Do Clothes Make the Pharmacist?


People are looking--and judging.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover” the old adage goes, but in this fast-paced world we pharmacists get pretty good at it . . . or so we might think!

My 28-year-old son, Philip, is married and the father of our oldest grandchild. He also carries the family plague, diabetes. Type 1 diabetes was diagnosed when he was 17 years old, and he has worn an insulin pump since then. He lives in Pittsburgh and works for an app development company. A typical city kid, he bikes to work about two miles from his apartment.

In a jam

One day Phil called me at my store, and he sounded distressed.

“Hey, Dad, I’m in a jam,” he said. “I changed the cannula this morning on my pump, and it’s clogged now. My blood sugar is really trending up, and I’m afraid to bike home. I stopped at a local drugstore near work and asked to buy a couple of insulin syringes, so I could pull some insulin from my reservoir until I can get home and get a new set. The pharmacist refused, saying they only sell the entire box. Dad, I’d never use up a whole box, but the pharmacist said that is their policy. Could you give them a call?”

Pennsylvania law allows pharmacists to dispense syringes without a prescription, at the discretion of the pharmacist. I called the pharmacy, identified myself as a fellow pharmacist, and explained the difficult situation Phil was in. The pharmacist said he understood and would be glad to sell him a 10-pack of insulin syringes. Phil went back in, made his purchase, and thanked the pharmacist for understanding.

Appearance matters

That night I called Phil to make sure all was well. I also told him, “Hey, kid, you are a 28-year-old guy with a 4-month-old beard, long hair, jeans, and a sweater; riding a bike . . . walking into a pharmacy. I’m sure the pharmacist has denied a lot of people who look like you the very same service you requested.”

One of my old pharmacist colleagues once quipped, “Ever since they made syringes easy to buy without a prescription, we have had a rash of grandmas with diabetes!” One’s appearance is about the only gauge available, and sometimes we make poor decisions based solely on how somebody looks.


Appropriate dress

When I interviewed for the dream job I have now, I was asked, “Would you mind wearing a shirt and tie with a lab coat?” I said I’d be glad to. My previous employer wanted us to wear golf shirts and khakis; I always felt dressed down. I firmly believe that appropriate dress shows the respect we have for our profession and patients. Even my students at St. Francis University appreciate that I wear a shirt, tie, and lab coat to class. They feel it shows respect for them, as well as for the profession of teaching.

We have an amazing profession that deserves our respect. Your patients appreciate it as well. Trust me . . . people are looking and judging too!

Pete Kreckelpractices independent community pharmacy in Altoona, Penn. He welcomes your e-mails at

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