The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Mary Mary, quite contrary

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 6:56 pm on Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mary is one of my longtime customers. She is nice enough, in an obnoxious sort of way. She buys a few things here and there ( I think she uses mail order for most), but because of a particularily annoying habit, Pharmacy Chick doesn’t like it when she asks for help. You see, Mary disses every piece of advice she asks for. She not only did it again yesterday, but I told her she was going to do it in advance. And, of course, Pharmacy Chick was right..

Mary has a cold…or allergies…its hard to tell because Mary has already dissed the advice of her doctor who suggested she had allergies…but Mary said she NEVER has allergies. Either way, she was complaining of nasal congestion, a runny nose, headache and a cough. She came to me yesterday for advice.

Now every pharmacist knows that in their cough/cold section, they have probably 30 linear feet of merchandise that has maybe 10 drug ingredients in it. They are just mixed up and market-shared to death.

I said to Mary in a playful tone: “I seem to remember we had this conversation in November and everything I suggested, you said didn’t work, are we going to try it again?” She laughed, but I was telling the truth.

“Don’t make me drowsy” she said. Ok, I suggested DayQuil for the day, and Claritin for the “possible” allergies. Claritin is not my personal favorite because I find it rather weak, but she didn’t want to be drowsy so that excluded Benadryl and even Zyrtec. “I’ve tried Claritin, it doesn’t work, and I have the Dayquil Capsules at home, they dont work either”, she replied.

I couldn’t resist. ” See, Mary? Everything I suggest, you say doesn’t work…what do you want me to do?” “I’d rather you try Zyrtec, I think its stronger, but it may make you drowsy, and there isn’t anything in all these other products (she was holding a box of Tylenol Allergy/sinus whatever)that are any better than whats in DayQuil, so if they don’t work, nothing will and you are just gonna have to suffer”. People are just to accustomed to thinking that life should be like the TV ads, and their symptoms will vanish once they take a pill. It doesn’t work that way. “OK, OK” She said, tossing the Zyrtec in the cart. She still had Dayquil at home. “I’ll try it”

“Give it more than 1 day ok?” I asked her.

2 hours later her Doctor called in Hycodan Cough syrup

Whoo Hoo! Dissed again.

The Day after a Holiday

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:18 pm on Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pharmacy Chick hates working the day after a holiday. Let me repeat that: Pharmacy Chick HATES working the day after a holiday. She also isn’t so fond of working the day before a holiday either. Today’s excerpts:

1. Three people that decided that today was the day wanted to get an immunization. No, we couldn’t do it any other time, we had to choose today. What else do these retirees have to do on a tuesday? Bunco? Soap Opera? Checkers?

2. Some guy (who is still wearing the ER bracelet from 2 days ago) who hands me a script from Michigan….written in sanskrit (or looks like it) with no Dea number…with one of those generic scripts with someting like 6 clinics to choose from and he didnt’ bother to check which one he worked out of….for Vicodin and Ibu. Couldn’t have filled it in Michigan eh buddy?

3. Some girl who lost her Accutane Rx (good luck with that one). A few hours later its called in, from a different state. Thankfully Dr had the I Pledge number…but… No surprise that I Pledge Program said NO WAY. She had no insurance card (another long distance phone call for me). Finally SHE did her online stuff, then I did mine, and off she went.

4. Some gal with a script for a nebulizer…I dont dispense nebs…”whups, I needed Albuterol, can you call my dr?” (I make her do it). After much hand wringing, its determined that she already HAS albuterol and its PULMICORT that she wants..even tho she told the tech 3 times that she HAD pulmicort at home. She didn’t have her insurance card either. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when she called the Dr office back to get her insurance number also…

5. Some guy says he is sick and wants me to call his family to pick him up. I ask him if he wants an ambulance. He says no and I call his wife/girlfriend/whatever. They spend 45 minutes sitting in my tiny wait room. More than once I go out to see if they want medical assistance, water, a bucket?(PC does NOT want puke anywhere around the pharmacy. They always decline. Then they both vanish.

6. No trips to the potty and no lunch all day…all 12 hours of it. You know, if you go hungry long enough, you quit feeling the hunger. Pharmacy Chick starts getting grouchy when she doesn’t get to eat so there were a few techs treading lightly this afternoon.

7. Piss off to every one of you who handed me a transfer to price match for $4 and then had the nerve to hand me a gift card coupon. May your butt break out in boils all over.

8. The woman who drops off 6 rx’s for herself and her kids, PC and staff scramble to get them ready and she then says “I only wanted one today, I’ll get the rest tomorrow” (Boils for her too)

9. Pharmacy Chick hates seeing a tech return to the computer with a filled script when its being rung up. How can I tactfully say “so, what the hell is wrong with THIS one?” when this lady’s insurance charged her $59 and some change for her Yaz. She wanted to try her other insurance. That one broke the $60 mark so back to insurance 1. She held up the line, she tried my patience and wasted my time. Boils on her backside too.

10. And lots of Boils to the guy who hands me several rxs to do, and after I fill them all, bring them to the cash register, counsel and walk off only to have him say “these are workers comp”.

11. Some lady who comes in asking for 2 prescriptions. Tech asks for the name and she gives her own. We look her up and she hasn’t had a script for 2 years at our store. She makes some comment about the MD calling the wrong store “again” and leaves. About a half hour later, this lady’s husband calls and complains that we told his wife that we didn’t have a prescription for HIM. She didn’t ask for one for HIM, she gave HER name and told us it was TWO. We had ONE….for HIM. She pissed and moaned about coming back. Its all our fault.

But lastly, the only thing keeping me from drinking tonight instead of blogging: the wonderful thanks I got from a patient for whom I prevented a drug interaction when her Dr prescribed Levaquin and Zithromax last week,and the cute older couple who think I walk on water and thanked me (again) for always taking care of them….Y’all keep coming back ok?

I still dont like working the day after holidays, but I survived another one.

The Shoplifter

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:37 pm on Monday, May 26, 2008

I stumbled upon the scene quite by accident, delivering some papers to the back room. I hadn’t been a pharmacist very long, maybe 2 years or so. She was sitting on the concrete floor with her hands handcuffed behind her back, and was wearing a pink shirt (why do I remember the shirt?). A police officer was standing over her writing something in his pad. Her face conveyed an expression of shameful embarrassment. She couldn’t have been older than 15. It was an awkward moment and I hustled thru quickly. She dropped her gaze when she saw me. She had been caught shoplifting. My employer prosecuted shoplifters and this one was no exception. He was the owner and shoplifting was stealing from his own back pocket in his opinion. Later on, I asked what she was caught stealing…..Makeup. I guess I could have guessed that. What else would a teenager want in a drugstore? Aspirin? At the time I also felt pity for her but now that I think about it, pity is the last thing I should feel.

20 years have passed. So, if she was 15, she is now 35. I wonder if this event altered her future? Did she feel shamed enough to never steal again? Or did she harden her heart and determine to never get caught again? She didn’t look poor. The place that I worked at the time was in a pretty swanky neighborhood–and she was a resident of this neighborhood. I wonder how that first evening back home went when she had face her parents after they learned of her arrest.

Now I work for a corporation. They hire security people that occasionally patrol the store looking for shoplifters. I have no official stats to share with you, only that which the patrollers (who patrol for several companies) have told me. What they told me surprised me:

Most of the shoplifters have money to spend, they just chose to steal. Most of the time they weren’t stealing necessities. They were caught stealing makeup, expensive cuts of meat, wine, beer, and high ticket otc items. They were usually suspected chronic shoplifters that they just happened to catch one day. I can attest that pregnancy tests rate high for theft, because I find empty boxes quite often on the shelf.

Everyday around 3:30, school lets out and a flood of students pour into the store. I don’t know what they are looking for in a drug store, but they hang out, poke fun at items we carry, play with the blood pressure machine, spill their Starbucks on the floor, and occasionally ask me if I have samples of Vicodin they can have. “ha ha, so funny….not” Their presence usually alerts the staff to keep watch. I don’t suppose that students are any more likely to steal than any other population group, but we catch more students stealing than any other group. Maybe we are more attentive when they are there, I dunno.

I do know this, we all pay for it. Everything we buy has some “shrink” included in the price. “Shrink” is that missing product that comes up when we calculate what we buy minus what we sell. The shoplifters have gone high tech too. Some bring box cutters to cut open items that have security features imbedded in the package. Some actually use their kids as a ruse or diversion. Others have been caught being “green” bringing in their own bag, but conveniently forgetting to pay for the items they have self-bagged.

Even our own employees haven’t been immune to the temptation. We tossed one employee who was caught stealing a tea bag. Sounds trivial until you realize they had been watching him for a year. The tea bag was what did him in. Another had been very creative in “refunding”. He was caught when he “refunded” an item that our reports showed we hadn’t sold in a long time. One employee even stole another employee’s cell phone. Geez, how low is that?

I am repulsed now when I hear about these people. Its because of them that I have a camera on my pharmacy 24-7. Its because of them that we have scanners at the door. Its because of them that I can’t hang my coat in the pharmacy anymore. It takes an act of congress to open the cash pan without a sale anymore. “Can you make change for this Ten?” “No, not unless you buy something”.

Its just too bad isn’t it? I often wonder what happened to the pink shirted shoplifter. She was part of the problem. I hope that if she is now raising children of her own, that she is raising them to be part of the solution.

Thought I’d check out a new job

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:44 am on Saturday, May 24, 2008

Since the grass HAS to be greener on the other side of the fence Pharmacy Chick occasionally peruses the paper/online/whatever for different jobs outside the one she actually has (and usually would trade). Here are a few I found:

Board Inspector: Well, that one sounded interesting, until I noticed it was in a different state. I don’t have a liscence there and the commute would be killer. I am pretty detail oriented but the sound of busting fellow pharmacists for forgetting to cross out a CII Rx correctly didn’t sound like a lot of fun.

Nuclear Pharmacist: Hmmm, sounds interesting. Its been a very long time since I handled IV admixtures and I’d hate to come home glowing in the dark because I messed up a radioactive one. They said they’ll train.

NON-dispensing HIV Pharmacist: what? consulting? So what, Take this or you will die? Take this and you will still die…it will just take longer.

RPH PBM Auditor: Oh nice, do I get to pack a pistol also? I should have printed this one out so I could get it verbatim here, but somebody was stupid enough to take it so its not online anymore. The qualifications included something to this effect: Must have excellent communication skills and be able to handle potentially hostile and uncomfortable situations….Be able to deal with confrontational and threatening individuals…..Nice….since this one seems worse than the one I have, maybe this isn’t the job for me. I prefer to be liked.

Hospital pharmacist, suburban-rural setting, (former retail ok per recruiter call). I guess they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they have decided to accept an application from us retail pharmacists for their precious hospital position. Since it was local, I inquired more until she told me 7 on 7 off night shift. the 7-off is cool, but the 7-on all nighters would be a caffeine infused nightmare. I dont sleep during the day.

I guess they dont have a job for me. I need a job that doesn’t exist. …pay me to blog.

When old is new again

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:26 pm on Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pharmacy Chick was grocery shopping today and found an item that screamed :BLOG!

For those of you old enough to remember, canning food used to be a pretty popular thing. Giant pots of boiling water turning cucumbers into pickles, Apples into pie filling, and peaches into future cobbler.

When I was a kid, my mother used to can food. I guess “jar” would be a more appropriate word for it since it was all in glass. We had a big back yard and grew all sorts of veggies. She’d can tomatoes and peaches, beets, cherries, jam and pickles. She also froze whatever couldn’t be canned. Because canning jars were expensive, they were treated quite well. AND we would also save and reuse mayonaise and Miracle Whip jars.

Oh, that wonderful stuff called Miracle Whip Salad Dressing. I wonder how they got the name. Where is the “miracle?” It seems that most households are either “mayo” or “Miracle Whip”. Ours was both because Dad liked MW and the rest of us liked Mayo. Anyway, these jars were perfect for canning because they had a wide mouth that was the same diameter as the canning jars sold in the store. Every jar was saved and reused for mom’s canning projects. Even our non-canning friends would save jars and bring them over. In mom’s opinion, if you threw away a jar suitable for canning, you were throwing away money.

I never got the hang of canning food, I don’t have a garden, and mom died with all of her secrets. But she left behind all these jars. Hundreds of them. She hoarded them BECAUSE Miracle whip changed their jars from wide mouth to a narrower mouth many years ago. Actually both Mayo and MW went with this narrower mouth at about the same time. To her they were useless for canning. Then they went plastic. I am sure mother would think this was apostasy.

My dad asked me once if I wanted her jars. I graciously declined. As mentioned before, I never learned the art of canning. I could just see me giving my friends Tomatoes Ala Botulina Toxina. Nope, I think I will stick to professionally canned food ,thanks.

So today, when I was shopping, I was amused to see Miracle Whip in its plastic bottle, emblazoned with the words “NEW, IMPROVED WIDE MOUTH JAR”

“New and improved?”….not so much..for those of us old enough to remember.

Common sense and looking at the big picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 5:23 pm on Wednesday, May 21, 2008

She wasn’t the most stable of individuals. Her profile was a plethora of antipsychotics and anxiolytics. She was also the poster child for the non-compliant patient. She wasn’t taking her meds regularly and given that fact, she might have saved her $2 copay and not taken them at all for what good they were doing her.

She came in for a refill on a Friday afternoon. She complained she was out (it had been around 45 days on a 30 day supply of meds)but she didn’t have the $2 until Saturday, so being the kind and benevolent pharmacist that I am, I gave her 3 chlorpromazine to “tide her over”. Even if she never showed up again, we’d be out about 15 cents of meds, 1 vial and a label. So what.

I filled the rest of the meds and put them on the shelf, minus the 3 tabs, marked as such. I finished the day and went home.

Unfortunately (as it turned out) the next shift was to be covered by a relief pharmacist from an outside agency. I got a call late Saturday afternoon from the pharmacist. No conversation starts out well with “I thought you should know about this”….

This gal had decided to go to a different store (in our same chain) to pick up the chlorpromazine. It was about 5 miles away. In her unstable mind it didn’t matter where she went. The pharmacist went to the shelf, discovered we had advanced her 3 tabs and refused to transfer the prescription to the other store. This enraged the patient. (remember: profile filled with antipsychotics and anxiolytics?) She drove to our store, made a complete scene at the counter, pretty much ruined the day for the pharmacist and the tech, and just just to complete the tirade, grabbed a display of wine sitting on an endcap and pulled it to the ground, shattering about 2 cases of wine in the process.

I was speechless. All I could think of was “Linda (fake name), it was 15 cents worth of drug. Do you honestly think it mattered that much?” She muttered something about the principle and her not being in a position to make that kind of decision. The tech thought I would be proud of them for not transferring the prescription.

For 15 cents of med, an enraged woman brought $200 worth of wine crashing to the floor.

The next monday, I had a LONG discussion with the tech about looking at the big picture.

A message from Scott.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 6:44 pm on Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hello everybody, I just HAD to share this comment with everybody who reads my blog. This is an assessment from “Scott” of his opinion of what we do for a living. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Feel free to comment in ANY way you feel appropriate. I have bold printed some very “special” sections that I’d love you to pay attention to….Pharmacy Chick

It begins here:………….

I’ve been reading your blog and you seem to be upset when people treat you no better than a cashier at Walmart. To top it off, you compare what you do for a living (counting pills and dropping them in a bottle) with the work of skilled trades like carpenters, electricians, and plumbers who work on your house.

Let’s face it: You work behind a counter in a retail store, you hand things that you didn’t build or produce to people and then you take their money. Why would you expect people (customers) to treat you any differently than a Walmart cashier?

Yes, you may have invested $150,000 more in your schooling than the person wearing the Walmart smock but what else separates you? Why should customers treat you like a deity?

By your own admission, you draw a pretty serious salary. I think you should just cash your humongous paychecks and try to give people the service they think they want or deserve. You are not a wise old doctor who is treating a patient. You are simply counting 100 pills (which you did not invent or manufacture) and putting them in a plastic bottle.

I have seen “medication vending machines” in the lobby of hospital emergency departments. I can’t wait for the day when these automatic dispensing machines are available in every supermarket. I don’t need to talk to someone who went to college for eight years just to get another thirty days worth of a medication I’ve been taking for years. I want to put my credit card in a machine, press a few buttons and have my prescription drop into a chute.

I get nearly all of my refills via Medco (mail order). I like using my PC to order medication refills in the middle of the night and then seeing the meds in my mailbox in a few days. I don’t need someone who is making $150,000/yr to put three Advair 100/50’s in an envelope and mail them to me. Some college kid getting $12/hour can do that. I can’t stand going to Walgreens and being told “you have to wait for the pharmacist to come over and talk to you before you can leave the store with your new prescription.” Why doesn’t that rule apply when I purchase meds through Medco?

I’m sorry that customers treat you like dirt. But look at the scene from my side of the counter: You are handing a product over the counter and taking money from the customer. In the customer’s mind, you are not very much different than a cashier at Walmart or the college kid working the cash register at a gas station.

A comparison of time and value

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 7:12 am on Friday, May 16, 2008

Pharmacy Chick recently had some work done on her home. They figured it might take around 4 days but I looks like it will take a little while longer, maybe 5-6. I didn’t complain. This is my home, my abode, my domicile, my sanctuary. My home is important to me, I want the work done correctly, and its not costing me any more money if this project takes 4 days or 6. If I rush them, they may make a mistake or cut corners. It was hot outside so I left some sodas in a cooler for the workmen as I bid adeiu for the day. Every day I would come home to see what they had done. I compare it to opening Christmas presents every day: “oh, look at this! Cool!”

How might things work in the pharmacy if people adopted the same attitude: I am having a prescription filled at my pharmacy. The clerk told me it may take 15 minutes, but I looks like it may take 20-25. I am not complaining. This is my body, and its important to me. I want my prescription filled correctly and its not costing me any more money if it takes 10 or 30 minutes to fill. If I rush them, they may make a mistake and give me the wrong medication…..

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. “HOW long??” “All you have to do is put pills in a bottle!” “I have to go to a meeting/basketball game/pick my kid up from soccer/get to the airport..” “Can you rush it?”

It happened the other day. A lady was pissed because the Dr had left a message (new script) on our machine about 1/2 hour before she arrived. I hadn’t pulled it yet because we were slammed. I told her we were busy and I would get to it as quickly as I can. She pulled attitude on me.” You’re busy? My husband’s in pain”. I rushed the rx and didn’t check it as good as I should have. I put the wrong doctor’s name on the rx (same last name, wrong first name). She made a point of telling me a few days later while I was out on the sales floor. With a bit of haughty in her voice ” I called your other pharmacist to make sure I got the right medicine too”

I just calmly replied as I walked back into the pharmacy “serves me right for rushing it for you. huh?”

Discrimination? Yes and No

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:58 pm on Monday, May 12, 2008

When I asked everybody if you were reading this blog, I was asked the question if I had experienced any discrimination as a female pharmacist. I thought long and hard about that question before I decided to answer it. The answer is: Yes and No. I’ll explain “no” first.

I have never experienced any discrimination with regards to employment, hours or wages. In fact, the profession is so “fair” that its almost unfair. A pharmacist just graduating will walk into a retail setting and make the same amount of wages as a 20 year veteran. You start at the top and stay there. Our company demands schedule equity (unless you prefer a less than desirable shift, you must schedule everybody in fair shift distribution). I understand in hospitals you may get the graveyard before you get the cushy day shifts, and I cannot speak for all settings of retail either, but I have always had equal good and crappy (actually, they are all crappy) shifts.

I was a manager a few years into my practice and every subordinate I have had have been males. Actually I like working with male pharmacists. I have worked with both, and I’ll take man-woman mix over woman-woman mix anyday. I have never had a male pharmacist treat me poorly, or harass me for my gender, but I also have a fairly strong personality, probably a turn off –I dunno.

Where I have had discrimination is from customers, especially early on in my career. Some wanted to speak to the “real” pharmacist. Others would look around me and ask “Is there somebody ELSE I could talk to?” Occasionally somebody would want to talk to the MAN pharmacist. I would also have to endure somebody wanting to talk to the older tech over me.

It was also common for somebody who was pissed about something to go over my head to get what they want. Mad Customer: “I wanna talk to the manager!”… PC:”that would be me”…Mad Customer: “well, who is YOUR boss?” At the time he “lived” in the office over the pharmacy. There weren’t many times I liked my first boss, but this was one of them. He took no crap from customers. He was the owner, and I followed his instructions. I looked out for his bottom line and if there was one thing he didn’t like, it was whiny ass bottom feeders trying to give him crap about how he did business. I am not sure how well it would work in today’s “service” culture, but at the time, it was HIS store, HIS policies, HIS way or NO way. Lets just say he was not a negotiator. I could write a thousand posts about my first job, but since I am still trying to forget those years, I choose not to write.

Over time I have had fewer and fewer instances like that. I’d like to think that people have gotten used to seeing women behind the counter, but more likely its because I dont’ look 24 years old anymore. I am 20 years older, I am the “familiar face” and the “go to” person. I don’t look like the child playing dress up anymore, and I am better at handling people than I used to be. I have learned when to play offense and when to play defense. I also feel that the pharmacist shortage has helped reduce discrimination. If you have a valid liscense, you might as well hold the keys to Fort Knox, and nobody will care whether you have a X or Y chromosome.

I cannot speak for every female pharmacist, but Pharmacy Chick has always felt she came into the right profession at the right time. Its a great paying job for a woman (when you compare jobs historically). The downside is you get the same crappy long hours and the same crappy responsibilities as a male pharmacist. Much depends on who you work with, for I am sure if you get paired with some groper, you’ll need to guard yourself, but I doubt you’ll ever have to fight for a fair paycheck.

Two hours in the bamboo

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 7:28 pm on Sunday, May 11, 2008

Heck of a way to spend a Sunday: 2 hours ripping out bamboo. Pharmacy Chick does NOT grow bamboo, but she has a neighbor who does. My yard is neat and tidy and hers is a urban jungle. Several years ago she planted a bamboo garden. Let me tell you that if you plant bamboo in anything OTHER than a container, you deserve exactly what you are going to get: bamboo everywhere. Today I got to do my semi-anual hack, clip and rip.

Let me tell you what bamboo is. Bamboo is like the troublemaker at school who wants to date your daughter. Bamboo is like your weird Uncle Stan drops in from Philly “for a few days” and is still there 2 weeks later. Bamboo is like your neighbor’s barking dog…at 2 am. Bamboo is like Stan’s wife Alice who smoked in your bathroom and thought you’d never find out cuz she used the fan. Bamboo is God’s own weed. Once you have it, you will never get rid of it.

The neighbor behind us had a bamboo garden once too. When they moved out, the new neighbors ripped and hacked for years before it finally quit popping up. Not even Round Up kills it. It creeps under the fence and starts growing. Hence todays version of the Hack, Clip and Rip.

It looks great now. But, it mocks me from afar. “I’ll be back” HA HA HA

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