Pharmacy managers who are not pharmacists manage to do one thing really well.
A CVS intern complained in an e-mail that her nonpharmacist store manager embarrassed her when she was trying to help a patient choose the appropriate solutions for use with his contact lenses. They were looking for a decongestant eye drop he could use when he was wearing his lenses.
She said, “The manager just came up to me and asked, ‘What are you doing?’
“I told him and he answered, ‘Not for 10 minutes, you’re not. You get back in the pharmacy where you belong.’ Then he told the customer that he would get Brenda to help him. Brenda is the clerk who works in OTC. She puts up the orders and dusts the shelves. What should I do? I hate pharmacy.”
I believe that incidents like this one, of interference with pharmacists, are more common than many of us want to admit. My career has been lumbered with nonpharmacist store managers whose specialties were pharmacy micromanagement and pharmacist abuse.
I can’t figure it out. Don’t they want better bonuses? Their jobs would be easier if they trusted the pharmacists to manage the pharmacy.
My only conclusion is that they’re jealous. Pharmacists make more money. To these managers, it looks as if we don’t work as hard as they do. We have a regular five-day-a-week schedule, while they can be found at the store six days a week, seven days at Christmas. My advice to them is Stop bullying the staff and go get a degree.
One guy fought me, it seemed like every day. He would actually stutter when he tried to warn me against wasting time on counseling young mothers about lice.
I can't even guess how many times I looked up to find a terrified young mother standing before me, saying, "My child was sent home from school with head lice," while her body language and facial expression said, "I am a horrible mother. My child is filthy, and it's my fault."
My first job was to tell her that that wasn't true. Second, I would tell her all about lice, get a package of Nix, and counsel her on its use. Third, I would offer to check her head for lice. With her permission, I ran my fingers through the hair at the nape of her neck. It was a huge relief when I found no nits. The mother woiuld leave the pharmacy tear-free and smiling, and I knew I had done my job.
Bill hated this. His jaw clenched when he saw me counseling, the box of product in my hand. He knew this took time when there were prescriptions to process. But something else made him go ballistic. "You're going to get us hit with a sexual harassment complaint. Why the hell can't you keep your mitts out of their hair?"
“Bill, you’re wasting your time. I will never stop counseling my patients, and I will always do it the way I think I should.”
Bill hated it when I helped customers with supplements and herbals. I had invested in Tyler’s Honest Herbal by Varro Tyler, PhD, and I read it for pleasure. Tyler was a badass pharmacognosy professor at a time when our profession was marginalizing some really good natural medicines. He only relaxed when he realized that the sales were often more than $100, at a gross profit of around 50%.
Still, he tried to control me. When I was advising a teenage girl about condoms rather than contraceptive creams, I thought he was going to blow a gasket. The girl had a note from her mother. Very good parenting, I think.
After a few years, lice, Plagakis, and young mothers became his poster children for rotten pharmacy practice. He didn’t even know what the practice of pharmacy is really about.
Count, pour, lick and stick? Hardly. Pharmacy practice is defined by counseling. Patients can harm themselves with OTC medicines, not to mention their prescription meds.
Triage also defines our practice. When a patient (often poor) comes for help, we triage. At least we should.
We ask questions and then determine whether we can help. We may have to send patients to a doctor. In rare cases, we advise them to head straight for the trauma center. That’s triage, and pharmacists save the system millions of dollars a day with it.
We still haven’t figured out how to get paid, but that’s our own fault.
I told the intern to bide her time and always pick her battles carefully. For her manager, I suggested three easy words: Leave me alone!