Pharmacy personnel should look like professionals

October 13, 2008

When your pharmacy tech comes to work sporting a tongue stud, it's time to give her an ultimatum.

Key Points

"Oh man, dig that crazy chick." My partner at the Thrifty Drug Store in Concord, Calif., was a Canadian pharmacist who did California vacation relief every summer.

This girl wore a bikini. This was 1965, and I was a transplant from provincial Ohio. I had never seen a bikini before. I was a healthy 24-year-old man. I was really in California. Testosterone oozed from my pores. She was sunburned. I spread some lotion on her shoulders. It was a good job if you could get it.

I hired a tech once who was intelligent, good on the phone and computer-savvy, and she dressed for the job. It did not hurt that she was good-looking. Right after her trial period ended, she changed. She started to wear outlandish earrings.

Later, it was a silver stud in an eyebrow piercing that I had not noticed. Next was a little sparkly diamondlike piece of jewelry appeared on her nose. Then it was a grotesque lip thing. The last straw was a tongue stud that put her telephone skills below the acceptable line.

I hated what came next because she was such a good technician. I had to tell her to leave the facial hardware at home.

"Why?" she asked, with an overconfident pose, as if I had asked her to quit wearing clothes. "This is me.I have had these piercings for months."

"You didn't have them when you interviewed."

"Yes, I did," she argued with her hands on her hips and her jaw held high. "You don't remember. You barely looked up."

"No, you didn't," I argued. "Your only jewelry was a pair of tasteful earrings."

"You are wrong. You have a bad memory."

My next move was brilliant. "Go home," I said. "We'll pay you for the full day. Think about this. You are a pharmacy technician. There is no such thing as a goth technician. Come back without the hardware in your face or do not come back at all."

I think there is a certain standard pharmacy technicians must meet. They must dress appropriately. Hairstyles can be inventive, but radical hairdos can make a negative impression with many of our patients. You know how I feel about jewelry above the neck or earrings, period! As long as the patients can see them as they work, I want them to represent professionalism.

There are four certified technicians where I now work. They know the rules. This is 2008, but the drugstore customers take me back to 1965. The store is on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, right across the street from Stewart Beach. During the summer, there are hundreds of people enjoying the warm Gulf of Mexico surf. They cross the street looking for what drugstores sell. I have a much thicker hide than I had in 1965, but what I see now makes me cringe.

These people may as well be totally undressed. Minuscule bikinis on 50-year-old women almost make me blush. Middle-age men in classic Speedos. What are they thinking? Can't they put on shorts to do their drugstore shopping? I am polite when they ask for my help. I just keep my eyes on their faces. I don't look down to keep me from staring

The technician with the face hardware chose to continue working for me. She came to work the next day repentant. I did not make her give me a laborious act of contrition. Everything about her was professional. She turned out to be one of the best techs ever.

Female exhibitionism is a fact of today's America, but some things do not belong in the pharmacy. If your female technicians expect to work for you, they need to cover up. There are plenty of places to show off. Your drugstore is not a meet/meat market.