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Pharmacist reality check: It's all relative


Jim “Goose” Rawlings, a popular Drug Topics contributor, shares a little story from his student years that packs a big punch.

Jim “Goose” Rawlings, a popular Drug Topics contributor, shares a deceptively simple story from his student years that packs a bigger punch, the more you think about it.

My wife and I have been together for over 40 years, having married when we were 19. It was the ’70s, and salaries were low. She earned around $2 an hour working for the university, and a movie theater paid me $1 an hour. While I was in pharmacy school I could work only 15-20 hours a week.

We never had any extra money. I remember twice a month on payday we would meet for lunch. We would eat our chopped steak at Bonanza and laugh and talk about the future. What it would be like when we were able to afford the sirloin. We were young and in love. We still are.

There was a time, though, when I thought something might come between us. We still talk about it, all these years later.

How this event strapped us financially. How it almost drove a wedge between us. That we had to spend a sum equal to almost a month’s combined salaries on an item that I felt I desperately needed and she thought I could do without. In the end, wanting me to succeed, she relented.

That was then

I went ahead and made the purchase: “that damn calculator,” as she called it, that I needed for pharmacy school.

The calculator was a Texas Instruments TI-80, retailing for $179.95 plus tax at the local bookstore.

A lot of kids still used slide rules back then, but a TI-80 was the next big thing, and I wanted one. After all, it would do the four basic functions, plus square roots! You can do all this stuff on a slide rule, but it’s not very sexy. We’re talking cutting-edge technology here, 1973-style, and all the students that were cool had one.

Keep in mind that my semester tuition in 1973 was $375, so the cost of the calculator was about half a semester’s tuition. Just to put things in perspective, that’s about five large in today’s dollars at the same university.

This is now

Today I use a TI-30XA calculator that performs all the scientific functions. Solar-powered. It cost less than $20.

My TI-30XA has been going strong for six years now, while the old TI-80 quit right in the middle of my Pharmacy Board exam in 1977. I still managed to pass, so maybe I really didn’t need it in the first place. Guess I’ll never know.

I kept that TI-80 calculator for 10 years after it quit working, just because we had invested so much in it.

Do you have anything like that?

Here’s the thing

I think we all have something that we have held onto longer than we should have. Something that was important at one time, but not anymore. Something we have that just doesn’t work the way it used to.

For example, it could be dispensing prescriptions. How many of us are trying to protect our dispensing function from mail order, or from other outlets like employer clinics?

Most of us seem to hate dispensing, but we still want to keep doing it. That doesn’t seem to work well anymore.

I think it is time to let it go, and dispense information instead of drugs.

I’m talking about a new world, where pharmacists get paid for outcomes instead of for dispensing medications.

Some think it will never happen, others think it is way overdue. I think we need to talk about it.

What do you think?


Goose Rawlings is a senior pharmacist in central Indiana. He welcomes feedback at redgoose54@gmail.com.

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