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C’mon, folks, give them the chair!


Popular contributor "Goose" Rawlings offers a simple solution to a universal problem.







Although I currently work on the hospital side of pharmacy, I have spent more than half of my professional career in retail. I still work a shift every few weeks at an independent pharmacy. I am sensitive to the current plight of retail pharmacists, most of whom work under conditions resembling those of a sweatshop.

I hear plenty from pharmacists and pharmacy technicians about long shifts with no breaks and ever-decreasing budgeted hours in which they are expected to do more work. If you work in retail pharmacy for a major chain and are not complaining about the working conditions, you are either in denial or heavily medicated.

If you can read it, fill it

We all know how it came to this. Dominance of PBMs on the payer side with resultant low pharmacy margins, coupled with poor training/high turnover of support personnel. Indifferent middle management and a lack of innovation that means no new revenue streams. This leads to the “if you can read it, fill it” philosophy, which makes the only solution for decreasing revenue more volume, which leads to more work per shift.

I could come up with many reasons that retail pharmacy is the worst place in healthcare to work at the moment, but one just jumps out at me.

That reason is that, from top to bottom, chain-pharmacy management is just mean.

Case in point

I have a classmate who works for a major chain. He recently had back surgery for a condition caused by many years of standing behind the bench. He was due to go back to work soon, and he had some concerns. There had been staffing changes at his workplace when some business was lost. Now the business was back, but the staffing cuts remained in place. A longer shift was also in place, and no chairs were allowed in the pharmacy. He was worried about how he was going to be able to handle this.

I made an informal survey of all the major chains in my area. This was the norm. Everyone was coping with longer shifts, less help, no chairs, and no breaks of any kind.  It’s not just in one place, it’s everywhere - a partnership of meanness, so to speak.

Many people running retail pharmacy from the top are pharmacists, but they either have never worked in a store or it has been a really long time since they have been in one. They may have pharmacy degrees, but how can you call them pharmacists? I’m sure they don’t eat lunch on the run, stand up all day, or answer all their phone calls in three rings. I’ll bet they even get to go to the bathroom whenever they want to. They don’t have to deal with the day-to-day problems of bench pharmacy.

A modest proposal

If you are a chain-pharmacy executive or manager, and you are telling your employees that they have to work shifts of 10, 12, or 14 hours and cannot sit down once the whole time, how can you call yourself a pharmacist? How could a chair in the pharmacy for an occasional sit-down break possibly wreck your bottom line? 

Why don’t you e-mail me and explain it? My e-mail address is at the bottom of the page. I’d love to hear from the companies that tell the public they care. About whom?

Retail pharmacy has many problems, but this one could be fixed in about five minutes, and it wouldn’t cost your company a dime.

Prove me wrong. Stop being mean. Just do it.

Goose Rawlings is a senior pharmacist in central Indiana. He welcomes feedback at redgoose54@gmail.com.

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