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You can't have your cake and eat it too (Rx edition)

Lately I've been very focused, even preoccupied, by the recent reporting on conditions in our pharmacies. But today I felt the need to address my own colleagues (and myself). Unfortunately what I have to say may upset some people, but I'm just here to speak my heart. All too often we hear about insane expectations from pharmacy corporate supervisors that ultimately endanger both employee and patient health (mental and physical).

Yet recently I've run into several situations in which the SAME pharmacists I hear making these complaints, bemoaning the state of patient care and the necessary shirking of professional responsibility...suddenly are also blaming their partners, coworkers, and other store-level employees for the condition of their pharmacy.

I understand that we are all under immense pressure, and that it can be incredibly easy to become frustrated and even turn on one another - I know because I've felt it myself. However, it can't be the fault of understaffing, ridiculous expectations, and non-existent managerial support on MY shifts, and then be the fault of a coworker's slowness and/or "incompetence" on their shifts.

By no means am I saying there are not lazy and/or incompetent people out there. Sure. There are people who do the least amount possible and ride their shift out, leaving as much work as possible to be done by the next shift.


If you blame understaffing and bemoan the horrific stress you are under on a daily basis just to keep your head above water, and in the next breath throw colleagues under the bus without further consideration, let's take a step back and re-evaluate.

If the stress is that difficult for you and you are barely making it, maybe your partner is bobbing below the water line. Maybe what's threatening to overwhelm you has already overtaken them.

Maybe you have a higher tolerance for potential errors, moderate intensity drug interactions, or missing counseling on new drugs.

Maybe your partner is more cautious and calls on issues you would just verify.

Maybe instead they just take the time to counsel the patient on the potential side effect or interaction in question so that they know what to expect or how to respond.

Maybe they take the time to show that newly diagnosed patient how to use the inhaler or the auto-injector or the glucose meter or whatever-it-may-be that the patient has literally never seen before.

You know, like we are supposed to do.

Like we are legally beholden to do.

Like we should do.

We are all under crazy amounts of pressure. Again, I'm not directing this at those people who are a drain on the system and don't even try to help keep their coworkers afloat. And I'm not saying we can't (or shouldn't) vent our frustrations concerning one another in a private manner.

But maybe before we openly condemn the floater that covered yesterday and left a mess, we should consider how difficult it must be to work in perhaps 30+ separate locations and remember all the little intricacies of each one. If you have never been a floater before, maybe you never realized just how different one Walgreens, or one CVS, or one Walmart can be from one another. Many of them don't even have the same floor plan, much less the same patient population, local prescribing patterns, or degree of technician support. These "tiny" considerations add up rapidly to take more time out of a floater's day than you may have ever imagined.

Maybe before we grumble under our breath at the new grad who can't keep up, we should think back to how scary those first few shifts were, and how long it took us to feel comfortable in our new role. Then project that feeling onto just how much more difficult and frantically rushed pharmacy practice is now than it was back then. And that's not even accounting for how many more drugs there are now!

Maybe before we grumble about technician call-ins we should remember just how undercompensated our technician colleagues are and how difficult it may be for them to find adequate child care - so much so that they may actually lose money by coming to work in certain situations.

I can barely even get started about certain profession-wide misconceptions of what overnight pharmacists face - if they even exist at all anymore. I myself haven't worked an overnight shift in a long time, and if you haven't either, go easy on those folks. Their shifts are often just as challenging as day shift - only in different ways.

Certainly there are other situations that call for individual assessment - I'm just calling for compassion. Workplace toxicity is not unique to pharmacy, but some of our challenges are. Rather than face them divided, let's do all we can to support one another - and that doesn't mean just our favorite colleagues. I think we probably all, myself included, have room to improve in this area. Speaking from experience, be the person that helps and speaks kindly. It may mean more than you ever know.

A pharmacist's (or technician's) compassion should extend to more than just their patients.

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Thanks for reminding all of us that we're better when we work as a team. I completely agree that stress can make it really hard to imagine what someone else is going through - like you I find fault with others really easily when I'm overworked. But taking a breath, offering support and encouragement instead of tearing people down, is key. Another well written article.

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