Responses to discussions which I initiated in Pharmacy Connections and other pharmacy related groups on Linkedin about the difficult issues which pharmacists face daily was extremely informative. Responses covered a vast array of issues that are evident in our profession. Complaints ranged from the usual complaints of long hours without sufficient breaks to a discussion concerning the use of discount cards. The discussions supported the lack of control that pharmacists actually possess. This article will list the most common complaints. Of course, issues relating to retail pharmacists may be different from problems encountered by hospital pharmacists.
Ten to twelve hour days with no break for meals or sufficient time to sit down and rest tired feet. This invariably leads to fatigue which creates the potential for medication errors.
Short staffing by management, leading pharmacists to work cash registers and running drive-through windows, in addition to normal tasks. Medication errors are far more likely when a pharmacist is overwhelmed.
Too many immunizations
In addition to filling prescriptions, sometimes at a bewildering rate, the pharmacist is now required to administer immunizations, many times having to meet a quota set by the corporation. I have had several comments pertaining to pharmacists being written up for not meeting quota standards. While the administration of immunizations might appear to be an enhancement to the profession, it appears that these shots provide companies with higher profit margins than the filling of prescriptions. I have also heard that pharmacists refusing to immunize, were released.
Experienced, older pharmacists are phased out
With the increase in the number of pharmacy schools across the country, pharmacists are no longer a commodity. This applies to hospital pharmacists as well as retail. Pharmacists are no longer recruited by hospitals and retail chains as they were a decade or more ago. New graduates provide a more economical alternative for corporations. If a pharmacist is not happy with policies set forth by his employer, there are always pharmacists waiting for a position, ready to be hired.
Discount cards are a problem to retail pharmacists. They reduce pharmacy reimbursement.
Pharmacy State Boards are concerned with the welfare of the public, not with issues of pharmacists. State Boards deal with medication errors and with punitive measures. Boards are influenced by corporations controlling the profession, often times having a sitting member from corporate pharmacy.
Lack of cohesion in the profession
Although there are several associations and organizations which represent the profession, there is a lack of coordination between the organizations to get anything done. There seems to be little in the way of lobbying for pharmacists before state and federal legislatures and before corporations which control the profession. Physicians are represented by the American Medical Association (AMA), a powerful lobbying group which will fight for legislation to protect them. Most responders to my poll opted for enhanced representation.
While there were many other issues discussed, the bottom line is pharmacists need to join together, whether they practice retail, hospital or any other aspect of pharmacy. As stated above, pharmacists work in a hectic environment, fulfilling many functions. Functions which many times deter from our primary purpose as healthcare providers. We need to empower our pharmacy associations to lobby for our issues before legislatures, corporations and to inform the public of our value in the healthcare system.
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