The key to job satisfaction lies in your perspective.
It was twenty years ago this summer, in 1998, that my wife and I attended a drug company-sponsored event in State College, PA, and were delighted to run into two of our classmates from the class of 1981. One is a well-known clinical pharmacist for a health system about one hour from our home. He is an outstanding pharmacist, mentor, and teacher. His skill set is acute care, and he’s an expert with respect to acid-base balance in the intensive care unit.
The other classmate is the director of pharmacy of an area hospital. Both guys are top-flight pharmacists. The conversation quickly changed to community pharmacy. Both were insistent that by 2008, there would be no such thing as a retail pharmacy. “By then there will be kiosks setting around, and the patient will walk up insert a card and their meds will drop out, just like buying a soda from a vending machine.”
I asked, “So how will these prescriptions get into the machine?” Their answer “Robots-by 2008 this profession will be so automated, there will be no reason to have a human involved.”
I must say these two guys really got my attention. I think of our conversation frequently, and just shake my head. We are 10 years past that prediction of what was to occur in 2008, and our patients in the community setting are needier than ever. My patients can’t (or won’t) use the Interactive Voice Response system to order their refills. They simply press “0” to talk to someone, and then frequently say “Just get everything ready.” The patients don’t have prescriptions numbers, or even drug names. We won’t even mention insurance card issues, prior authorizations, adherence, or even the refill status of their prescription. Our patients simply can’t navigate the ever-complicated healthcare system.
I do see the frustration of my fellow pharmacists practicing in the community setting. Low reimbursements, overwhelming workloads, reduction in staffing and long hours make many pharmacists less than satisfied with their career choice. I keep my sanity by thinking of all the patients I help with effective patient counseling and with the wonderful relationships I’ve developed with both the local physicians and patients.
I make every attempt to practice “at the top of my license,” by always networking with other professionals, learning the latest information, and teaching future pharmacists and physician assistants, all for the benefit of my patients. If I don’t, I could easily be disgruntled with the numerous shortcomings of this profession. I often tell my student pharmacists that the attractive salary or “golden handcuffs” is one of the biggest challenges of this profession. Because of the salaries this profession commands, we seem to put up with understaffing, lack of lunch breaks, and even the day-to-day hassles from physicians, patients, and management just because of what is printed on our W-2 form at the end of the year.
I don’t see my patients as interruptions to what I am doing. I see my patients as what I am supposed to be doing. They are my reason for going to work. They are why I put on a clean ironed shirt (thanks to my attentive wife, Denise), wrap a Pancaldi tie around my neck (thanks to a pharmacist friend Jerry), put on my white lab coat, and open the drug store.
When 9 a.m. strikes, the phone rings off the wall, patients have tons of questions, lots of interventions, and patient interactions remind me that I won’t be replaced by a robot any time soon. Throw in a couple of immunizations, and I quickly realize how much my patients need my level of expertise. No doubt in the next 10 years that none of my brothers or sisters in the community pharmacy will be replaced by a vending machine!