The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Vaccinations: just do it.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:51 am on Saturday, August 16, 2008

With apologies to the shoe company with the swoosh logo, I am sending out this challenge to all you pharmacists who CAN vaccinate:  DO.

About 5 years ago,  the state I live in  decided to allow pharmacists to vaccinate.  I was slow to jump on the bandwagon by one year.  I took the wait-and-see stance before I plunged a syringe into somebody’s arm.  One year later found me in a class learning proper technique (which I already knew from my nurse-mother-who-needed-allergy-shots-for-years.  Somehow I knew that this would be a good thing for my business and profession.  I was right.

I started out with flu shots.  I was nervous as a cat at my first clinic.  I was convinced that some yo-yo would faint on me.  Nobody did, and 10,000 shots later, nobody has fainted on me yet, although a few smart alecks ask me if they need to “bend over”  Uh, no thanks.

A surprising thing happened however–customers looked at me different.  I ceased to be the pill-counting machine they thought me to be.  They discovered I had hands that did something different  than just fill prescriptions, ring up sales and hand them the bag.  They touched the patient!   They discovered I had a lap that sat next to them, even if its just for a minute.  They found out they could have my rapt attention when they had an appointment for a shot. No competition for the phone/pill tray/cash register/and every other customer.  One on One for a few precious moments, eye to eye, sitting next to them in a chair.  This was something they had never seen me do: sit.

They also discovered that I could provide a service that had been previously monopolized by the Dr’s office. I was soon vaccinating pneumococcal, TD, Hep A, Hep B, Meningococcal, and others. 

How I was perceived by these people changed.  An interesting observation:  Joe hands me a prescripiton for DrugX and asks how long it will take.  I tell him 15 minutes and he balks “THAT LONG?”    Steve comes in and inquires about a Tetanus shot.  He asks how long it will take: 20 mintues “THATS ALL?”  It seems that all it takes to increase the respect quotient, is a sharp needle.

Vaccinations are also a cash cow, if you pardon the expression.  For the most part, vaccinations are a cash transaction.  For the few insurances that pay for the vaccine, we charge an administration fee.  “Unless you’d like it to be self serve” I jokingly ask..So far no takers. Its one of those rare instances where we get paid for the service aspect of this profession.  As you all know we give out our advice for free, something no other profession does.  When was the last time you walked in to Dewey Cheatham and Howe Law firm and asked them for free advice?  Or,  walked into Cutter and Stitch Health clinic and got free advice about that rash on your leg.  They’d just hand you their rate sheet (or worse yet, laugh at you and tell you to come back when you have an appointment).  We dont get that luxury.

I do some walk up vaccinations.  Treated like a prescription, they are qued like every other.  However, when fall arrives, all vaccinations are done on a purely appointment basis since I am doing flu shots all day as well.  I can schedule 2 shots every 1/2 hour around my regular work in the pharmacy.  The advantage to this is many-fold.  First off, you know your work load. Secondly, the patient knows exactly when he/she is gonna get their shot.  Thirdly, the patient learns a new habit (scheduling an appointment with the pharmacist).  Yea, we do our walk up clinic twice a year, but over the years, I have seen more and more people eschew the clinic for the appointment basis because they no longer have to stand in line. 

If you are a young pharmacist,  Pharmacy Care is your future. If you are an older pharmacist Pharmacy Care is your chance to do something different.  Your techs can do everything but actually stick the needle in, so they learn something new also.  It would seem that mine actually argue over who gets to fill the syringes in the morning.  note to self: apparently there is a cool-factor in syringe filling…

Actual Story repeated over and over:  Pharmacy chick is used to interruptions.  Most come from people with blinders on “Can I ask you a question?” they ask as I am clearly helping somebody else and many get indignant if I tell them I will be with THEM when I done HERE.  Take the same situation, but with a tray with a needle in it.  “Can I ask you a question?” “I will be with you as soon as I am done here–I am about to give an injection”.   “Whoa, Sure, no problem, take your time”.

Its good to be the holder of the needle.

But in all seriousness,  vaccinations help your patients, and help your business.  They also improve your visibility and your credibility as a health care provider. Lastly they are actually fun. And we need a serious “injection” of fun into our profession don’t we? (ok, bad pun).



Comment by Robbo

August 17, 2008 @ 4:19 am

Terrific post.
Particularly where you talk about how patients perceive you and the professional satisfaction you receive


Comment by Shalom (R.Ph.)

August 17, 2008 @ 8:55 am

I seriously doubt I’ll be able to give vaccinations, even if the states I’m licensed in expand their scopes of practise to permit them. I’ve got a problem with needles and human flesh, see. I can make IVs, inject vials and bags, no problem there, but on the rare occasions that I need to get a shot myself, it takes 25-30mg of diazepam PO to make me hold still and not physically attack the person holding the syringe. (20mg might be enough for SQ injections; IM needs at least 25mg, and IV or a blood draw would require the full 30. Yes, I know this dose is off the wall.) Not sure if this is a panic reaction, phobia, or what, but it’s definitely there. This being the case, I hope you don’t get too many patients like me…

I never tried giving *other* people (or animals) injections, but I’m not altogether sure I’d want to try. I don’t even like to watch my son get *his* shots.


Comment by pharmacychick

August 17, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

Well not everybody has the fortitude to give shots. But perhaps your other pharmacist can get involved.
True story, I went to a major company to give a flu clinic. This young lady wanted a flu shot but was completely freaked out about getting an injection. She brought 3 (three) of her friends to hold her down. I tried to tell her she could get FluMist but NO, SHE was going to get this shot. I used distraction to get the needle in. By the time she THOUGHT I was going to give her the shot, I already had.


Comment by Pharmacy Kid

August 18, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

The reason why vaccinations boost the overall image of pharmacy is because it’s a service and not a product. By simply dispensing drugs, we are providing a product (drugs). The public doesn’t see the difference between buying drugs vs buying food vs buying retail products. Vaccinations, along with other services such as MTM require skill and knowledge. Besides, if they give pharmacists attitude during the immunization, we’re the one with the needles 🙂

I’m not sure whether I learn vaccinations this year or next, but I’m really looking forward to it.


Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

August 19, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

I agree with you that vaccinations are a shot in the arm for the profession (grin).

Also, I think “vaccinations are a cash cow” is perfect (vacca = cow!!).


Comment by Pharmacist Erin

August 20, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

You should check out my blog – I’ve bestowed an award on you b/c I love your posts…..


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