The Pharmacy Chick can be called a lot of things but “ambivalent” about her job has never been one of them. It seems that no matter what I have been given to do, I throw myself into it with abandon, trying to do the best job I can. Anybody who has ever done community pharmacy is aware that it doesn’t resemble pharmacy as it was practiced even as few as 10-20 years ago. Independents ruled the landscape. Cash was king. In all of this, I have attempted to keep some “community” in retail pharmacy as it exists now. At the expense of my sanity, I am learning that it may be a losing battle.
I wanted to be there for my customers. I wanted to be DIFFERENT. I still want to be that unique and different pharmacist for my customers. It makes me feel good when I can be of help, and to know that in some way I have made a difference in their lives. Being a friend to them has always been important to me also. I want to know their first names, their kids names, what is happening in their lives so that when they come in, we have a sense of community. “So, how’s that car you are restoring John?” or “Did you have a good time in Cancun, Joyce?”
These are the the things that draw me to my customers and the flip side of that is that these are the things that draw them to me. They have come to know me. They have come to TRUST me. I never want to let them down. They want ME to give them their flu shots. Just today one man came in and wanted to know if we had flu shots yet…he wanted his now because I was here. If there is an insurance hassle, most know that if I cannot fix it, its likely not fixable. They believe what I say and I make it my business not to say stuff if I cannot back it up. What this means is that I exhaust all avenues before I tell somebody that something cannot be done. I don’t take short cuts and I dont’ blow people off.
What has become apparent is while my customers need and want what I do for them, the company doesn’t seem to hold value to the things that I do. I value the relationship, they only value what it costs to do business, the lesser the better. They claim they want to provide amazing service but their actions do not back up their words.
This “disconnect” has created a difficult situation for me. I still want to be able to do all the things I have done over the years in exactly the same way, but its becoming impossible to maintain that same kind of intensity with the stresses I have to deal with daily. Labor cuts, more responsibilties, more corporate crap has all eroded the time I have to do the things I love, and left me doing things I hate.
Take for instance vaccinations: its the one thing about the job I love. When we started them 5 years ago, we got all the support we needed. There was a lot of money to be made and because the suits at corporate hadn’t seen its potential, they didn’t meddle. Pretty soon, they saw the results and decided to take it over and call it their own. By doing so, they ruined it. Just a bunch of shit for brains. (pardon my language). Now they want us to hand out coupons, free samples and other crap with every shot, they want people to just drop in for vaccinations (instead of making appointments) and prostitute it into just another comodity instead of the procedure that it is. They advertise it like it was a part of a $4 deal. They created a 3 inch binder of procedures and rules, and have decided exactly how much labor I am alotted for doing shots. They have tried to negotiate contracts with dozens of different insurance companies who all want it submitted their own way adding tons of extra work for billing when all we used to bill CASH or Medicare-B. As a result, we have had a larger amount of unpaid claims.
Vaccinations were to set us apart as help us be recognized as the health care professionals we are. Now, its just another burden to bear.
And it goes on. Recently its all been about audits. Pages and pages of minutae rules and procedures we have to follow for when our own in-store auditors come to visit. Its completely Draconian and wastes more time than it should. I recently had a tech who ended up with 15 minutes of overtime…you’d have thought I had sold C-II’s on the street and been caught. Therefore instead of making sure customers are taken care of, the techs have become clock watchers for fear they will be written up for OT.
Each week I have a barrage of reports I how have to print, sign, date and file. Reports I’ve never needed, wanted or used, I now have to keep and keep PROPERLY because its an audit point deduction if any are missing.
And because of the labor deductions, when we go on vacations, we dont have adequate tech support for the relief pharmacists who always require a little extra help. Last week we had one pharmacist about hyperventilate when she only had one tech from 5 pm to 9pm. What am I supposed to do? Lets see what happens when she comes back and finds out she gets to work alone from 7-9pm with the new labor cuts in place!
We even got a letter tellling us we aren’t allowed to tell people about the labor redcutions. Bull sh*t. Am I supposed to let people think we just became slow imbeciles behind the counter? No way…they are gonna hear that I have one less full time person helping out now.
More crap: I waited 2 months for a printer replacement..we had to duct tape the printer door shut or it wouldn’t print and it jammed about every 20 sheets.
More crap II: Gift card offers.. the newest and most profound degrading of our profession. Need I really say more?
AND, while we have signs all over the store that says, “fill your prescriptions while you shop” we are now supposed to request that customers return in 24 hours. After coddling people with ads and signage telling people they can wait for the past 13 years, I’ll tell you, THIS is not going over very well.
Our own generic program is so lame that corporate claims everybody elses by asserting we will price match..but only if asked. So care to guess how many times I have to carry completed prescriptions BACK from the cash register to redo for a price match? Yea I need the extra work.
Mr Chick knows I am stressed. He recently spent a half hour telling me I have taken too much on my shoulders trying to be everything to everybody…and failing. “The company doesn’t give a shit about you Chick..” “Its time you realize that”. “Do what you can do and NOTHING…ELSE…” It was hurtful to hear those words. But he was right. He doesn’t want to hear my woes about work anymore.
The hard part is dealing with that truth and acting upon it. Can I really back off? Can I really quit trying to let everybody believe that its all wine and roses behind the counter when its really a few minutes from implosion.
Its a dilemma I don’t have a proper solution for yet. Being a great pharmacist is a major part of my identity. I don’t want to be or have ever strived to be a mediocre pharmacist. While I may not be the most brilliant mind on the planet, I have the gift of relating to people. I just feel that playing the corporate game is not worth losing my relationships.
And there in lies the dilemma..
I just don’t know.
They keep telling me I must do more with less.
What they fail to realize is that I not sure I have much “more” left.
If you lasted to the end of this rather long post, I congratulate you!