I am not your…
My day job is a pharmacist, because let’s face it, I can’t pay the bills selling 3 or 4 books a month. I’ve been a pharmacist for 10 years now (nooo not 10 years, I silently scream) and working in a pharmacy for 16 years. Currently, I work for a major retailer but I’ve worked for a chain and two independent stores as well. I’ve been a tech, an intern, a staff pharmacist, a floating pharmacist and even the pharmacy manager. I’m not bragging I just want you, the reader, to know this isn’t my first rodeo.
When people think of a pharmacist they think we count pills all day. In actuality that’s what I spend the least amount of my time doing. My business is keeping people safe. I fix the mistakes that other healthcare practitioners make. Think they don’t happen, think again. Doctors are people just like you and me. They get tired, hungry, depressed, distracted, then accidents happen. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling in a 30 day supply instead of 90 while other times it could be deadly.
So what specifically do pharmacists do behind the counter? In this small series I’ll tell you the major portions of my job that helps patients everyday.
First I’ll start with what pharmacists are not. While we offer free advice to the public at our spiffy consultation windows we were never trained in the myriad of topics people ask us about. Pharmacists are not dentists, podiatrists, urologists, dermatologists, nutritionists, or even a medical doctor. We are not trained to diagnose. There are some in our field pushing for that, but isn’t that what doctors are for. I say leave that to them and leave the drugs to me.
Despite my prior statement, I have seen more than my fair share of burns, weird rashes, mouth sores, wounds, bunions, fungus infected toenails… well you get the idea. I get asked a variety of questions on a daily basis that are outside the scope of my practice and somehow in this crazy world we live in that has become acceptable and expected of pharmacists. We answer all the questions we can based on years of experience, self education, and advice from colleagues who have been in the biz longer than us. If we don’t know the answer or refer you to the appropriate specialist there is a simple reason. We are pharmacists our specialty is drugs.
Most of the time we don’t mind stopping our work to answer questions that have nothing to do with drugs. We happily answer and show you where the product is. However, we do get very irritated when our advice isn’t taken. Sorry but we do. The pharmacist just stopped everything they were doing to help solve your problem and you the patient/customer chose to do exactly what you planned to do from the very beginning, so why drag us away from our work?
Lastly we are not the store directory. While I understand in many big box retailers there are NO employees on the floor those in the pharmacy, generally only know where pharmacy items are, unless they shop the store regularly, which isn’t always the case. Not to mention we are busy doing a multitude of other things in the pharmacy that require concentration. Small distractions like asking where the light bulbs are can lead to an error. So a helpful tip: most retailers now have convenient apps that tell you where items are located and even if they are in stock.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my patients and I love helping people. There are however, some questions that should be left to others so your friendly neighborhood pharmacist can focus on keeping you and the rest of their patients safe.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things I forgot at the moment. Hopefully this is enough to help you see the world from your pharmacists point of view until my next post in this series.