Use it or lose it

March 15, 2012

Readers speak out about the title of "Dr." and pharmacies in Canada.

Use it or lose it

Re: "Time to break the lock on Doc" [JP at Large, January 2012]

Imagine this scenario.

"I'm sorry, this is the doctor line."

"Yes, I'm aware. I'm a doctor."

"You just said you're a pharmacist, and this is the doctor-only line." Click. Dead silence.

I call back. "Yes, I was just hung up on by one of your staff who didn't realize that pharmacists are doctors technically. I have a PharmD. That means Doctorate of Pharmacy. And now I've wasted another 5 minutes trying to get through your lines, to help OUR patient."

Or this.

"Hi, I'm the pharmacist on duty and I need to speak with Dr. X regarding this doxycycline prescription he just wrote for a pregnant patient of mine."

Medical assistant: "Well, I'm sorry but I can't disclose that due to HIPAA."

I take a big sigh. "You understand pharmacists are licensed healthcare professionals, right? You understand we have a doctoral medical degree and it's not a breach of HIPAA but continuity of care, as I don't want to cause teratogenic effects to your patient's unborn fetus, so I need to find out why we're prescribing this."

"Um, let me get Dr. X."

"Thank you, you do that."

I cannot tell you how many times I've run into these kind of situations in just 5 years of practice. When I signed on with my chain company I cleverly tried to ask for a badge with the title "Dr." when I filled out the form. My name badge was given to me with the title "Staff Pharmacist." Way to avoid the issue, chain drug store. At least some providers' offices have caught on with the fact that there are multiple different kinds of providers, and they now have a "provider-only line" instead of "doctor-only line." These are few and far between, though.

The truth is everyone is scared to anger the AMA and physicians, scared of how to make the change. Unless we address this, it will be taken care of for us, without a choice, as shown by the new legislation JP mentioned. Yet how do we shift this paradigm without confusing patients and angering our physician counterparts? That is the true question that needs to be answered.

Whenever a patient kindly asks me about pharmacists or pharmacy in general I do not hesitate to inform him or her that most of us are now doctors, and I take the opportunity to explain that and our training, even mentioning residencies. At first, yes, they are confused, but after taking the time to speak with me, they understand. Although this method is still a grassroots effort – informing 1 patient at a time – it can be done.

I would gladly like to "own" my title that I earned, but if I do, I can guarantee that I will hear about it from physicians' offices as well as my superiors. Especially since I work in retail.

So it either has to be all or none. More of us have to start asserting our rights to use the titles we have earned, just like the new Doctors of Nursing, or those medical care providers that might be PhDs. That "D" was earned – use it or lose it.

Dr. Margaret Sopalski
SEATTLE, WASH.

Just doing what needs to be done

Re: "Target will allow individual pharmacy owners in its Canadian stores" [Community Pharmacists' Report e-newsletter, February 14, 2012]

Just to clarify...

Target is not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or to be cutting edge. They have to do this if they wish to have pharmacies in their new Canadian stores.

The reality in Canada is that a pharmacy must be 51% owned by a pharmacist(s). All retail pharmacies in Canada are based on some kind of franchise or banner model. There are no corporately-owned pharmacies in Canada.

Target will not be unique. In fact, it looks like Target will just be switching the name on the pharmacies from Zeller's to Target and leaving the pharmacies themselves mostly intact.

David Leeson, RPh, BSc, BScPharm, CDE
LONDON, ONTARIO