Five simple words. Here they are.
I'm not exactly a corporate kinda guy, but there was a time in my life when I had a mission statement. Not when I worked for the chains, when my mission was simply to survive the pharmacy chaos until the end of the workday. My mission was in my writing, and it came to me very soon after I got behind the keyboard to tell whoever would listen what those workdays were like.
One after another people would write to me saying almost the same thing, some variation of “I thought I was the only one” or “I thought it was just my store.” I was surprised not by the content of these e-mails, but by their sheer number.
I had assumed that it was common knowledge, at least among those of us behind the counter, what kinds of conditions came with a job in a retail pharmacy. It didn’t take long to learn that those above us on the corporate pyramid had an information advantage; too many of us at the patient level had no idea just how widespread the stress is that comes with ever-expanding workloads coupled with ever-shrinking staff and literally no margin of error.
I made it my mission to change that. To spread the word that it wasn’t just your store, your district, or your chain. That the entire system of retail pharmacy was on the verge of collapse.
Now, almost nine years later, I’m ready to declare that mission accomplished. I’ll take only a tiny fraction of the credit, but in the age of blogs and Facebook, text messages, and Twitter, you know that conditions behind the counter are brutal almost without exception.
And your boss knows you know. The information advantage now resides with you.
So it’s time to move on to the next mission: doing something about it. To make sure there would always be an oasis that ran the way I thought a pharmacy should run, I went out and bought a store, but you don’t have to go to that extreme. As soon as you put down this magazine you can fire off a letter to your Congressperson, your State Board, or your local television station. Any one of those options would be better than nothing.
Or you could go for what I think is your best option. You could find a local healthcare union representative.
I’ve written about this before, and my opinion hasn’t changed. What the average bench pharmacists need is someone to get in their employer’s face and aggressively advocate for their interests, which is the very definition of what an effective union does.
So if you’re the kind of person who thinks it better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, fire up your computer when you’re done reading this and track down a contact at the National Union of Healthcare Workers, The Service Employees International Union, or even The California Nurses Association. Read about their work in establishing fixed nurse-to-patient ratios in that state for an inspiring story of what an overworked profession can do when they find a common voice.
Of course, you can think of a million reasons not to, just as I could have thought of a million reasons that buying a business during a recession was the epitome of insanity. It’s true, you can take action and fail. It’s also true that if you do nothing, the chance of failure is 100%.
Have things gotten better since the beginning of your career? If so, go ahead and put down this magazine and turn on the television. For everybody else, though, I have a feeling that one of you reading this column will be the person who instigates the changes so many of us want to see. Before you turn the page, ask yourself, “Why shouldn’t it be me?”
The first step is easy. Contact someone you think can help.
And don’t complain to me any more unless you can tell me something you did to change things. Because our new mission starts today, and our new mission statement is: “Nothing is not an option.”