The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

When life is too short

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:39 am on Sunday, August 23, 2009

Occasionally a person comes into another’s life and leaves a mark.  Sometimes that person doesn’t even realize he/she has left that mark, but for the recipient, its as permanent as a tattoo.  My friend Kevin is that such person.

I wrote about him in a funny post a long time ago.  He is a physician, an oncologist actually and one night he called me about a half hour before we closed.  He was at the hospital and was running late. He asked if there was ANY way I could stay late so he could drop by and pick up his own prescription a little after we closed.  “OF course”, I said. “Just come to the pharmacy..it will be closed but I will be there”.  He arrived about 20 minutes after we closed.  He was clearly tired after a very long day but he was most gracious, as always and thanked me profusely.  At the end of the conversation he added “You know, if there is anything I can do for you, just let me know”  I told him “I know what you do for a living…I hope I never have to need what you have to offer!!”  and we both had a belly laugh and thus began a friendship. 

One of the things that draws me to a person is their eyes.  There is a reason that it is said that the eyes are the window to the soul.  They reveal more about a person than anybody realizes.  Kevin had very compassionate eyes.  They were deep and dark and kind.   It was clear he cared about his work, his patients, and his life.  After that night, everytime he came in, we always had a polite conversation and he always asked how I was doing..etc.  He was being caring…even in this very small way….to me, just a pharmacist who filled his prescriptions.  He left a mark.

Today I read his obituary in the paper.  He died in a tragic fishing accident.  I wept in the car on the way to work over this friend.

Damn it all anyways…and damn the water that took him.

He never knew about the mark he left on me.  He had family who loved him much and mourns him greatly.   

I can ony hope that I can be a person who can leave a similar mark on somebody.

Not seasonal Allergies…Seasonal Anxiety

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 12:53 pm on Saturday, August 22, 2009

Once we have passed thru July, Pharmacy Chick’s mind starts moving towards the fall and the impending flu season.  For some reason, it always leads to this weird sense of fear and dread that lasts until we actually launch the vaccinations.  This year its a little worse because of the labor cuts they implemented in our store and the media frenzy about influenza and “swine” flu.  Last week  a thousand doses of flu vaccine arrived at the store.  Flyers, Posters, etc all have been placed in strategic locations in the store (including the bathroom..go figure).

I have already scheduled several off site clinics and I know more are coming.

Usually we start vaccinating October 1.  It’s usually like a race:  On you mark, Get Set…..GO!  and they line up like I was handing out hundred dollar bills or something.  This year its about the same only earlier.  Its till August and I have already done several flu shots.  Everybody wants to know “will this cover Swine flu” (answer: no).  

Its going to be a very long flu season for those of us to vaccinate.  Potentially, there will be people who get 3 shots this year: 1 seasonal flu shot and 2 swine flu shots (given 30 days apart).   My appointment book is already filling up with familiar names and soon there will be people dropping in hoping to score a shot.  Most of the insurances arent ready to process….til Sept 1.  Its now Aug 22. 

I have 7 more days of sanity…the anxiety is already starting….

Breathe deep Chick..it will be ok.  it always is…

Dumb Pet peeve of the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 11:33 pm on Friday, August 14, 2009

It doesnt’ take much to develop a list of pet peeves in a pharmacy. In fact one of the drug rags that are delivered to the pharmacy  has a pet peeve feature every few months. After a while they have gotten so specific that I can hardly relate to them anymore.

Today however I found one that just ticks me off a bit…so I figured what the hell, I’ll write about it.

BOTTLES.  We recently went thru yet another group of manufacturer contract changes so we are getting stuff we haven’t seen before.  Aside from the fact that I take comfort in familiarity, I hate telling people that their med has changed YET again.  One of these changes is metformin.  We used to get a nice squarish bottle I could grab with one hand.  Now we have Teva as our preferred. Its a round bottle with a 15 inch circumference.  Its like grabbing a basketball with one hand….which obviously I cannot do.  It takes two hands to pour tablets into the counting tray.  Is it too much to ask for a stupid bottle a normal human can hold with one hand?

Then we have the reverse: the microbottle.  These claim to be unit-of-use.  the only “unit-of-use” feature these actually incorporate it that they have 30 tabs in them.  We used to have Greenstone sertraline….which everybody knows is Zoloft tabs in a generic bottle.  (an aside…these are my favorite generics..same tabs). They have the perfect bottle for labeling.  Fit perfectly.  We now get Northstar, which MAY hold a label the size of a postage stamp.  In other words, its a completely useless bottle.

I’ll give Merck one kudos, at least we can put a pharmacy label on all their bottles without scrunching, folding or manipulation.

Now about the rest of you…….

Divorcing myself from the job? Easier said than done.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 7:07 pm on Tuesday, August 11, 2009

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!

Back to work…

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:01 pm on Friday, August 7, 2009

PC has been enjoying a time of work/vacation/work/vacation/work/vacation.

Its been a nice ride that comes to an end tonight… I have to go back to full time nightmare status til next Jan when I get time off again.  Even the thought  of it makes my chest tight…

But for sure, it will be some wonderful blog fodder, or a heart attack.

And, you will be the first to know!

Weird but wonderful golf day

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 6:04 pm on Monday, August 3, 2009

If you have read Pharmacy Chick for awhile,  you know she is not all about pharmacy only..she has a dark side…an 18 hole obsession/hobby/mental-illness/addiction called golf.  During the summer months, all things fall to the rear of golf, whether it be dishes, laundry, whatever. If it CAN go behind playing golf, it WILL go behind playing golf.

Each summer we have our club championships.  Its not exactly the US Open, but its a close as I get to tournament golf. With a work schedule like mine, taking time off to jaunt around the state playing in events is impossible.  I do however always try to get our club event weekend off.

This year was no exception.  I was playing the best golf I had been for the season, posting some pretty good scores.  I felt I had a decent chance to claim the title back.  It’s been 8 years since I won it.

Tournament golf is different than social golf.  There is that “edge” that can get into one’s head.  It has certainly happened to me.  But our first round of the event had something rather specatular happen in it to ME that I thought I’d share it with you all.

I shot 72.  Ok, thats not spectacular. I have shot par a lot of times.  I have shot UNDER par several times also, But what I hadn’t done before was do it like this: 18 consecutive pars.

I only chipped once in all 18 holes.  I hit almost every green and the few I missed, were on the fringe and putt-able.  If you play golf, you know that 18 consecutive pars is a rarity. If you don’t play golf, I am telling you that now.

It was the coolest thing I have done on a golf course in a long time.

Did I win this year?  No, I came in third.  I was tied for the lead after 2 rounds then had a tough final round…all the good things that happened on day 1 and 2 vanished on day 3.  Yea I was disappointed, but for me,  18 pars was pretty cool enough.

AND, I thought I’d share it all with ya!

Artificial vs natural…

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:16 am on Saturday, August 1, 2009

So!  Just another day interacting with Joe Q Public.  I was handed a scrap of paper with the words “Murine or Tears type product, use as directed”.  Easy enough, I told the tech to please show Mr Public where all the tear replacement items were.  She came back a few minutes later and said the customer wanted to talk to me.

We were really busy that day and had one tech come in over an hour late so in addition to being behind by about 70 rx, I had about 10 transfers to complete for our stoooopid coupon week.  I grabbed his paper and went out to the aisle with the tears.  “What can I help you with?  What there some difficulty in selecting an artificial tear?”

The guy says “I cannot find MURINE…”  “Your paper says Murine or any tears product I have a dozen or so artificial tears on this shelf”  and I went on and selected an appropriate one.

THEN his wife/girlfriend/chick of the week pipes up and said.  “Hey, we don’t want any artificial products…don’t you have any natural tears?”  I had a witty retort that died on my lips (thank goodness) but I only said,  ” Humans can’t exactly harvest tears and bottle them..we have to make fake ones and put it into bottles”..

Just when you think you have heard it all…