Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not the job for me

Sometimes you know when a situation is not a good fit. The recruiter may present a position that appears to be "the" perfect situation. Rather than jumping in feet-first, sometimes it is better to carefully stick your toe in, pull it back out, repeat several times before committing.

Let me share.

A couple years ago my employer had made some moves that I deemed to be less than good for the pharmacy division of the company. Little things like cutting technician hours, not giving pharmacists raises for over 18 months. Things like that.

So when the recruiter called with a 9-5:30 Monday thru Friday position, I was interested. It was in a town where I had worked previously so I knew the physician and patient populations. The store wasn't very busy (the recruiter's words were "tremendous potential for growth") so I wasn't getting thrown into the lion's den.

Benefits were paid entirely by the company. Three or four weeks of vacation from day one. Salary was the highest in the local market (and a thirteen percent increase over my current wages). I would be going in as the pharmacy manager, so it would be a lateral move for me. Tech coverage every hour that we were open, plus a couple cashiers/stockers at all times.

I drove down for the interview. The company had two operations. A home infusion side that employed several nurses and pharmacists and serviced a large geographic area. The tour of that side was interesting. I found it amazing that such a seemingly small company was able to employ so many people who earned nurse and pharmacist wages.

The retail pharmacy side (for which I was applying) was the family business. Had been for a few decades. It wasn't what it once was, but the owner wanted to keep it going in honor of her late father who was the pharmacist. With the right people, I could see it making a comeback.

The actual pharmacy layout was that of an old-time soda fountain. Rumor was that the pharmacy had the best milkshakes in town. Now I happen to love milkshakes, so this was looking like a real good fit.

At the back of the storefront was the actual pharmacy lab. It was considerably dated, but it was workable. As business grew, I could see a remodel as a possibility.

The pharmacy didn't seem too hectic. I spoke with the pharmacist who was working that day and he didn't seem too stressed. He was one of the pharmacists from the home infusion side who came over to do retail one day per week. Actually all of the home infusion pharmacists worked a day of each week on the retail side until a permanent pharmacist could be found.

As for the actual interview, it was in the owner's office with both the owner and the business manager. The office was not the most organized, but who am I to judge. Whenever I'm reorganizing my area can look pretty much the same as that office. When I left, we had the understanding that we would be in contact later that week.

By the time I drove back home (40 minutes), there was a job offer in my inbox. A little soon, I thought. A company that jumps that quickly might be a little too desperate. I called them the next day to talk a little more. We decided that I would come down to work a few shifts and see if I liked the environment and to see if I meshed with the staff on the retail side.

The first day I worked was a Monday. And for a Monday it wasn't bad, at least volume-wise.

The computer system was from the early 90s. I mean no updates or anything. The tech said that the owner bought it from a sorority sister. That's all I need to say about that. After messing around for the first hour or two, I figured out how to operate the system and things were running fairly well.

Now about the tech help. That would have been nice. The "tech" was able to remove bottles from the shelves, dust, and place the bottles back on the shelf. That is what her assignments were for the day. Not to assist the pharmacist. Not to answer the phones. Computer? She didn't even know how to log-on. Not exactly the picture I had in my head based on the recruiter's call and the interview.

The day went slow. I think I filled about sixty scripts, but since I was learning a new system I didn't have much down-time. It just went slow.

At the end of the day, I wanted to place the drug order. That's when I found out that they didn't order every day. I guess I can understand that since they were low-volume. Then I saw who their wholesaler was. Every pharmacy in town was serviced by local wholesalers. This place used a small wholesaler based several hundred miles away. That was a red flag. Then I saw the owe stack. There were owes from three weeks prior. Apparently they hadn't placed a drug order for three weeks.

The business manager, a non-pharmacist, came down near the end of the day. I handed him a list of what I thought needed to be ordered. He sat down at his laptop at the fountain and appeared to key in the order. Odd that a non-pharmacist was doing the order, but I thought it was being placed.

When I came back a few days later, the same stack of owes was there. The order hadn't been placed. The business manager pretended to place the order to humor me. After that second day, I knew that this was not a good fit for me. Any place that doesn't care to order medications really isn't exactly a good fit for this pharmacist. At the end of the day, I let them know that I would not be taking the full-time position. They could keep me on their fill-in list, but I wasn't going to be there permanently. Well it took a few pay cycles and a few threats, but I finally received my paycheck for the couple days that I worked there.

After parting with that pharmacy, I spoke to some of the pharmacists who worked in the town. Apparently this pharmacy was known for not paying its bills (thus the far-away wholesaler). A few years earlier the pharmacy had a major infraction with the state board of pharmacy.

Then came the kicker. About a year ago, a news story broke that the home infusion side had been overbilling insurance companies. Something to the tune of a couple million bucks to one insurer alone. The company was in trouble. The home infusion side closed up.

But the retail side remained open. That is until this past Thursday. The owner (a pharmacist), her husband, and two employees were arrested by federal agents for a variety of charges. Makes me glad I gave that place a trial run before committing to working there.


Michael Guzzo said...

Whoa.. smart move on your part.

The Redheaded Pharmacist said...

Wow, smart move to give that place a trial run. I think I would have if I had been in your situation too. Something tells me a little voice would have been shouting at me in my head saying "this isn't quite right" especially after what happened when you tried to place a medication order. How in the world can you operate a retail pharmacy without ordering in drugs especially for patients you owe medication?
I'd love to find an independent pharmacy where I could try it out and see what they are like compared to the chains but it seems to be hit or miss. I think the business model is just so bad now it is hard for them to survive and make money.
Good story though Eric. It really goes to show that you can't be too careful when evaluating a prospective job no matter what the recruiter says in the sales pitch.

Anonymous said...

Just think what would've happened if you'd been applying to just 'staff'. You'd not have had an 'ownership' hat, nor 'how to run the place better' train of thought. Good thing, YOU were in charge of yourself, not desperate for a job, which left time to wonder why they weren't more busy, nor able to keep 'up' on the 'owes'.

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