The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Since you asked: the Michigan robbery.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 2:50 pm on Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The link below pertains to the robbery of a Walgreens in Michigan:
You have no more information than I do about this situation but a few commentors wanted to discuss it so here is our opportunity.

A pharmacist was fired for shooting at some armed robbers at his store at a 430 am robbery.

Agree or Disagree? I dont necessarily agree with the termination of the pharmacist but I also don’t think that the pharmacist acted properly. First off, every training that has ever been given to every pharmacist clearly states that at NO TIME should you ever challenge or confront a robber. NO NO NO…give them what they want because there isn’t anything in the store more valuable than your life. Secondly, I believe it was mentioned elsewhere that company policy prohibits the posession of firearms by employees in the store….permit or not. Now I understand that it was Michigan in a tough neighborhood. But it doesn’t matter. He was credited with “saving the employees” and “protecting the valuable drugs”. I doubt the employees would have been in any real danger if the drugs were given as they were told, and those drugs arent worth shooting over. Dont think I am taking the side of the company or the robbers. I am NOT. But this story could have just as easily been headlined like this ” Pharmacist dies in shooting while trying to stop robbery”

Like that headline? I dont.

Last july a very close person to me ( a pharmacist) had his store robbed at gunpoint. What did he do? GAVE THEM THE DRUGS and they left. 6 months later they were caught and prosecuted, but even tho he was rattled and scared, he came home to his wife and kids. We talked about it at length. I hope that if I ever am in the same situation as he was, that I act exactly the same way. I have also told my staff the same thing.

Dont confuse stupid with heroism. The heros always survive on TV. In REAL life they are often mourned at a funeral.

Looking at my career from a rear view mirror

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 3:14 pm on Friday, May 27, 2011

One of the responsibilities I feel I must have as a pharmacist is that of Preceptor. Im not blessed with patience to deal with the 1st year interns but I do pretty well with 2nd year and beyond. I have interns around most summers when I can. Next month marks my 24TH year as a pharmacist, over half of my life. Can I admit that I am glad that its 24 and not 4? My have things changed in the last 24 years….with massive changes just in the last 5 years. I wouldn’t want to be starting out right now. I am sorry, young pharmacists and interns…but I wouldn’t change places with you right now. I suppose you dont know any better, but I do, having lived thru the corporatization of all things pharmacy.

24 years ago, I started out in what pharmacy predominately was: Independently owned and operated pharmacies. Joe’s Pharmacy, Killebrew Drug, Thompson drug, whatever you called it, there was probably a Joe, a Killebrew and Thompson somewhere in the building. He was surely a pharmacist. I fell in love with independent pharmacy because it represented the kind of pharmacy I went to as a kid. The pharmacy stood at the back, a few steps up manned with a staff of people who looked important and busy doing stuff I couldn’t really see. Eventually I became one of them.

Then it was sold and I became an employee of a huge chain. People I had never met or seen before became my boss and administered policies. Even tho, it was still rather small….2 guys (pharmacists) and a secretary across town “managed” this acquisition. Eventually we became friends and as long as we weren’t pissing off people, I guess they were happy.

Both were previous owners of independent pharmacies and they had the heart of an independent. But they were older and in a few years retired. they must have carried some weight because when they retired with in a year of each other (and the secretary moved to another state) the company seized the change to populate the office with men of their own design….corporate minded yes-men. And the decline of the profession was in place.

Slowed only by the national shortage of pharmacists, we still had it relatively good. Strong wages, and a “write your own ticket” availability of jobs made it difficult to staff pharmacies so even heavy handed corporations didn’t shove too much down our throats…but the noose was tightening.

Schools pumped out students as fast as they could but it never seemed to be enough to keep up with store openings and retirements…until the economy tanked. Retirements slowed. People inclined to move out of the business or go part time decided to hang on to their job. Students became a glut. No longer were internships snapped up by the dozen. Now they are a coveted position and they compete for the “offer” of future employment.

I have lived thru it all. Thru feast and famine. from cash payors to PBM, from fully staffed to skeleton crews, from autonomy to being filmed and timed all day long. I am 24 years into it, and 21 of them have been in some kind of management position.

I am tired. Tired of thinking about and being responsible for schedules, inventory, meetings, reports, returns, customer complaints, administering policy, etc. My man Friday told me that in 2013 he is retiring. In 2013 I will be 50 years old and will have been a pharmacist 26 years. Unless there is some huge change in my life I am going to hand over the managers spatula ( the really nice oak one I wrote about) to a suitable person and take over Friday’s job. His/her picture will go up on the wall and I will do everything I can to help and support that new person and groom my customers to respect him/her in that new job.

That, my friends , is the light at the end of my tunnel.

View from my window: part II Mastering the technique.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 2:30 pm on Friday, May 27, 2011

I wrote yesterday about the lessons of life being played out in my back yard by a family of birds.

It appears that the youngins have figured out how to pull nutrition out of the ground instead of soley relying on a parent providing it directly to their mouths. As I write, two of them are pulling juicy morsels from my back yard as all 3 of my dogs are quaking at the door, their eyes pleading ” Please MOM, let us out!”.

It it still rather humorous to watch. Neither wanders too far from the other and if Bird 1 scores the mother lode, Bird 2 tries to get part of the action. Bird 1 will have nothing to do with the idea of “sharing”. I am not sure where Bird 3 is…perhaps in the next yard getting more intensive istruction. The parents aren’t here at the moment ūüôā

All this reminds me of an incident at out golf course a couple of years ago, and this remains to this day the coolest thing I have ever seen while golfing. Our course hosts several Red Tail Hawk nests, and they keep coming back each year. One was directly above the 3rd hole and over the weeks we could hear (and see) the activity 25 feet above as 2 eggs hatched and gradually outgrew the facility. One day it appeared to be “learn to fly day” I was walking up the 3rd hole and as I approached my drive I noticed one of the birds sitting on a tree stump literally about 4 feet away. It was the closest I had ever been to a raptor ( and trust me, I got NO closer–those talons could have gone clean thru my arms). It just looked at me as I looked at it…never budging. It was an amazing creature. I dont know where his/her nest mate was but not wanting to enrage the parent, I just hit my second shot and moseyed on…and the bird took off and somewhat clumsily found its way to higher ground.

I would find out soon enough where the nest mate was.

We worked our way to the 7th tee box and there was quite a commotion coming from the tree tops. The parent Hawk was calling out to Bird 2 who hadn’t yet mastered the art of flying….and was walking down the fairway calling back to Mom high in the tree top. He was flapping away but still primarily hopping down the fairway. We played around the ordeal as it continued all the way thru 7 and into the 8th hole. Mom kept moving around encouraging bird 2 to lift off but at this point he was still a pedestrian.

However, the 8th green butts right up to the 3rd hole (where the nest is) and Bird 2 decided he had had quite enough of all this and planted his feathery butt right in the middle of the green on 8..and squawked continually…at the time we had desired to play it. All this commotion also alerted the staff who positioned a member of the maintenance staff around the green to make sure that nobody hurt ( or got hurt) by the pedestrian raptor ( or his parent)

It really was facinating to watch all this, and after the round I caught up with the club house manager and asked him if the bird ever took flight. He said that yes indeed our pedestrian raptor finally figured out what the wings were for and joined his sibling and parent in the trees.

Yea, it was cool.

View from my window:

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 3:27 pm on Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today is the Chicks day off. (hallelujia choir). I managed to golf a little before getting rained out so am spending the rest of the day putzing around the house and computing. A little “life lesson” is being played outside in my back yard.

Its “learn to feed yourself” day apparently. We have these generic birds ( as opposed to brand name…yea I can already hear the comments) who are feeding in our back yard. Trundling behind them are 3 of their babies who are learning to fend for themselves but haven’t quite perfected the art of digging an insect from the grass yet. Mom ( or Dad) is patrolling the grounds pulling out grubs, etc while all three fledglings are making a half hearted attempt at poking the ground. However when they notice Mom with a mouth full of yummies, all 3 scramble over hoping to get a piece of the action. Once in a while she accomodates but for the most part its “lead by example”.

On a sad note I cleaned out the nests above our front door today when I noticed a dead baby bird dangling from one leg over my front door. Gads…it looked like a crime scene. I can only assume that it had perished and the parent had tried to push it from the nest and it snagged its leg on the nesting material and got stuck. When I cleaned up the debris I noticed that a second one had perished also. I marvelled at the nests (there were two). Clearly my dogs were involved…both were lined with dog hair to produce a nice soft landing spot for the babies to live.

Glad they could help, sorry they didn’t make it this time.

Lunch with a view

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 5:46 pm on Monday, May 23, 2011

The concept of lunch for a pharmacist is generally one that involves standing at a computer terminal with a warm coke at one side and a half eaten baloney sandwich nearby. However MONDAY is the one day I can actually retreat from the hellhole, um… pharmacy and plant my rear in a chair and eat uninterrupted (usually) It helps to turn my back away from people…really.

Since the bistro tables at the coffee shop were taken I took refuge in a single chair near the soup dispensary. I didn’t want to be too obvious since I had brought my own food, which ironcally was a coke and a baloney sandwich…but I digress.

I wish I had the guts to have taken the photo and post it here, but (and I mean BUTT) if I had been seen, I’d probably have had to have my cell phone surgically removed from my private parts. This guy with his ample hairy butt half hanging out of his pants came in for soup. ewww. I was tempted to pencil a sign on a napkin and hang it over his back. ” My butt is broken…see the big crack?”

In no culture, even the white-trashiest part of the USA are male butt cracks tasteful….except Wal Mart I suppose, but I dont work for the Evil Empire.

Ya know if you are gonna flash me a butt shot can you at least have one of Chippendale quality…or be on a fireman calendar?

moving on….

Im still here.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:16 am on Sunday, May 22, 2011

So, Yesterday was supposed to be the Rapture. For those less “religiously inclined”, that is the day that all of the heaven-bound were to be whisked away into eternity leaving the rest of mankind to suffer the indignity of hell.

I debated sitting naked on my front porch at 6 pm, but decided that may attract more attention than I wanted, and I was scheduled to be at church by 5:30 anyway. I decided that wearing clothes at church would be prudent, tho clearly after 6 pm I wouldn’t need them.

I guess the Lord was busy…or changed his mind because 6 pm came and went, and the Pastor finished his sermon

I’m still here, and near as I can tell, so is every other human on the face of the planet. So I guess you are still stuck with me…and my mindless drivel…and I still have to do my laundry…dammit.

And, as I sign off for now, I present a reminder to all: Matthew 24:23-36

Nowhere to hide (pharmacy chick version)

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:23 pm on Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some people never learn…”some people” happens to be me. I laughed when I read Grumpy’s version of mistaking somebody’s pregancy. Time for my own confession:

It was about 2 years ago. We all were dragged to the corporate office for a bunch of meetings (hack gag), and during one of the breaks I headed down to the restroom and got the pleasure of seeing one of our office staff coming down the stairs. Tho I spoke with her often on the phone, I rarely got to see her in person. She had on this black dress with the princess cut waistline with a big pleat in the middle, and a perfectly rounded belly sticking out. About the only thing missing was the arrow pointing down saying “BABY”. I said “ANNIE, you didn’t tell me you were pregnant!” and she laughed and said “Im not!….Im just fat!”

Life needs a rewind button.

Not only did I want to die, but one of my regional bosses heard it and blabbed it to everybody who managed to miss out on it.

If he ever needs a vasectomy, I’d be first to volunteer…with my dullest scissors…and no anesthesia.

putting a bug in their ear…

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 10:11 pm on Saturday, May 21, 2011

The inspiration for this post came to me on the golf course the other day. I was on the 8th tee box waving to my friend on the fairway on 7th. Suddenly a large bug flew into my ear. It sounded like a chainsaw was being run inside my head. I dropped like a rock flapping my ear trying to get rid of the thing. It took about 15 seconds before the offending creature finally took his exit. And if you dont think that 15 seconds can be an eternity, put a bug in your own ear and let it buzz around in there to the count of 15. I didn’t want to kill it or it wouldn’t ever leave. It was the quintessential annoyance that I wanted gone as soon as humanly possible.

It got me to thinking about my own use of the english idiom “put a bug in their ear”. I actually use it quite often at work to encourage certain customers to call their doctors office when their refills are taking longer than THEY would like.

You see, in a perfect world, my refill box would be empty at the end of every day. In my 15 years at PharmacyChick Pharmacy, it has never been completely empty, even on Christmas Eve, or New Years Eve. My refill box is a constant source of frustration for me. I have written before that every scrap of paper in it represents unfinished business, and generally there are 30-40 requests sitting there every Monday morning. By the end of the week, I am grateful if there are 10 or less to enter into the weekend.

For every person who calls their refills in early, there are 3-4 who truly believe that a 9 am call will result in a finished rx by 4 pm. Lets pause for some hearty laughter… It also seems that the larger the clinic, the longer it takes. I will usually send in my repeat requests 24-48 hours after the inital request ( I prefer 24, but a few clinics give me a rash of crap when I do that, so for those few, I wait 48.)

For those people who just cannot seem to wait (or have waited unacceptably long already), I will encourage them “it might be helpful to call your doctor and put a bug in their ear if you need a rush for this refill”

Not often understood by patients… I can ask. I can request. I can fax and fax and fax. I can call and leave messages. But there is one thing I cannot do for the patient: MAKE THE DR OK THE SCRIPT. They will call me and ask “WHY” their rx isn’t if I actually know. What is also lost on many people is that I will do my best to get their Dr auths as quick as possible, but ultimately, it is the patient that has the relationship with the doctor not me. I dont pay his salary, and he doesn’t care about me.

That previous statement bears repeating: The Doctor has a financial and health care relationship with the patient. He/she does not have a realtionship with me. I would like to believe that I partner with him to provide his patients with prescriptions, but it seldom turns out that way. I am often treated like an irritation, but because he has no real reason to please me, I can be dismissed. The patient cannot be dismissed quite so easily, and therefore when the patient calls an office, unhappy because he/she has waited 3 or more days for a refill, somebody owes them an answer.

My last comment on this matter is simple. If you are a patient, I think its reasonable to request that your physician write your prescriptions to include enough refills to last until your next scheduled appointment or lab work. I think thats a fair request. (controlled rx’s nonwithstanding) And if you are a physician, I have to believe you would deal with a lot fewer faxes if you would do this.

BECAUSE not much makes me roll my eyes more than pulling a fax off the printer and seeing my refill request for Mrs S HCTZ 12.5mg “ok 1 time” month after month.

cheers ūüôā

Menu Driven pharmacy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 8:48 pm on Monday, May 9, 2011

Today was one of those days where I got a burr under my paw.¬† For some reason, I had an inordinate amounts of 3-day demands by customers whose inability to manage their lives and their prescription refills.¬†¬†¬† Can anybody explain to me how ” Refills 0” can be interpreted as anything but ZERO?¬† I’m probably just having a moment here, but one person after another¬†asking for a refill¬†that THEY KNOW has to go to the Dr for authorization and asking for 3 days worth was just starting to rub me wrong.¬†¬† BECAUSE….

Advancing a 3 day supply of meds is a colossal waste of time for every staff member of every pharmacy in America.¬† If the patient doesn’t have a bottle, we have to use a bottle ( $) , generate a label ($),¬† assemble the rx (time and labor) and check the rx (more time)….for what???¬† NOTHING.¬† WE get no reimbursement whatsoever for this expenditure of labor and supplies.

If I was HRH Queen of Pharmacy, I would do one thing different that I bet would stop the majority of these time wasters:  Institute a surcharge. $3 fee (non refundable) for any advance of medication that has not already seen 2+ days in the refill box.

Yea, I know its a pipe dream. But maybe not.¬† How many of you ( 5 years ago)¬†thought you¬†would be paying for your bag of peanuts on your most recent airplane¬†flight? Or being told that ONE suitcase is considered “extra baggage”.¬† Or, how many of you thought you could¬†ever ¬†be charged a fee¬†to talk to tellers at banks?

¬† It seems everything we do now days is menu driven and itemized.¬† I recently took my dog to the vet.¬† I asked about dental cleaning and needed an estimate for dental cleaning.¬† They produced a page document detailing the cost of the cleaning, from each med administered, every supply used, time involved, use of recovery kennel, etc…quite detailed.¬† I was expecting something more like “Dental Cleaning………one Dog………..$400.”.¬†

Perhaps we need menu driven services within the pharmacy walls….after all, we have already begun with Vaccine admin fees charged to patients and MTM fees charged to insurance companies for special services. Let the patient decide how much or little they want from us based on what they want to pay.

Everything below would be “Copay +_____”

“Prior Auth request fee¬† $________.¬† Refill request fee¬†(first 2 n/c) Each additional request $_____.¬† Medication advance fee¬†$_____.¬† Return to stock fee¬† $____.¬† Transfer prescription fee $____.¬† Counselling on new Rx n/c¬†¬†.¬† Repeat counselling on¬†refills¬†$____¬†.¬† Records Request (first 1 n/c) $_________¬†.¬†

Yea that concept is “out there”..but¬† in all honesty,¬† there are a lot of things that are rather common place that were “out there” only a few years ago…

Just sayin………..

Just when you think you have heard it all…

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 5:18 pm on Sunday, May 8, 2011

The phone rings and its my customer Abe.¬† Nice customer but always asks a ton of questions, most of which are needless…and nearly all of them he asks more than once just to see if my answer changes.¬† He recently had a pacemaker put in and the hospital had him on some pain meds which (to no surprise) caused him some constipation.¬† For some reason he wanted a suppository only as his source of relief.¬† I gave him my proper recommendations and directions for use. MAKE NO MISTAKE….¬†He had¬†complete understanding what a suppository WAS and WHERE it was¬†to go.¬† It appeared that all of my advice was acceptable and I hung up the phone.¬† A few minutes later he rang back…( of course…ONE phone call is never enough…) “may I ask you one more question?”.¬† Sure, go ahead. “Shall I use this suppository with food or an empty stomach”.

The complete smart ass¬† I CAN be wanted to respond¬† “Unless you are placing your food directly into your butt, then it really doesn’t matter”.

I abstained from sarcasm¬† (and laughing outloud) and simply responded. “There is no problem either way”.