What kinds of pharmacists get under your skin?

January 20, 2016

Some pharmacists are annoying as all get-out. They may not know who they are. But you know - and so does Dennis Miller. Here's his list.

Dennis MillerI don’t claim to be any better than any other pharmacist. I have my own fair share of idiosyncrasies, eccentricities, peculiarities, and bad habits, none of which I will describe in this commentary.

Right now, I’m going to describe the types of pharmacists who irritate me.

Don’t send me an irate e-mail saying that I’m precisely the type of pharmacist you don’t like working with, even though your criticisms are probably valid. This is about you. If you want to criticize me, write your own commentary.

See also: Our dysfunctional family

Here are some of the pharmacists who get under my skin:

Narcissistic young PharmDs

I don’t like those PharmDs who view BS Pharms as their inferiors. I don’t like working with narcissistic young PharmDs who feel they are God’s gift to pharmacy and our system of healthcare. Their egos have been built up to stratospheric levels first by their parents and later by their pharmacy professors.

Newly minted pharmacists are sometimes given the position of pharmacist-in-charge (PIC) because none of the older pharmacists wants the position. These young pharmacists tell themselves, “My boss sees what an extraordinary person I am.” In reality, the older pharmacists have no desire to be in charge of the pharmacy department in the sweatshops known as chain drugstores.

One pharmacist wrote to me, “I am not impressed with the young PharmDs. They are cocky and most of them are lazy. Right now, the kids go into it for the money. Every student [I work with] answers that they applied to pharmacy school because of the salary.”

Another pharmacist wrote, “The problem I see is that many of the new graduates are not anal enough and do not understand that they need to be on top of their game all the time. But that is our generation’s fault, for telling our kids how great they were when they were growing up.”

Too slow

Some pharmacists are just too darned slow. In my experience, very few topics get pharmacists more lathered than slow pharmacists. These slow pharmacists are often self-indulgent and self-absorbed. They don’t seem to realize or care how much chaos is caused by the resultant bottleneck or how much harder the rest of the pharmacy staff has to work to take up the slack.

Too fast

Many speedy pharmacists think they’re superior because of their ability to clear a counterful of scripts in no time. These pharmacists evaluate other pharmacists on one criterion only: how fast they fill prescriptions. (Now don’t send me an angry e-mail claiming that I like slow pharmacists. I do not.)

Do you agree with the observation that the fastest pharmacists make the most errors? Have you noticed that some of those lightning-quick pharmacists who make lots of errors immediately try to blame customers for not asking why the pills look different from the previous refill?

Many of these pharmacists are only concerned about their own metrics. They don’t care that the rest of the staff has to clean up the mess they leave in their wake.

 

Pharmacist-in-charge

Many PICs view staff pharmacists as their inferiors.

Alpha female pharmacists

Some female pharmacists seem to feel that all men (including all male pharmacists) are stupid and inferior and couldn’t survive without constant female guidance. (Now don’t send me an angry e-mail telling me that I’m a male chauvinist pig. That’s not what this is about.)

Cheerleader pharmacist

One stereotype I think we’ve all seen is the petite young female pharmacist who seems to think she’s actually back at her high school cheering for the basketball and football teams. She’s always perky and she seems to think that it is her job to be positive about everything when speaking with customers, including downplaying side effects of drugs. (See above. Not a chauvinist, just a curmudgeon.)

Phones physicians excessively

Some pharmacists call prescribers about drug interactions that have little likelihood of causing harm, or about other details that their colleagues consider plainly evident.

Slams the phone down

Some pharmacists seem to take pleasure in hanging up the phone by slamming it down after every call, and not just for the jerk callers. Do these pharmacists not realize how childish they appear? Do they not realize that the caller hears the loud bang?

Rude to techs

Some pharmacists are routinely rude to techs and customers, but become little angels the moment the district supervisor walks in the door.

Hotheaded control freaks

Co-workers are in constant fear of upsetting this pharmacist, lest he blow a gasket. This pharmacist believes that satisfaction of his childish emotional impulses is more important than the smooth functioning of the pharmacy. Apparently he believes that if he is having a bad day, everyone around him deserves to have a bad day.

Know-it-all jerks

These pharmacists exhibit feelings of entitlement and self-centeredness. They radiate the belief that they are better than others. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance: they’re special; none of the rules apply to them. Their attitude toward others is condescending. They display an impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. Etc.

Obsessed with alma mater’s sports teams

These pharmacists speak constantly about the football and basketball teams at their alma mater and are seemingly uninterested in the fact that other pharmacists attended a different school.

Views counseling as a data dump

These pharmacists completely overwhelm customers with a torrent of information that they have no chance of remembering. For these pharmacists, counseling is like a data dump, done solely to satisfy OBRA requirements.

I doubt that most customers remember anything more than a short sentence or two, such as “Take this with food” or “This may make you drowsy” or “Take this antibiotic until it’s all gone.”

The extensive data dump that our professors recommend is fruitless and destined never to enter the brains of our customers. I prefer well-written and detailed patient leaflets that customers can read in their comfort of their own homes.

 

Naive about the safety and effectiveness of drugs

Some pharmacists seem to be entirely blind to the possibility that modern medicine is too mechanistic and reductionistic. They appear to be amazingly naive about the safety and effectiveness of many of the drugs we dispense, and they seem to accept Pharma advertising at face value.

Naive about the value of prevention

Some pharmacists seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that significant lifestyle changes can be far more effective and safer than drug therapies. They seem wholly unaware of the fact that eating real foods (rather than processed foods full of additives) and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can be much more effective than a medicine cabinet full of pills.

During my career I felt instant simpatico when I heard a pharmacist make comments like this to techs: “If these people would just eat right and lose weight, they wouldn’t need so many pills.” I knew this sort of pharmacist was able to see through the quick-fix pill-for-every-ill dogma we were force-fed in that seminary known as pharmacy school.

Overly reassuring about drugs

Some pharmacists reassure customers about the safety and effectiveness of all drugs when customers ask something like “Is this drug safe?” These pharmacists present a relentlessly positive appearance even though their private views are often not nearly so favorable. Some pharmacists would never take that drug themselves or recommend it to a family member. Yet these pharmacists are very reassuring to customers who ask about adverse effects.

Overly deferential to physicians

Okay, maybe it's just me, but I find some pharmacists overly deferential to doctors. It irritates me when a pharmacist begins a phone conversation with a physician by saying, “Hello, Doctor.” This sounds like the pharmacist is being completely subservient.

In my opinion, pharmacists should just say “Hello” or “Hi.” Pharmacists should treat physicians and their staffs with the same respect that we show to everyone else - no more, no less.

“Hello, Doctor” is especially inappropriate for that huge population of physicians who do nothing more than herd patients through their offices.

Anti-union pharmacists

Many anti-union pharmacists feel that unions are beneath us. These pharmacists are apparently unable to see that there is nothing about chain pharmacy that is professional to begin with. If you don’t even get meal or bathroom breaks, who do you think you’re kidding, calling yourself a professional? You’re a fast-food worker at McDonald’s.

Chain pharmacists will not be able to change their working conditions until they are willing to acknowledge how pathetic and demeaning their working conditions are.

Look at your situation. You work in an oppressive surveillance state out of some futuristic dystopian novel in which dangerous metrics increase pharmacy mistakes. The chains use “mystery shoppers” (corporate spies), postage-paid postcards, and toll-free phone numbers for customers to report their experiences in your store.

Of course, the chains don’t disclose the fact that store employees are forced to work under a lousy business model that increases profits by understaffing, which places the public safety at risk.

What is the ideal pharmacist from the corporate perspective?

The ideal pharmacist in the eyes of corporate is a young female who is an affable airhead automaton, who does not question authority, who does not complain about oppressive metrics, who does not respond in kind to extremely rude customers, who can work her entire shift without stopping to eat or relieve herself, who subordinates her needs to the needs of the corporation, and who absorbs abuse from customers, physicians, and bosses with a smile.

Young female pharmacists are preferred because in general, they are perceived to be more docile and submissive than male pharmacists, less likely to rebel against corporate authority, and less likely to support unionization. There is a perception that, in comparison to male pharmacists, females are more socialized into pleasing others. Females are considered less likely to challenge corporate power in the workplace. That makes them more desirable employees, from the corporate point of view.

Okay, I’ve had my say. Whaddaya think? Any of this sound familiar?

Dennis Milleris a retired chain-store pharmacist living in Delray Beach, Fla. He welcomes feedback atdmiller1952@aol.com. His books Chain Drug Stores are Dangerous and Pharmacy Exposedare available atAmazon.com.