The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

The Gift of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 2:46 pm on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I’ve been pondering this post for a while now. I had given it a name and even worked over some of its content but didn’t decide to write it until I had a chat with my  next door neighbor.  She is a school teacher and as I was walking (or trying to walk) the dog, she drove into her drive way and I asked her “How’s School?”  She launched into a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of some of the stresses she had been going thru. Her chief complaint (being a special education teacher) was the lack of time she had to complete the grading of her students work.  These students take more effort.  “The one thing I need, I can’t get”  she said..  “TIME”. 

It was an ironic moment because that is precisely what I was shaping this post to be about!.

In the pharmacy I have a lot of tasks to do…phones and questions to answer…prescriptions to fill…and check…patients to counsel…new rx to take off the phone and recorder…reports to…orders to make and put away… AND more often than not these things run simultaneously.   I am one person in one body.  I am a champion multitasker, but even I have a limit.  Some things cannot be multitasked.  I cannot and should not put the final check on a prescription while somebody is ragging at me over the counter…sadly and too often, it happens.

Several months ago the company cut out a person from my staff.  Since that time the pressures of the workplace increased dramatically.  You see, we did NOT have a reduction in work  to accompany this reduction in staff.. They just expect me to do the same work with less people.  In other words…Same work…and 40 less labor hours per week  provided.  40 hours of “time” were removed from my workweek.   It has been a painful transition.  What used to take 10 minutes takes twice that long and when we get backed up, prescription wait times have exploded into the 30-45 minute range infuriating people.

Something had to give…and that “something” was all the auxillary garbage the company wants me to do, like keep extra copies of xyz report in the pharmacy, weekly inventory counts,  managing my email inbox, crunching stat numbers, stuff like that.  All of that stuff fell by the wayside.  In fact when I went to my file cabinet recently just to see WHEN I filed my last weekly report…it was August : the week before flu shots arrived.  Hmmmm coincidence? I think not.

But the time I want the most is TIME TO FILL PRESCRIPTIONS.  You know as well as I do that the most important thing I do is NOT filing reports, or handle inventory. Its filling prescriptions.  If I dont dispense prescriptions, I dont make money for this company. So why do they do everything in their power to make it more and more difficult to do that one thing??   Patients don’t help much with their unreasonable expectations.  They have just spent a couple of hours at the dr’s office or “urgent” care clinic and they come to me and think that I am going to produce 3 prescriptions in 10 minutes.  Their wide eyes and gaping mouths laced with incredulity doesn’t speed the process any more.  All I do is waste valuable time TELLING them why it takes so long.   I want to place both hands around their face and say “Look, do you want me to fill them or spend more time talking to you ABOUT it and not actually doing it?” 

And, how many times have you been face to face with a customer who wants a prescription that “They said they called it in a half hour ago!!!”.    Likely its still on the recorder because we are still fleshing out the prescriptions people have handed us.  We are expected to stop everything to listen to (and hope) that the rx this person wants is there. Their dismay is evident when I tell them it will be an additional 30 minutes to add them to the work que.

I just want to drop my head when I am nearing the completion of that prescription and the patient is already back at the window  (in 15 minutes) wanting it.  A few ticks of it too much to ask?

I was at the gas station the other day.  My tank was filling and my thoughts went to the pump.  That pump was going to put gas into my tank at a certain rate.  No whining, stammering, complaining or arguing was going to change that.  I had to wait until it was done. When it was “filled” it was ready.  Likewise, when I go to a restaurant, my food has to cook.  I cannot rush a steak to cook.  I can’t rush cookies to bake. I can’t rush paint to dry.  I can’t rush a surgeon to operate, or a dentist to fill a cavity.   And yet, day after day, we are harassed by people  “can you rush this?”  “he is in the car…I am late…I have to pick my kids up at soccer…I hurt…”

Sometimes when I am nervy enough I ask..”this isn’t fast food” “do you really want us to rush and perhaps overlook something and make a mistake?” “I dont.”

I feel the pressure in my chest and I dont like the way it feels…like a panic feeling.   Its like the walls are closing in when too many things are piled on at once. It never used to be that way, and now its that way quite often.

The gift of time…how wonderful it would be.


Comment by Karen

January 12, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

And we have all these “time-saving” devices nowadays! You are SO right on, Chick. There are days when the pace is just right and it feels so good to actually talk to people about their prescriptions. And I remember that this is what I was made to do.

And then there is all the crap that keeps mounting and is so not related to what we are here to do. I wonder if we can come up with great words for customers related to your gas pumping/food baking analogy. ‘Cuz you are right on the money, girl! Again!

Comment by The Redheaded Pharmacist

January 13, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

Maybe we can give pharmacy customers those pagers you get at the restaurants that light up and vibrate when your table is ready! Then you could say this when a patient drops off a prescription:

“Here you go sir, your pager will go off when your prescription is done. Feel free to shop around the store in the meantime!”

Translation: Take this and go away and give me some time to do my job!
you know, Red, that is a really good idea! I’m gonna bop that one off my boss and see where it goes…

Comment by rxkerber

January 14, 2010 @ 12:37 am

You’ve taken my thoughts right out of my head. All these reports and extra stuff my boss wants me to do is just ridiculous. And yes, they cut my staff also. I had to stay 3&1/2 hrs extra last Sat (after close) and come in 3 hrs before we opened on Sunday WITH another RPh friend of mine (she stayed until 2pm!! and was not getting paid mind you – none of us get paid for extra time here) just to get caught up through Sunday’s rx. I still had about 100rx sitting in the queue for the rest of the week. I can’t stand it. I stood there sobbing on Saturday b/c I was so overwhelmed. Sobbing while I am trying to verify rxs since I can’t leave to compose myself. This has to stop.

Comment by IAPharmer

January 14, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

You folks need to work for the right company.

My company gives me a fixed ratio, I do X number for Rxs, I get X amount of help. No negotiating, no begging to a Store manager, I punch the numbers into the computer, it gives me my hours, simple as that. If I over use I have to answer for it, but the hours that it gives are actually quite adequate, I am doing 1300ish Rxs every week and get about 194 hours of help per week, not too shabby.

They are also hiring me a full time pharmacist, so we will have overlap 4 days a week….LOVING IT!

I still get people that want it NOW, or can you do it any faster etc.

I respond to them “You can have it fast or you can have it correct, take your choice”….they shut up real fast.

Comment by RxMomma

January 15, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

Hey TRP and PC…. I work in a hospital pharmacy, but we also have a clinic/outpt pharmacy and I occasionally staff that (as little as possible because I detest retail…). Anyway, we do have the call-back discs/pagers that light up and vibrate when an RX is done. It is slick. We have about 20 or so of them. The pts can go down to the cafe and get a free small soda/coffee with them and wait. When their Rx’s are ready, we punch the number into a little box and they come back and get their stuff. For the most part it works great!!

Comment by Georgia RPh

February 10, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

I love The Redheaded Pharmacist’s idea. Pagers would be awesome! I have people that complain that their prescription should be filled ahead of people wandering around the store b/c they are going to stand in the pharmacy area and wait. Don’t think so. Our wait time is consistently 2+ hours, sometimes closer to four in the evening rush. Some of the stores in my chain near me actually stop accepting new prescriptions for the day b/c they get so backed up!

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