counter with a hand ful of prescriptions and wanted to ask me some questions: at the time I had a patient in the wait room waiting for a flu shot..He asked me " do you have time for some questions?" I told him: " Depends, will it take long? He looked at me funny until I said in my next breath " I have a patient waiting for a flu shot".

SeaSideRobin said...

Yeah... I guess most of them don't understand that you're not just sitting there twiddling your thumbs ready to get started as soon as they hand it to you. They should understand that you have a bunch of other items to get ready and that it'll take at least [insert time here] for you to get to theirs.

In a perfect world...