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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Death of a Profession

Pack it up, pack it in.  Call for the bugles, the bagpipes, the fiddles and the drums.  Pull out your best black dress attire and line the streets.  Sound the call to mourning and join this solemn event.  Today is the day pharmacy died.  Perhaps we can get Don McLean to sing about it.

Now this is not a "back in my day" rant for I am too young for that.  However, much has changed in the last two decades that seems to have pushed us at an incredible pace over the precipice.  Pharmacy people I say to you "We Have Lost"!

Today a pharmacist is measured by his customer service.  We've most always had a remarkable rapport with our customers.  Back when it mattered we were "the most trusted profession".  Today, in order to get a raise, a bonus, a job even, you have to hit certain customer service indices.  What makes this all the more unbearable is that people running our profession as well as our businesses are treating us like infants.

How many times have you had an irate customer who didn't understand the problem we were explaining to him, threaten to actually call your boss?, or the corporate 1-800-COMPLAINT #?, or the front end manager?  Of those times, how often did someone step in and say "the pharmacist is correct and you're a douchebag"?  In the last week alone, I have had the following customer interactions: Woman at drive-thru hands us 4 new prescriptions and asks for them to be ready at our other location (25 minutes away) in 30 minutes.  I told her we don't do that and she said "but you DO transfer prescriptions, what's the problem?"  Next we have the lady who cut all the information off her coupon except where it says ($$$Gift Card) and complained to a manager who told us to take it.  Someone whose doctor requires the patient to call for refills asked us to call then got mad when we didn't call her to tell her they denied our request (even though the office said the patient is fully aware of this because they are habitual problem patients).

Since when did we ever believe our profession would change from one of healthcare to one of service bitch?  I understand that as we have tried to do more things to help our patients (faxed requests to doctors for refills, automatic monthly refills, immunizations, consultants) we have also made everything an expectation instead of a gratuitous, professional service.  How much stuff do we give away for free in the name of customer service?  People come to us expecting us to hand everything to them.  There is no longer personal accountability when it comes to one's own healthcare.

With the transfer coupon frenzy already having sullied our profession, we have to deal with the new scourge of retail: The Entitled Customer.  He simply wants to complain to get what he thinks he deserves.  My least favourite quotes are "it pays to complain" and "the customer is always right".  When Mr. E.C. is unhappy with us as pharmacists and he complains, what happens?  Someone at the next level fields his complaint and guess what?--we get docked for poor service while he gets a letter of apology, a gift card for his trouble, the keys to the pharmacy, and the satisfaction and courage to do it again.  We are rewarding bad behaviour in the name of customer service.

It's not just my employer or my state.  This is a national problem.  I have said before, we stopped being respected when we stopped respecting ourselves.  When we had the industry at our mercy during the massive pharmacist shortages, employers begged us to work overtime, offered huge sign-on bonuses to jump ship, or to stay, this was the time to improve our lot.  Alas, that ship has sailed and we are like every other corporate business in this weakened economy--doing the work of more than one person for less money and big corporations telling us "so what?".  Their attitude is if you don't like it, leave.  We'll replace you with someone who will.

Check back next week for the ultimate business solution that will change the practice of pharmacy forever.  

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