Commentary: Too many pharmacists suffer from hurry sickness


The one condition that is probably shared by most pharmacists can harm marriages, health, and jobs. But it comes with the job, so what do we do about that?

Going to the bathroom is priority ONE at this point. "I don't care if the doctor's line has been holding." You practically trot to the bathroom and THE DOOR IS LOCKED. You do a little jig, holding it tightly, but, ARRRRRGHHH. By the time the mother and her four children unlock the door, you...well...little accidents can happen.

Recently, I turned to the technician and said, "I'm all caught up. What is there for me to do?"

"I can't help it," I said. I was looking through the problem box for something to do. "This is the way I have always worked."

"It must be a pharmacist addiction. You all race like you'll get a whuppin' if you dare to slow down." She was laughing at me. "Hurry up and wait," I said, still looking for something to do.

All occupations have intrinsic hazards. In an article in The New York Times, I read about a group in Buffalo who worked in the plants supplying pumped-up radioactive materials to the nuclear weapons industry. This was in the 1950s; now they're getting sick with cancer. Because of poor record-keeping, some of them are not able to take advantage of a medical program specifically designed for them. Some are just dying.

Pharmacists don't have to worry about glowing in the dark at night. Fifteen years ago, when you noticed the corpses piling up, you did the hardest thing you have ever done. You quit smoking tobacco. You are a smart rat with your diet and you get regular exercise. You even moved the family to the country to escape the nitrous oxide that spewed from the plant upwind from the fashionable subdivision you thought was heaven.

Imagine this, Mister Ar Pee Aitch, you warned your co-workers: "America is too good at promoting death." You preached about food additives, rush-hour traffic, and unprotected teen sex. In return, they gave you a nickname they only used behind your back.

You may not glow, but you are probably unwell. Of the 230,000 pharmacists out there, I'd bet that 90 percent of them have suffered from this condition at one time or another during their careers. It can be debilitating and dangerous. It can harm marriages and relationships. Health can suffer. So why not address it? Because it is part of the job and too expensive to recognize as a health issue.

We suffer stomach difficulties, hypertension, and other insidious troubles because of this problem. It is a thoroughly modern ailment that, frankly, is not recognized as a source of trouble. It is probably the condition most prevalent among pharmacists.

There is a name for it. You can find it in numerous reference sources. Hurry sickness. A modern malady caused by constant rushing. A compulsion to do everything quickly, or a chronic feeling of being short of time, attributed to the fast pace of modern life, which causes symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. How about adding divorce, alcohol and drug abuse, adultery, depression, child neglect, and nervous collapse? A thoroughly modern scourge, from which we all suffer. Think your insurance will cover treatment?

And we spent all of those years studying and preparing for a nice, comfortable life. Hurry sickness! How long are we going to stay stupid?

JIM PLAGAKIS is a community pharmacist in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at and cc us at
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