Are legacy pharmacists an endangered species?

September 10, 2014

If you’re not perceived as redundant in today’s retail culture, you're lucky. And you're young.

When I get a 10 p.m. phone call from a 20-something pharmacist complaining that her non-pharmacist assistant store manager will not stop touching her, I know exactly what to tell her. It is illegal. She followed with, “What should I do?” She’s a PharmD and a Mississippi-registered pharmacist. She should be able to handle this one herself. I reminded her that harassment, sexual or otherwise, is illegal. 

Of greater consequence for all female pharmacists is that her company forbids this kind of behavior. A female who is sexually harassed by a supervisor can practically own the place if the company looks the other way. It is that serious.

When a technician was fired awhile back, she called me to help her get her final paycheck. Why me? I am just the guy in Drug Topics magazine. I am not an attorney. 

“Why do you think I can help you get your money?”

“Well, my cousin is a pharmacist and he says that you are nice.”

“Why can’t your cousin get your money for you?” There was a long silence and then a soft sob. I said, “Are you crying?”

“I need the money. My manager said that they don’t have to pay me because I was fired. They pay right away when people quit.”

 Turned out, she was right about where power lies. Drug Topics got her the money forthwith. All I did was make a brief phone call and ask a couple of questions.

 

 Real person, real story

It is not so easy when I get an e-mail like this one. It was the last of a months’ long string of e-mails from an ex-chain store RPh in Texas. He was a legacy pharmacist with years of service, and that made him expensive. He was earning top wage, and he was maxed out on vacations and benefits.

It appears that the supervisor  saw low-hanging fruit that was overly ripe. They picked him off, fired him, and that was that. I doubt that the suits in the executive suite considered that they were trashing a real human being with a real story.

This pharmacist had been writing to me for months, asking for help. There is little that I can do for him. A single father, with a young boy, living in a small Texas town that is driven by the urban rhythms of the 21st century, needs a paying job, for goodness sake. 

He had worked at a well-paid pharmacist job for decades. The only reason given for his firing wasYou are not a good fit. What? It took the chain more than a decade to figure that out?

Well, 10 years ago there wasn’t a whole mob of new pharmacists aching to work at our guy’s job for $10 less per hour. Not that they like the price. No way. They got into this game to earn the same as the legacy practitioners got.

As long as there are new graduate RPh robo-dispensers willing to work cheap, I fear for legacy pharmacists who have pricey skills that have been honed over decades, but who are perceived as redundant in a retail culture that values only cheap wages, slam-bang prescriptions sold per hour, and compliant, baby-faced pharmacists.

 

Now it’s personal

During the past three years or so, I have read countless e-mails and blog posts about legacy firings. There have been incidents all over the retail map. Corporations sacking experienced, loyal, company-minded employees just to slash overhead. It was like insects singing on a hot summer night. Too easy to ignore. 

I have not wanted to hear the message boiling in the wind. Your skills are no longer relevant, Plagakis. You’re like the comic wearing a fat suit.

I do not doubt that I could easily be another one of those time-tested practitioners, waiting for the axe to fall. I get sick to my stomach when I think that people with consummate retail pharmacist skills, such as my friends, colleagues, and fellow writers who have appeared in these pages, could be sacrificed to the gods of 21st century retail pharmacy profit.

I guess I've been living in a fool's paradise. I can’t get behind the idea that what I bring to the table can be marginalized just like that.

How about you? Are you so important that they will keep you in that spot until you decide to move on?