How long is the wait?

June 15, 2012

Okay, pharmacists. All together now. What's the one question you hear all day long?

But the question that I am asked in my community pharmacy setting most regularly and most often is the one that has no answer.

It seems to me that the actual reason that a patient brings in a prescription to be filled - to treat a distressing ailment - is secondary to how long that individual has to be inconvenienced by having to sit and do nothing while the pharmacist fills the prescription.

Seriously, how can a pharmacist truthfully and accurately answer the question of how long it will take to fill a prescription, upon being asked?

What with all the interruptions that the pharmacist encounters, time can only be estimated. Now, I realize that the customer wants only an estimation of the time involved, but if that person is paying attention to the activities of the pharmacy staff, he or she can in fact independently perform a pretty good calculation of the length of "the wait."

If a person has to stand in a line of perhaps three or four people just to hand in the prescription, it should come as no surprise that it is going to be a while before the prescription is filled. Wouldn't it make more sense not to sit around waiting for the prescription, but instead to come back later in the day to pick up the filled prescription?

Rarely, when I am so caught up with the tasks at hand that I am just standing around waiting for a prescription, someone will bring a "script" in and ask, "How long will this take?"

I still do not address the question, but only reply, "I will work on this right now." If I get further interruptions and it takes longer to fill the prescription than I expected, then that is unfortunate for the patient, and he or she will have to wait a little longer. A good pharmacist will never substitute speed for accuracy.