The Trouble With Satisfaction

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics February 2023
Volume 167
Issue 02

It’s not possible to phone it in to your job in community pharmacy.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones may have released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965, but I feel that this timeless classic is the anthem of the younger generation with regard to employment.

My father was a welder at the paper mill in the small town of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. Dad was simply the best. This was not only my perspective, but also the perspective of everyone at the mill. Everyone knew if a high-pressure steam line blew, you had 2 options: Bill or my dad, Budgie. If the job had to be done right and had to be done fast, Budgie was the only option. He was lightning quick with the welding stick and an absolute perfectionist.

Long before call waiting, we shared a party line with a neighbor. Our neighbor talked incessantly on the phone, tying up the line and causing Dad to miss a few callouts. Dad decided to have a private line installed, which was a luxury in those days. A few years later Dad persuaded Mom to have the telephone company put an extension in their bedroom so he wouldn’t miss any night shift callouts. If the mill needed him, he had to be there— and he got paid 4 hours for a callout. That was all the satisfaction he needed: His paycheck was adequate reward for his superior welding skills.

Today’s workforce doesn’t always see a paycheck as adequate reward for coming to work. They want granola bars, juice bars, and coffee available in the break room. So much of the workforce got a taste of working from home and they remain content to do just that. They want to work from their home office and be paid the same salary as before.

The trouble with community pharmacy, though, is that you can’t “phone in” your workday. I’m aware that many pharmacists work from home doing comprehensive medication reviews, data entry of e-scripts, and prior authorizations. But the nuts and bolts of this profession— dispensing and patient counseling— require people to be present, both physically and mentally. When a patient is to start amiodarone or amoxicillin therapy, they need to talk with a live, breathing human. “Do you have any questions for the pharmacist?” is such a banal question that patients seldom respond. Most often, they don’t know what they don’t know.

I remember some hospital pharmacists telling me, way back in 1998, that by 2008 there would be no such thing as a community pharmacist. Robots and vending machines would take over the profession and there would be no need for us in the white coats. Twenty-five years since that prediction, this almost 65-year old pharmacist is still working full time and getting as many hours as he wants.

The latest change across the major chains is the idea of having technicians run the pharmacy while the pharmacists work remotely, available for teleconferencing. Offers of $75,000 sign-on bonuses and massive salaries do not appeal to many of the younger generation of pharmacists. My belief is there must be always a pharmacist in the pharmacy; someone must physically be there to oversee the operations and—most important—be there for the patients. This facet of our amazing profession cannot be phoned in from a home office.

My advice to you is this: Forget the granola, juice, and coffee bars; go to work; be an excellent employee; and get an adequate paycheck. That should be enough.

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