Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I am a health care professional. I take a tremendous amount of pride in my work. The profession that I practice helps people lead better, healthier, more productive lives.

My profession demands that I be accurate 100 percent of the time. If I make a mistake, it could be a matter of life and death. On any given day, there are between 150 and 450 opportunities for me to make that mistake. The one that could kill somebody.

Fortunately, I have never made the fatal mistake. In my 15 years as a licensed pharmacist I can recall less than 10 times that I have made an error. A couple of the times I wasn't the one who made the error, but as the responsible pharmacist for the pharmacy it was ultimately my responsibility.

Everything that happens while I am on duty is my responsibility. The actions of the technicians and cashiers is my responsibility. If there is an intern or student in my pharmacy, their actions are my responsibility. It is a responsibility that I assumed when I received my license to practice pharmacy.

There aren't too many non-pharmacists/technicians who understand the responsibility that pharmacists have. Those who do are usually former pharmacy employees and spouses of pharmacists. They are the ones who hear first-hand of the near-misses that occurred in the pharmacy on any given day. They are also the ones who hear of the saves that happen behind the pharmacy counter.

Because I am a pharmacist, I care about the health and safety of my patients. In order to provide my patients with the best pharmaceutical care, I need to have adequate staffing. Both in terms of pharmacists and technicians.

So nothing burns my butt more than a directive from above telling me that I need to reduce pharmacist and technician hours in order to meet a number on somebody's budget spreadsheet. Each time that payroll is adjusted due to some imaginary rx/hour formula, resulting in an increased workload for the pharmacist, the chances for me to make an error are increased.

The formulas for scripts per hour are not determined by practicing pharmacists. They are set by people who haven't worked behind a pharmacy counter in years, if ever. They are set by people who are trying to maximize their return on their payroll expenses. They are set by accountants, with the help of lawyers who determine how many wrongful death lawsuits the company can handle before changes need to be made.

That's not being responsible. That's being reckless.

I hope and pray that I never make that fatal error. I hope and pray that it's not your family member who is harmed by a mistake in the pharmacy that is due to the pharmacy being inadequately staffed.

Something for you non-pharmacists in pharmacy management to think about as you review your payroll next week.


KnitterMolly said...

Well said. It comes down to only pharmacists understanding the resposibilities you outlined. I have been practicing for over 30 years and have seen it happen all to often. We as pharmacits have no one to stand up for us, not even the pharmacy associations. So we just take it!

Anonymous said...

That's why I say a prayer every day for my daughter - who is a pharmacist. The continued cutting of staff hours, constant interruptions, and management always wanting some report or expecting you to "upsell", is the perfect formula for disaster. And then expect you to fill scripts & have a VERY short wait time! We all wait everywhere else we go - why do people think that the local pharmacy is run like a fast food restaurant?

The Redheaded Pharmacist said...

They are just motivated my greed. They see dollar signs and they try to push the limit to squeeze a little more profit out of the business. The funny thing is that instead of trying to cut hours or inventory they could, oh I don't know, stop accepting the comical third party contracts that reimburse retail pharmacies nothing for filling a prescription. But what do I know, I'm just a pharmacist.