Are things grossly out of sync ?

I recently read another blog the other day

It would seem that a particular pt went “off the deep end”… over a mis-statement  by a technicians … which should have otherwise been a minor situation and resolved rather quickly… but according to the author, he/she actually became scared of what the pt may end up doing..

Why do we allow ourselves to be placed in such circumstances. Nearly all large companies have policies and procedures that include a section on hostile work environment.. and unless the P&P excludes pt/customers.. it applies to them..

This particular pt could have been charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and probably other infractions of laws.. that I have never heard of.  This RPH “hoped” that this person never comes back into the store again…  I wonder at which point in the confrontation she came to this conclusion?  I would suspect that if the police had been called and the pt escorted out of the store in handcuffs… she would not come back to the store in future.

While in PA.. recently a 5 year old was suspended for 10 days from school and initially charged with issuing a terroristic threat  for “threatening” another student with shooting her with a HELLO KITTY gun that blows bubbles.. that the 5 y/o did not even have on her

While recently in MD… two six year old boys get suspended for using their thumb and forefinger to act like they are shooting each other with “their gun” playing Cops & Robbers during recess.

Are we trying – via our school system – to create a generation of  wimped out kids.. so they won’t act like the woman at the pharmacy counter.. or will they really rebel once they graduate the school system… and we will have more people who have short fuses and unlimited pent up anger that will be directed at any person that “crosses them”?

BTW.. I agree with neither how the school systems are handling these situation nor the way that most RPH’s handle – or don’t handle – such “out of control” pt/customers.




8 Responses

  1. I am really late to this party but I just wanted to say THANK YOU, Pharmacist Steve, for sharing your beliefs on how pharmacist-patient interactions should be managed. I have been practicing for two years and am horrified almost every day by the way my pharmacist boss allows people to treat his staff. We get yelled at, sworn at, physically threatened and he does nothing about it — usually he ends up apologizing to the patient.

    We had one super scary patient who, on separate occasions, called me “a stupid f***ing c*nt” after I refused to fill his narcotics early, and also tried to jump over the counter and attack a male colleague of mine. This man was supposed to be banned from our store after that happened. A few months later, he showed up and had the nerve to bark a question at me about where to find something. I responded politely, then went in the back room and called security to tell them a banned customer was in the store. When security arrived, they went to speak to my boss (not me, the complainant, because a stupid girl’s opinion is not important…don’t even get me started on that issue around here). Boss came to ask me what happened, I said “he shouldn’t be in here, don’t you remember when he tried to ATTACK so-and-so? I don’t want him talking to me, he scares me.” Boss replied “Well he’s just shopping, right, he didn’t actually want anything from the pharmacy?”….and went back to his office…did nothing, said nothing to the customer.

    Then, on the other hand, when I get patients who are being super rude and I say something to them along the lines of “I’m not going to help you if you’re gonna speak to me that way” or “can you please stop being rude to my technician”, they look at me like I’m insane for daring to call them on their behaviour. Today’s society seems to have taken the old adage “the customer is always right” to mean they can say and do whatever they want to pharmacy staff because we are in a retail location. Sorry, this isn’t McDonald’s. I am obligated to do my job within the laws and regulations of this province, not to cater to your every drug-related whim. If you’re trying to do something illegal or dangerous, and being rude to me or my staff, I really don’t care if you leave unhappy and never come back.

  2. I made the assumption that the ‘wimpy’ pharmacist worked for a company/chain since she mentioned on her blog that she talked with her manager. As an employee of a company, no worker should be subjected to physical/verbal abuse. It should not be tolerated! As pharmacists, we understand that our customers are often sick, feel poorly, and can be irritable. We have customers that are mentally ill. I take this into account when dealing with them. I must admit that I am good at turning an angry customer into a happy customer. However, there are those customers that are neither sick or mentally ill and are just rude and uncivil. A point can be reached when it is no longer our ‘job’ to deal with these people. Again, we are workers(employees) of a company. It is not our responsiblity to handle ‘out of control’ customers. That is the responsibility of corporate(security) or the police. The ‘wimpy’ pharmacist is assuming a responsibility on the job to which she is not responsible. She is not responsible for handling physical or verbally abusive customers. If a customer cannot act civil, then it is not my job to fill their prescriptions or to deal with them. And, on an occasion, I have told a customer not to come back to the pharmacy.

    The problem with ‘taking abuse’ is that it teaches customers that they can abuse you and get away with it which fosters repeat behaviour. These customers will behave badly every time they come to the pharmacy. Pretty soon you have nothing but rude, abusive customers. You get what you tolerate.

    • You’re right–it wasn’t my job to deal with her at that point. But, at the company I work for, I am not in a position to decide which customers are ‘banned’ from the pharmacy. That is upper management’s decision and making that decision on my own could result in me being penalized. We are not a store that has on-site security. If we were, I would have utilized it. Really, my direct manager should have asked her to leave, but instead made the offer for a gift card (which I’m still appalled by). It is unfortunate that large corporations foster such behaviors in their patrons. There was nothing I could say or do to make her calm down, but it shouldn’t rest on just me (unless I am the owner) to escort people out of the pharmacy. None of this constitutes ‘wimpy’ behavior. I was attempting to find some way of calming her down by apologizing and keeping myself under control. My direct manager should have been more proactive with the lady, but instead stood there while she yelled. If anything, it was her that was the wimp, not me. Also, my techs or the other non-pharmacy employees could have called the cops (especially once the other customers suggested doing so), but they decided to hide and wait a few more minutes before doing so.

    • You are correct that your manager should have taken some positive action.. IMO.. this manager is in violation of the company’s P&P – if there is a section on harassment or hostile work environment. This is a area for HR to get involved… they are responsible for enforcing the company’s P&P. If they don’t give the front end people the power to use their own decision process when a pt/customer is getting out of hand.. then HR is guilty of selective enforcement of the P&P and could put the company in a very bad position when they try to enforce another part of the P&P against an employee. I would suggest that you send a email to CCO/HR/Legal – read requested – asking for clarification on the company’s P&P on these two issues. what your authority is and who should have took the lead in this particular incident. Look up the sections and quote the page numbers in your email.. If they come back with it should have been the manager who took the lead.. file a complaint with HR that the manager is not following/enforcing the company’s P&P..
      If you feel threaten by a pt/customer.. WALK AWAY… if they follow you into the Rx dept.. then they have really stepped in it. They have entered a restrictive area and you can claim feeling threatened without anyone doubting that..

      • Will do. I’m pretty sure the P&P does not include patients/customers in the hostile work environment section, but I’ll double check. Thanks for the advice. That’s the reason I put space between the woman and myself. I figured she would be highly unlikely to come into the pharmacy. I normally stand right at our swing door to speak with patients, but once she got in my face I put at least a good five or six feet between us regardless of where her angry pacing took her.

        • When you read your P&P.. look at the definition of “work environment” .. IMO.. I am not a attorney.. but .. unless an pt/customer is specifically EXCLUDED in the P&P about a hostile work environment.. they are INCLUDED.. They are being hostile/threatening.. and they are in your work environment. If the manager is there.. and the conversation is going no where.. i would turn to the manager and say “this issue is your problem” and go back to work. You have done your best to resolve the situation and you relinquish to the management person above your pay grade to try and get it resolved.

  3. I read the story of the angry patient. The pharmacist is a first class ‘wimp’. There is no way I would tolerate someone in my face like that for 10 minutes and them banging on the counter. They would have the option of leaving the pharmacy or I would call security. If security did not come quickly, I would give the patient the option of leaving or I would call the police. And, I would tell the patient they were banned from the pharmacy and not to come back. They could go to another pharmacy and get their rx’s transferred.

    You get what you tolerate. Tolerate this kind of behaviour and that is what you get. Customers are getting out of control. At some point, I will not be surprised if their is a mass killing at a pharmacy by a nutty, angry customer. It is just a matter of time. Civility is becoming a thing of the past. You begin to wonder where and why so many people have lost a sense of civility.

  4. Not quite sure how to take this post. Choosing to remain calm is considered wimping out? When a pt is that out of control, there is no telling if they will get physical with you. I would prefer to keep myself free from harm. A broken body part or concussion is still there even if the police cart her off to jail (and I’d be the one dealing with the injuries, not her). I’d much rather stay calm and not yell back. Acting tough may have led her to do much more dangerous things. My techs or the other employees could have called the cops but chose to give her a few more minutes to leave. In the past (prior to my working there), there have been pts who did physically harmful things, which resulted in restraining orders, but that only led to their friends and family treating our staff poorly, even years later. There’s a time and place to stand up for yourself. That situation was not one I felt safe in doing so. That doesn’t mean I never stand up for myself or my staff, and that doesn’t make me a wimp.

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