Power to the people

July 15, 2012

Maybe the best way to change the environment in pharmacy is to have an old-fashioned '60s-style protest

This past year's events have had me thinking about protest.

I watched an excellent series on the Vietnam War that talked extensively about the anti-war movement of the 1960s.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and its series of offshoots had people talking, but I don't think any of it was remotely similar to what we saw in the '60s.

Same story with the Tea Party; lots of smoke, no fire.

The real meaning of "protest"

The main reason I have protest on my mind at the moment is that I've been talking to Joseph.

Joseph is someone I met through my job, and we just kind of hit it off. He's older, and he has a European accent that I couldn't place. He's a semi-retired professor from the local university, and a rabble-rouser also. One day he shared his story with me. He had been born in Germany in the late 1920s; he is Jewish. In 1938, when the Nazi persecutions escalated, he was part of the Kinder transport, an effort by the British government to save Jewish children living in German-controlled areas by transporting them to England. Over a 9-month period, Joseph and 10,000 other children were sent by their parents to England. Most, including Joseph, never saw their parents again–they had perished in the Holocaust.

Protest, to be effective, must be for a meaningful cause and must involve real sacrifice. Joseph told me that protest always comes from the people on the bottom and works toward the top. He told me to get people moving, don't just sit around and wait for change, because it will never happen. Don't wait for someone else to save you. Challenge your leaders and the status quo. In a nutshell, get off your rear end and make things change. Based on the stories he told me, I think he knows what he's talking about.

We are at a watershed moment in pharmacy. We have given up control of our destiny to bean-counting, nonprofessional MBAs. We did it willingly, too. Just show me the money and I'll work 14-hour days, fill hundreds of prescriptions in a shift, do vaccinations on demand, or even run a drive-up window. There is more than enough blame to go around. National organizations, state boards, schools of pharmacy, PBMs, chains, hospitals, and even politicians have all contributed to the problem. We all are responsible for this mess we are in and it is time to get serious about a solution.

If what we do is important to us, it should be up to us to save it. It will not be easy, and some of us may lose greatly in the process. Like most revolutions, youth will have to lead us. However, with massive student loans in most cases, they also have much to lose.

Let's keep sight of the fact that we are well-trained and educated professionals that can wear many hats. We are in a good position to affect change and should move forward with confidence.

I think it's time for some '60s-style protest for our profession. How about sit-ins with locked arms or marching on company headquarters? Active protest that educates people about what they get if we are no longer in the picture. We could encourage some solidarity about working hours and conditions. What do you think? I'd like to hear from you.

To paraphrase a popular protest sign from the '60s: "They can't fire us all."

James "Goose" Rawlings is a senior pharmacist at a hospital in central Indiana. He can be reached at snoozygoose@comcast.net
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