The Pharmacy Union Address

Take a step back for a second and look at retail life.

We went to school to learn about drugs, the human body, a little bit about diagnosing stuff, interactions, CYP450, Kreb’s Cycle, Chemistry, Biology, Kinetics, blah blah blah.  Most of us spend 3 to 4 years in classes, then went out on rotations for 9 to 18 months working for free, etc.

However what do we do for 9 hours a day?  Do we actively use this knowledge to further better our patient’s lives?  Do we use all of the crap that they force-fed us in pharmacy school to do the things that they promised us we’d do?  Do we get to spend an hour talking with little old white ladies while wearing our pristine white coat (gotten at the UOP White Coat Ceremony, die UOP) while we laugh and talk and go over her disease states and medications with smiles on our faces like the chains portray pharmacists in their ads?

No.

We are the babysitters, the nannys, the ass-wipers and the caregivers of the general public.  When there is a problem, we have to deal with it (even if it had nothing to do with us).  Patient loses their medication or takes it wrong? We have to deal with it.  Patient flushes her Percodan down the toilet its OUR job to put the call in.  We are the common sense of the public and the bearer/invoker of their personal responsibility.  Doing this makes us a doormat, not doing it makes us no better than fucking McDonalds or Burger King.  Fuck, some stores are already no better than fast food chains with drive-through windows.

We went to school to end up using our deep pharmacological knowledge so we can apply it via AARP covers Zocor and not Lipitor or that nicotine patches are a DAW-1.  Lyrica is only covered if Neurontin is failed and nobody covers fucking Adipex-P or Xenical.  We wait on hold to speak with some dillhole in India who speaks like a robot because the ID card has the wrong information or PCN printed on it.  See that AWP -%30 + 1.50? Take it and like it; you don’t have a fucking choice anymore.

We try to decipher handwriting that looks like shit-covered toilet paper as office staff who cant speak a fucking clear word of English try to sound words like atenolol while using phrases like “Well this *looks* like….”.  We are a slave to the machine known as a “Fax” and the 2 doctors in town who still think that its a HIPAA violation to use one.  Our jobs revolve around the public whining at us because they waited until they were out (typical idiots) to have us send the fax over to the doctor for the refill request.  Did I mention that its also Friday night and the doctor turns his fax machine OFF when he’s not there?  Doctors think that we are nothing but fucking pill counters and treat us like some ignorant plebe who knows nothing about medications (or anything for that matter).

We are the vicodin police to a completely inept and retarded DEA (Fuck you DEA, more on you later) who collects data from us yet does absolutely nothing with it.  We live in fear of inspections from the only professional licensing agency that is AGAINST us.  You fuck up, the state board wants your head.  They aren’t there to protect you, they are there to protect the public FROM you.  Tell me how that works and why I send them money every 2 years for a green piece of paper with my name on it.

We go through this day in and day out so we can live a good life.  We put in our 30 years to hopefully have some sort of retirement (since Medicare will be long broke when I retire), and after those long days, 2 heart attacks, refills upon refills of the Buspar and Wellbutrin you take to keep your sanity, and the dumpsters full of alcohol bottles to make the pain go away, you can look back at your career and really ask yourself was it really worth it.

You’ll think.. You’ll think some more.. You’ll drink.. You’ll drink some more…  Days will run into weeks will run into paydays will run into months into years.

You’ll remember this post, and say to yourself “yeah, it was worth it”.  For all the shit that we deal with, for all the frustrations, the hold times, the yelling, the swearing, the hugs your techs give you when you’re about to have a breakdown, the throwing of pens and dumping of Alpharma’s (now Activis) insanely sticky Prometh with Codeine on the counter (as you scream “SHIT!” and hope your patients didnt hear you) you’ll have those handful of patients who’s life you really did make a difference.  You’ll have the metaphorical little white ladies in the chain commercials who you *did* help out and *did* make life just a bit better.  You will be someones hero and a person that people look to for nothing more than a smile, hello and acknowledgment that they exist.  You’ll walk through the parking-lot wearing that beat-up white coat that you got in school 20+ years ago like a badge of fucking honor and respect as your patients know you by name and will drive across town to come into *your* pharmacy to say nothing more that what you suggested to them OTC worked like a charm.

From this post you must get the idea that retail pharmacy sucks, that I hate it, that I wish that lightning would strike me down and put me out of my misery.  Certain days there is nothing more in life I would wish for, however everyone is like that with their job. When its a really shitty day and nothing is going right, yeah, I hate it.  However those days are few and far between.  Thats why its called work, not fun (“How was fun today dear? Oh, tiring”).

I wrote this because retail pharmacy is changing and I really don’t feel like pharmacy students are getting the proper picture that retail paints.  This isn’t designed to scare people away, but to let them know exactly what they are getting themselves into.  After spending tens of thousands of dollars and all that time in school, wouldn’t it be a waste if you learned you couldn’t take getting yelled at for an early soma refill your very first day as a pharmacist?  That on the first day working alone you realized that retail life was in fact nothing like what your school had prepared you for?

I really wish that Drug Topics or somewhere else would publish some of what I write, but I think that I use too many bad words are too “real” for most magazines out there.  I wish they would grow up and realize that people swear, and that medicine/life isn’t one big hugfest.

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28 Comments

  1. Roberto says:

    Damn, this post got me a lil misty eyed.

    • JIM says:

      I was reading most of the comments posted….I’m thinking of going TECH and later to Pharmacy school..most jobs suck and from what I’m reading, I can tell that there have been many disillusioned folk that have not gotten the respect that they deserved and worked hard for. I would just like to know…(setting aside the fact that some people are just not cut out to interact with people in public)if at 37 Im making the right decision? I feel that its something I can do, plus for the few yrs I have left in this world (and I know that sounds morbid)I would like to do this..not only becuase I feel like it’s for me..but because I do also find it intresting. PLEASE someone steer me in the right direction(I know that at 37 I should have a better sense of direction…But I’m not too proud to ask anyway)

    • Michael says:

      The union would not help us. Most states are right to work. We could not go on strike. Most of the orginizations are for the support of business. The most powerful tool we have is to just say no. I will take care of the patient. Anything else is just BS.

  2. PharmAd4lyfe says:

    Amen.
    Seriously hits the nail on the head and why I’m not in retail. I love the retail job. The counseling patients, making recommendations, just being a listening ear to a long time customer. But dammit, I didn’t go to school to be a doormat (a doormat without a lunch break) and I’m never going to be satisfied with being one.
    If that makes me a bastard, then I’m a bastard, but until pharmacists are allowed to choose not to serve “unwanted” (ie, thorn-in-your-side) patients like physicians practices are allowed, I’m out. I did my time and I loved it some days, but I just became too bitter. Props to the good ones that stay and retail, you’ve got more tolerance than I.
    We need to decide what the hell we are going to be. Are we the dispensers or are we the counselors, or are we both? APhA, please get your head out of your ass. Your convention sucked this year even if you did have a life size Eneman.

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m a 2nd year PharmD student and a 7 year tech. I sit in class every day cursing my school and our “teachers”. All of our “teachers” are just researchers who teach a class or 2 as part of their funding agreements. They do not teach us in a way that we can apply to pharmacy practice, they teach us so that we can work in their lab when we graduate (or become a clinical pharmacist for the 2 spots per hospital). I sit in class beyond frustrated because I know what community pharmacy can be. YES, I need to know that bromocriptine and pergolide should not be administered concomittantly, but do I really need to know that bromocriptine is an ergot derivative originally used for hyperprolactinemia? it makes me crazy and very disappointed in my institution.
    I really think alumni and students need to come together and approach the schools, explaining how ill-prepared we are. While the administrations think we are just “shop keepers looking to make money”, maybe we really enjoy helping our patients on a personal level. And maybe they should try facilitating that.

  4. Chris says:

    They may not publish you directly, but they are aware of you. Page 35 of the April issue of “Pharmacy Today” has an article on certifying techs which talks about the USA Today article “Rx for Errors.” The author references “an enraged blog entry by ‘The Angry Pharmacist’ arguing that USA Today sensationalized the topic of medication errors for commercial gain and that the profession is doing a good job of containing error rates.”

  5. Jay says:

    hey angry pharmacist, i love your blogs and they inspired me to make my own blog because technicians can be angry too!!! hahaha If the pharmacist is angry, then chances are the tech is probably angry, its only common sense :) Anyways, keep up the good blogs, i cant wait to read more!!

  6. Kathy says:

    I have been an outpatient pharmacist for 28 years and continue to love it, despite TAP

  7. Mark says:

    This is so true. Everytime I think of how much I busted ass in pharmacy school only to work as a overglorified convenience store owner I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Especially since in Malaysia where I practice, pharmacists have yet to gain dispensing rights.
    There are days when I regret ever signing up for Pharmacy school but like you, some days and some patients make it all worth while.
    May more little old ladies save our sanity and our souls.

  8. AmyR says:

    Dear TAP,
    I’m not a pharmacist. I see my pharmacists at least once a week, at the lovely Walgreen’s near my home. They know me by name, and wave to me and smile when I come in, or pass them in the parking lot. They’ve been with me through three long years of kidney stones, surgery and damage that has left me in agonizing pain almost constantly.
    Because I have read your blog, I go out of my way to make sure that I treat them with the respect they deserve. I always thank them for the great job they’ve done, the help they’ve given me and ask if they’ve read your latest blog entry (they have).
    And when a jackass broke into my home, went through my purse and stole my just-filled bottle of 90 percocet, I knew what to do to get that bottle replaced, because I read your blog.
    You’re not my pharmacist, but I am so glad that I’ve read your blog, because you’ve helped me to foster and grow a relationship with my pharmacists, and see them as a part of my medical team.
    Thanks TAP, I appreciate you.

  9. The angry CPHT says:

    the angry pharm tech said:
    Well said!!…well MOSTLY well said. I work in a discount retail pharmacy, and you’re right…many times we are the ‘free doctors’
    Their meds are making them dizzy…and instead of making an appt…they have us call the doctor. I have had women open their shirts to show me a growth, and thwarted the effort of an elderly man to take down his pants as he was saying, “you need to see this”
    We currently have an intern in training right now, and a question??? do they NOT teach you how to speak in ADULT at Doctor of Pharmacy School??
    sorry…but ‘retarded’ being used as an adjective is SO 7TH GRADE! It is becoming increasingly difficult to try and respect a young man that uses it CONSISTENTLY! (as he does)
    Do you not know, that the R word to those of us that deal with family members with special needs (1 in 4 of the general public)is as gut wrenching as the N word is to blacks?
    When you use THAT word frequently to describe something irritating, uncomfortable, or distasteful.. IT IS OFFENSIVE!
    For the people that don’t say something about it to your face, they will walk away thinking they have just dealt with a non-professional.
    I love your rantings, but wish you could change that ONE adjective…it would make you just that more credible….and respected. Maybe that is the cause of some of the problems you are having.
    If you want…I’d be happy to mail you a thesaurus.

  10. Liz D. says:

    I just wanted to personally thank you for your blog.
    There are days at work where I feel all of the dummies got together and decided to come in on the same day and ask all of their stupid questions fueled by ignorance. I leave work feeling extremely irked…wondering if anyone would catch me if I did a drive by and dropped a few eggs on some of my “favorite” customer’s houses. But no, I come home, read your blog and feel so much better.
    Thank you for writing and keep up the good work!

  11. nobody says:

    Should you have chosen physics and the isolated ivory tower instead? To have awareness or be of the mindless mush? Are you sub-existing merely as a miserable reaction or just temporarily venting?
    I like what I do as a professional–but maybe I’m one of the few who have luckily avoided that bullshit mantra, “all jobs suck.”

  12. Nora says:

    Right on! I’m a veterinarian and I can totally identify with the lack of respect and frustration you feel. I also didn’t go to undergrad plus 3 years of classes and 1 year of clinics to argue with a client about why we charge $12 more for an emergency exam vs a regular exam (after I’ve dropped everything I’m doing to see their pet) or try to convince a client I can’t just send home cephalexin on an animal I’ve never seen (sorry, can’t see your dog through the phone line!). This is why I will soon be leaving private practice and going to back public health.

  13. The Angriest Pharmacist says:

    You totally got credit for my Misfill NUMBERS post!
    http://www.theangriestpharmacist.com/2008/02/26/the-real-numbers/
    Chris said:
    They may not publish you directly, but they are aware of you. Page 35 of the April issue of “Pharmacy Today” has an article on certifying techs which talks about the USA Today article “Rx for Errors.” The author references “an enraged blog entry by ‘The Angry Pharmacist’ arguing that USA Today sensationalized the topic of medication errors for commercial gain and that the profession is doing a good job of containing error rates.”

  14. ERIK says:

    Great contributions, so collegues, what are the solution to these SOB’s Problems?

  15. John says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m not a pharmacist, I am a tech however. Day after day I live this nightmare. If it isn’t being served by the cranky, nagging, old ladies, that think your sole purpose in life is to ensure they don’t miss a dose, it’s our employer. Recently I’ve come across an interesting bit of information. CVS has planted listening devices in the pharmacy, in an effort to reduce shrink. Pharmacy technicians are no longer allowed to keep their coats in the closet, instead we’re forced to use the rack in the break room, along with every other employee. Often time things will go missing. The cherry on top, we’re also subject to bag checks, and random searches. Filling over a thousand prescriptions a day, that’s no easy task. Maintaining the script pro, constantly replenishing supplies, all while attempting to explain, there is no over the counter solution for an eye infection. I’d like to thank CVS especially for allowing the general public to shit on our day. A patient walks into a pharmacy, yapping away on their cell phone, the person attending to them suggests they come back once their conversation has ended. The tech. is reprimanded for being rude to the patient. This happens on a daily basis, it makes no sense!

    • Screw the top says:

      OMG, John! Your letter could have been written my any tech in my pharmacy! I, too, am so appreciative of my employer allowing customers to dump on us! Kick me in the gut? Oh, please, allow me to turn around so you can kick me in the ass, too! I have absolutely no problem helping a customer with a legitimate complaint. BUT… I don’t feel as if I should have to stand there smiling when a customer is dropping F-bombs or calling me stupid! I have a background in psychology, and I was always told that you teach people how to treat you. What is the pharmacy telling obnoxious customers when no one in a position to help will stick up for the staff? There may as well be a sign on the wall saying,”pleae treat the staff like shit”. When I was reprimanded for refusing to help a woman who was yelling and swearing at me, I just told the cold-hearted manager that I would do it again in a heartbeat. No one else seems to have my back, so I gotta look out for myself. The managerial staff my not think I am worth their intervention, but I do. Please remember…all of you reading this are worth it, also. Chin up!

  16. DisgruntledTech says:

    I am a technician who’s worked in a pharmacy for only 3 years. As brilliantly outlined in this post, there are days where pharmacists and technicians alike would love nothing more than to go on a killing spree saving that last sweet bullet for themselves. Truly, I have worked some shitty jobs (Target’s food area, movie store, walgreens clerk) and this job absolutely takes the cake sometimes. Here’s an example: Customer comes up and wants to use the bathroom. It’s an emergency. Sorry, we don’t let customers use the bathroom. It’s employees only. People like to go in there to steal. No exceptions. There’s a gas station across the street. Customer traipses away and is not heard from again. I go into the back to use the bathroom sometime later and notice a suspicious cardboard box next to the bathroom door (which we keep locked). I lift up the box and what do I find? A STEAMING PILE OF SHIT! Yep, bitch took a dump on our floor and sashayed right out of the store. These days happen every so often, but mostly the good days outweigh the bad. Nothing compares to the camaraderie that develops between our staff and some of our patients. It’s while even after putting up with all the bullshit listed on this website and people’s NASTY BODILY FUNCTIONS I still want to go to pharmacy school. I have no delusions about this line of work is. Bring it on.

  17. el paso pharmacist says:

    thanks for your blog. you’re completely honest and accurate. every time i think i’m alone in feeling this way it’s comforting to see the similar experiences of others. anyone who thinks differently can eat shit. go work in this crappy town where 98% of the people are dumb ,macho mexicans who refuse to speak english and bitch and moan about everything and see for yourself if you believe otherwise.

  18. Saddest Pharmacist says:

    Well today I decided once again to give my notice and get out of this so called “profession”. I understand the comments about the public and there’s always one real jerk in the bunch but the problems with the public are primarily due to their ignorance of the working conditions. Why don’t people publish that the person putting the drugs in their bottle works 12 hour days with NO BREAKS, often no time to eat or go to the bathroom. 12 hours of nonstop pounding until you just want to cry and then they want you to ring up their friggin groceries too. The real assholes then threaten to complain to the bagboy who worked his way up to store manager who will come back and ream your ass out when your head is already about to explode.

    After 26 years in this profession, I am now having bladder problems from holding my urine for hours on end. I have lost the muscle tone and am told that my bladder can no longer empty fully causing urine to be retained and resulting in frequent infections. People say “just go”. How do you lock up and leave with 2 lines of people? One line who thought 15 minutes to wait for their 3 prescriptions was too long and the other line waiting to drop off their prescriptions. This doesn’t even begin to address the devastating effects of the intense physical and mental stress on the body.

    IMHO, The problem lies in the greed of the corporations and the fact that we are exempt from labor laws. The public needs to know that COMPANIES DO NOT HAVE TO OBEY LABOR LAWS FOR PHARMACISTS. NO OVERTIME, NO BREAKS OF ANY KIND. Most pharmacists are grossly overworked and that is why there are so many dispensing errors. Your mind is mush and you are filling prescriptions. A patient came in today for his 60 Amphetamine SR and I had to deal with my partner giving them to somebody else yesterday! WTF? It’s not just me.

    I had a nightmare day and had that nasty pharmacist look ALL DAY. That isn’t me but it’s all I can do because I am so unhappy. Yes, it’s time to leave again. And the patients lose another qualified pharmacist who really cared about them and who tried to be a “professional”. But the chain doesn’t care because “No problem, there’s plenty coming out of school” which is what they recently told a pharmacist that had been there over 10 years when he finally had enough.

    Our regulatory boards should be protecting the public by mandating a safe working environment for pharmacists. But they are in the pocket of the chains so they don’t give a rat’s ass what conditions they make us work under. They just want to make sure that we read our CE articles. I have even thought of videotaping 12 hours back there and sending it to the media. What is it going to take to be treated like a human being. To be given enough help to have at least 1 meal in 12 hours, to be able to go to the bathroom and be able to rest my brain and compose myself for 15 minutes? I am the saddest pharmacist!

    • Disgusted Pharmacist says:

      I had been doing this job over 30 years and I’m thoroughly disgusted that there is absolutely nobody to turn to for help. I too have thought deeply about contacting 60 minutes or Diane Sawyer to help the public realize exactly why medication errors occur. I have only every done retail because whenever I’ve tried to apply for other positions I’m told I’m not “qualified”. Really? After being a pharmacist over 30 years I’m not “qualified”? But again I could go on and on…. And yet again I’ve had to leave a job due to awful inhumane treatment–and again no one to turn to who will actually listen. Also–WTF needs to mind their own business–obviously WTF is *not* a pharmacist and has never worked for a large chain or they would understand.

      • TC says:

        YES!YES!YES! CANT’T STRICK IN A RIGHT TO WORK STATE? BULL SHIT PEOPLE.WHERE ARE THE FOLKS WITH BALLS OUT THERE? we are the wimps of the medical profession.

  19. WTF? says:

    You are all obviously in the wrong profession. I would hope that people would want to become pharmacists in order to help people. Now I understand the dirty condescending looks I get at the drug store. The fact is you don’t care about people. You care about yourself and the money.

  20. Fuck the whole bunch of you. Esp. that asshole Mr. you don’t like people I have not waited on a true person in 20 years….

  21. Lorraine says:

    You are being paid $110′,000 a year (median) to be a glorified medical secretary. Deal with it, you whiner. I get paid half that to manufacture the drugs you dole out, under a level of regulation that makes the DEA look like a bunch of lil old’ ladies. Someday the FDA will come to its senses and require single patient packaging and crack down on compounding. Then, the patient will swipe their ID card and get their drugs from a vending machine. Enjoy the good life while it lasts!

  22. Morgan says:

    Corporate executives have no business running pharmacy. They fired me for drinking, and I was not drinking. They refused to give me a breathalizer. The board took my license 3 years later. I lost my house in foreclosure. They are all frauds.

  23. Morgan says:

    We need a union or something that works like laws to protect us from unlawful firing. After being falsely accused of drinking on the job in September 2008, I was not given the opportunity for a breathalizer. If I took the test, it would shown a zero because the charge was totally false. I ended up losing my job and license with no evidence. I had to retire early, stay in a homeless shelter for a while, get food stamps, and go through a foreclosure on my home. Thanks to all of them, I can’t return to pharmacy because it was age discrimination in the first place. I will turn 65 in February. They are all a bunch of frauds and need to be in prison

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