Pharmacists respond: Is job satisfaction too much to ask?

December 9, 2015

In his recent, two-part series, Dennis Miller opined that large, enviable paychecks are still plentiful, but job satisfaction remains elusive for many pharmacists working for retail chains.

In his recent, two-part series, Dennis Miller opined that large, enviable paychecks are still plentiful, but job satisfaction remains elusive for many pharmacists working for retail chains.

See also: Is job satisfaction too much to ask and Is job satisfaction too much to ask? Part 2

According to Miller, a retired chain-store pharmacist, the drive to fill more scripts in less time has robbed pharmacists of creative opportunities to use their skills and education, and often denies them workplace courtesies common to other healthcare professionals.

Add in the pharmaceutical industry’s perceived desire to see medications prescribed before healthy lifestyle changes, and many pharmacists are left questioning whether they’d make the same career choice if they had known in pharmacy school what they know now.

There was no shortage of pharmacists weighing in on the struggle to balance a good paycheck against job satisfaction.

Lack of proper accommodations

Pharmacist #1: Walmart pharmacy does not even allow stools to be present in the pharmacy. In other words, if a worker is tired and wants to sit down, the only place to sit is on one of the spring-loaded footstools.

I recall working with a Walmart pharmacy manager who was either tired or not feeling well. He sat down on one of the footstools and looked like a small boy who was being punished for doing something bad. Pathetic.

 

On different occasions, I worked with a pregnant pharmacist and a pregnant pharmacy technician. In each situation, I took it upon myself to go out into the store and bring back a high stool from the furniture department on which the pregnant worker could sit periodically through the workday.

What was striking about this situation is that had I not done what I did, the pregnant workers would have suffered in silence.

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Unreasonable demands

Pharmacist #2: I have spent 40 years in the same chain working in three different market areas. The message is always the same. How many prescriptions did you fill and is your wait time 100%? Why didn't you make budget on flu shots and why didn't you scan more “happy shoppers” cards? 

Pharmacist #3: I would accept considerably lower pay as a pharmacist in exchange for more reasonable conditions in the workplace. If it were 10 years ago, I would think I could find satisfaction practicing outside of chain pharmacy at an independent pharmacy, but now those opportunities have almost completely disappeared.

Pharmacy school myths

Pharmacist #4: I’m retiring after 45 years. Yeah it sucked. Even with a gun to my head, I would not EVER do it again. Can’t believe I am still relatively healthy (physically that is) after 45 years of this crap. All the third-rate pharmacy instructors should be arrested for fraud.

 

Pharmacist #5: It promises to get bad on many fronts for pharmacists from tech ratios to being replaced by remote monitoring and computers. We really need to look at pharmacist contributions. Does it really take a PharmD to do 95% of our work?

A big part also is that academia needs to get a grasp on job design, etc. I worry about the future of those currently entering the field.

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Pharmacist #6: The students I see are swimming in debt with the average student loan of about $150,000. This is a mortgage! Their only hope is to work in a Big Box store and fill over a thousand prescriptions per day.

If they choose another path, they have no hope of emerging from this debt. Also, once they start in the Big Box, they will be hounded by “pill seekers” all day long and will come home every day worn out and frustrated.

If not for that paycheck

Pharmacist #7: I have been working chain-store pharmacy since 1988, starting as a cashier and graduating as a pharmacist in 1993. I do enjoy some aspects of the consistency that is dictated by the chains, but I am just about to the point of being burnt out trying to do more with less.

 

I do find myself staying for the paycheck at this point, but I am also using my time to better myself and I’m keeping my eyes open to more patient-oriented locations. I am mid-40s and figure I have another lifetime to dedicate to meaningful patient care.

Pharmacist #8: I work for a chain in a beautiful store. I am doing it for the paycheck.  After 12 years, each day seems to get harder and harder. Like many good pharmacists, I just want to help people and not feel like a fast food, chain employee.

If a chain wants to fire you, they'll find some reason to do it. When I was in California, I belonged to CPhA. I felt like CPhA did a good job in advancing the pharmacy profession. The state of California also has acceptable labor laws.

I now live in NYC and I feel there is no unity in the profession at all. So I joined APhA, but don't see much benefit with them. Unfortunately, with not a lot of hope, I feel like I need to look into something else all together.

Compounding, independent pharmacies are better options

Pharmacist #9: At age 64 and 40 years in the asylum, I am getting ready to hang it up in a couple of years. I have tried it all-independent, chain, hospital and, finally, compounding.

My only regret is that I did not discover compounding earlier than nine years ago. I could tell that I was on the right track when I saw how much traditional pharmacy and the regulatory agencies hate us.

 

[In compounding pharmacy] I sit all day if I want, or stand sometime if I want. I make the choice. I go to the restroom when I want. I go to lunch. I take a break when I want. I do not work weekends. I do not work holidays.

For those of us who are fighting the fight out there in the real world, trying to maintain some little bit of sanity and dignity, I would encourage pharmacists/technicians to investigate compounding pharmacy.

Pharmacist #10: I am a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy with dreams of starting my own and am trying to create an atmosphere that is a little different in that it has a “destination pharmacy” feel.

I want to bring back the professional respect we deserve that the chains have stripped us of. I have many ideas but one you touched on is “sitting down.” How do you feel about a front desk receptionist/technician working the front?  Sitting down, professional, happy, relaxed, valued? Much like as when you walk into the dentist’s office.

Unions are the answer

Pharmacist #11: I am a disabled pharmacist who can no longer work due to a severe medical problem. Free now from fear of losing my job, I can speak candidly. If we all worked in a huge office building someone could pull a Spartacus and there would be a revolt and perhaps even unionization.

Unfortunately we are all on our separate little islands suffering independently. Often we befriend the pharmacists in nearby stores and commiserate together…No professional organization or state board in my 30-plus years ever provided a counter to chain management and could care less about the unsafe and appalling work conditions. Organization is the answer, but I’m sad to say it remains a dream. Speak too loudly and be shown the door. Courage has been ever lacking in our profession.

 

Pushing drugs vs. healthy living

Pharmacist #12: Working in both retail and hospital, I see the truly serious, older clientele less frequently seen in chains these days as mail order market share increases. For those patients, newer and better medications are lifesavers.

Working retail, I believe half of America is drug addicts. They are truly different worlds. It perhaps says as much about our current healthcare model (drugs over psychotherapy, pills over rehab) that sees cheaper alternatives in medications in lieu of human investments.

Pharmacist #13: I had a family approach me at the pharmacy counter. All of them were obese from father to child (which drives me crazy). Their question of which diet pill would work best for them was answered with my standard: “The over-the-counter stuff is just caffeine. It's not worth buying.”

[However], I was thinking: “Give me your grocery cart and I'll help you. But you won't like me very much!”  [It was] full of junk food, no vegetables. 

My irritation with work is that I'm still spending too much time with prescriptions that I shouldn't have to, instead of doing MTM or other things that will increase health. If people knew how to eat better and move more, then there would be less hypertension, diabetes, etc.