Everything—and I do mean everything— is our fault, even when we were nowhere near the scene of the crime. People blame it on the pharmacist more than they do the alcohol. This month’s copay higher than last month’s? The pharmacist did it. That broken toe not healing just right? Vindictive pharmacist voodoo. Computer freezing this morning? A diabolical pharmacist hacked it. El Niño/Global warming? Pharmacists’ conspiracy. Can’t find your homework? Your starving pharmacist ate it.
An eavesdropping patient can—and almost always will—undermine your most heartfelt patient consultation. Ever spent some extra time counseling a patient on a new prescription only to have a nosey passerby swoop in and interrupt your conversation to give unsolicited advice or a passionate testimonial? The best part is, you must now invest extra time undoing the damage—especially if the information is wrong. Luckily, part of the damage control kit involves convincing your patient that you actually know what you’re talking about. So much for all that fancy pharmacy school training!
Everyone thinks our only skill is putting pills in sacks. Every pharmacist I know once had dreams and aspirations like every other person who has ever survived childhood, and I assure you that putting pills in sacks never has and never will make the list; yet somehow, it has become our trademark. We all know that our day-to-day job duties entail much more than verifying a prescription, regardless of where we work. But how many times do you get this statement when you perform a task beyond the stereotype: “I didn’t know pharmacists could do that?!” Yeah, sometimes we surprise ourselves too. Wow.
Your patient thinks you’re any idiot because you haven’t heard of that new diet pill on television. Newsflash: We don’t watch commercials anymore—we have Netflix. Add that to the fact that your latest wonder pill likely has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, so it’s not really on our radar. Next time, ask your doctor. Sorry.
Doctors—and sometimes nurses—don’t listen to us. This is the only profession I know where even after passing an exam for licensure that says you know what you’re doing, you still have to start over from scratch to prove your competence. Ever had a doctor write a prescription for a drug dose that does not exist and then argue with you about it? Or a nurse start counseling you, the licensed medication expert, on medication administration? Honestly, I’ll take putting pills in sacks over this unwarranted drama any day.
Myth: Pharmacists bankroll themselves by setting prescription drug prices. Some patients (and even some doctors) seem to think pharmacists are running some sort of black market operation where we set prescription prices while pocketing imaginarily enormous profits. I once had a physician once tell me that pharmacists’ greed was the underlying motive behind our pushing for provider status and prescriptive authority. Huh? Since profits in community pharmacy are steadily shrinking, you’re more likely to see us combing through the couch cushions for pennies to keep the lights on—not being chauffeured to work in a Rolls Royce.
Thanks to TV commercials and the internet, you’ve been reduced to being just a “thing” on the healthcare system’s arm. Since pharmaceutical companies advertise medications on TV and the internet makes drug information readily available, your patients now view you as a ceremonial aesthetic who just happens to fill out a white coat. You’ve been reduced to a well-packaged human robot with perfectly coifed hair, so what makes you competent to counsel a patient who has memorized the entire Viibryd commercial verbatim?
You’re never really in charge—even when your title suggests otherwise (looking at you, Madam/Sir Pharmacist-in-Charge). Yep, even when we “run” stuff, we always answer to somebody. The director of pharmacy at a hospital often reports to the chief clinical officer, who is usually a nurse. You can probably name many doctors and nurses who have climbed the ladder rungs to CEO, but try naming just one pharmacist-CEO outside of the heads of big box pharmacies or pharmacy associations. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but with pharmacist representation in leadership lacking, it’s no wonder why we’ve become ceremonial figures.
Our pictures somehow always land on the 6 o’clock News and the FBI’s Most Wanted Listed as the “Pharmacist Who Screwed Up.” Medical errors are never a laughing matter, and even though we may not have written the prescription and cannot physically prevent a patient from taking more or less than the prescribed amount, we still bear the medication gatekeeper’s burden. My advice? Stay camera ready—you know, just in case.
Pharmacy school overtrains you for life after. Like a hamster running on a wheel with no finish line in sight, pharmacy school programs you to believe that the future of healthcare lies in your hands (Can't you hear the superhero music?). But once you leave that “artificial world” and enter the "real” one, you quickly discover that survival means you must shelve all those hard-earned clinical skills—along with your hopes and dreams of world peace and enjoying Enchilada Thursday during your imaginary lunch break.