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Typical Day of a Retail Pharmacist
6 a.m.—wake up and make coffee
8 a.m.—clock in and open the pharmacy, turning on lights, and starting computers
8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.—check voice mail messages for prescriptions and refills
9 a.m.—check fax machine for refills and prior authorizations
9:15 a.m.—start checking prescriptions filled by technicians, answer phones, and counsel on new prescriptions
5 p.m. — turn off computers and lights. Lock pharmacy door.
If I had told you during your pharmacy school interview that this would be your typical workday routine, would you have stayed for the interview? Probably not. And you would not be the only one screaming for the hills.
The field of pharmacy is commonly seen as boring and apathetic. Although our field is necessary and crucial (see Why Pharmacy is a Great Healthcare Career), it doesn’t mean that it is acceptable to lay back, clock in, clock out, and collect our bimonthly checks.
What kind of pharmacist do you want to be?
Are you the go-getter, pro-active pharmacist? The one you claimed to be during your job interview? Or have you succumbed to being the “just get it done, fill the scripts, and get the co-pay” pharmacist? Think about your day. How different is it from the one described above?
Are you happy with the way you practice pharmacy?
Our happiness took a back seat when we entered pharmacy school. Upon graduation, we were thrilled, throwing our graduation caps in the air because our door to happiness was about to be opened. Our plans to get engaged, married, start our dream job, buy our fancy imported car, and have kids were going to receive our undivided attention. Guess what? Most of us did all of that and yet, we remained unhappy. Unhappiness has made us apathetic in our own field. Some people believe that boredom, stress and fatigue are the culprits. I beg to differ. Overworked pharmacists would rather watch Nick-at-Night than to read the latest issue of ASHP. They are not tired; they just lost the enthusiasm for the profession. And now with the creation of electronic medical records, pharmacist-run clinics and vaccinations, and the Affordable Healthcare Act, this is not the time to lose passion for pharmacy. This is the time to be the pharmacist we promised we will be. What do I mean? Think about the following questions.
A) When was the last time you went to a pharmacist association meeting?
B) When was the last time you read a clinical study in JAMA?
C) When was the last time you cleaned up the pill tray because you read about pill tray contamination?
D) When was the last time you offered, without being asked, an oral syringe for a newborn with a cleft palate?
E) If you notice an increase of albuterol inhaler refills for a patient, will you ask the patient if they are feeling all right and assess their asthma? You don’t have to diagnose but you can offer your opinion. For example, “You sound like you have developed moderate to severe asthma; I recommend an appointment with your primary physician. He can diagnose you properly and prescribe prednisone or inhaled steroids since it doesn’t appear that you are on any medications for control of asthma.”
If you can change one thing a day, what will it be?
You are not perfect; just because you are a licensed pharmacist and receive a 6-figure salary, it doesn’t necessarily make you a happy person in your own field. What should you do? Like the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day," just change one thing you do per day. Do one thing to better your career and yourself. Don’t strive for the goal of a raise or praise from your superiors. Be a better pharmacist because you are. Be a better pharmacist because you can. If you normally don’t greet your patients, then go around the counter and say hello to them. If you usually don’t help customers lost in the OTC aisle, then head over to them and offer your assistance. If you constantly get yelled at by angry doctors, then think about your answer before saying it. In most cases, doctors are as busy as you are and appreciate the help of a resourceful pharmacist. Research your answer thoroughly and offer two or three options they may select from (see How to Communicate with the Medical Team ).
All these suggestions are to help guide you to happiness in your chosen field. The field of pharmacy may be boring to others but to us, it’s our way of life. We heal patients and fill a knowledge gap between the medical community and patients. Too many times we are conditioned to do things because there is a reward such as money, networking, a passing grade, and praise. For once, step back and see what you can do as a better pharmacist. For the patient's smile, the doctor's appreciation, the nurse's gratitude, for your happiness and satisfaction.
About the Author
Dr. Karine Wong has a 10 year history of working in hospital management and 2 years as a hospital pharmacist and outpatient pharmacist. She recently published a children's book called Don't Sit On Her.
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