More work… little/no staffing increases… med mistakes will increase…. harm to pts will increase

I am going to kill you.
Perhaps it won’t be me, but it will be a pharmacist.
Perhaps it won’t be you, but it will be someone you know and love.
When the authorities and lawyers and judges and family members ask what happened, I will have to accept responsibility.
It will most likely kill me to know something I did at work, which could have been prevented, directly contributed to your loss.
When those people dig deeper in an attempt to discover how this mistake could have occurred, they will only find gossamer-thin whispers of leads that will ultimately end in a cul-de-sac around the pharmacist, around me.
We all understand the ultimate responsibility for a mistake ends with the pharmacist; the buck stops here and all that drivel.
What if you are put into a losing situation?
What if the circumstances in which you work are beyond your control?
You can only control what you can control.
What if you are set up to fail?
Does anyone care?
No. No one except your pharmacist.
Who is doing her best despite the deck stacked against her.
When any error occurs, whether at your home or in my pharmacy, the common response is to identify the error, discover how it occurred, implement a plan to prevent another error of this type, and learn from it. It’s how we evolve.
Pharmacists must self-report errors made.
Reporting errors in the pharmacy brings about two major results: a citation from the company and a lawyer making sure the company is safe from a lawsuit.
When we report errors, there is a question on the form: “What caused the error?”
The reply of “distractions and not enough help” is met with a scoff from the powers-that-be.
Do they attempt to fix it?
I have spoken truly about what takes place in the pharmacy. On the most basic level, we enter, count, fill, and check prescriptions. That has always been the job. Over the years, new tasks and distractions have been added to our workload, each one increasing the chance for a mistake to occur.
Phones ring off the hook. With corporate-mandated automatic outgoing phone calls, patients call to ask why they received a call or a text. We have to sell products and services. We offer immunizations. We are in an open area of the pharmacy where patients can just shout at us their questions. Drive-thru lanes that ring incessantly are a distraction upon one’s focus and concentration.
Walk into any pharmacy and count the number of bodies behind the counter and match that with the number of stations available.
(Stations include: Drop off window, pick up window, consultation window, drive-thru window, Data Entry workstation, Counting workstation, Pharmacist checking station, and anywhere from 3-10 phone lines available.)
The employees are stretched thin but the corporate budget predicts the amount of help necessary to man the battle stations. Their numbers can’t be wrong, right?
While manning all of these stations, sometimes multiple stations at once, your pharmacist is also checking your prescription for mistakes. Imagine reading a book in a crowded bar with a DJ playing music, a few friends trying to include you in the conversation, your phone going off as your kids are trying to locate you, someone tapping you on the shoulder every few minutes excusing themselves past you on their way to the loo, and random shouts of “GOAL” echoing from the match on the telly.
How much of what you were reading do you remember?
How many times did you restart that page, that paragraph, that sentence?
This is the life your pharmacist leads.
This is the life into which you put your life.
She is set up to fail and one day it will kill someone.
It will not be anyone’s fault she couldn’t remember what she read on that last page in her book, your prescription.
Except hers.
She is set up to fail.
Until pharmacies work to change their work environments for their employees, someone is going to die. Unfortunately, I believe it is going to take such an event to occur before changes happen. Pharmacies will file it under “cost of doing business”.
Shouldn’t you want something better for yourself, for your loved ones than to be considered a “cost of doing business”?
Focus is paramount in our profession. We are the last line of defence between your prescriber and an awful day.
Now another scenario for you. Imagine yourself lying on an operating table. We’ve all seen the movies where the staff are all in their precise locations, assisting with the procedure, monitoring the monitors. We usually have a surgeon, assistant, nurse, tech, and anesthesiologist. Each person has a specific job to do. Now imagine the hospital cut the staff in the OR down to just the surgeon and one nurse. Someone has to hand the surgeon his instruments. Someone has to monitor the vitals. Someone has to administer the anesthesia. Someone has to prep the patient and be on hand for calling in help when needed.
As the procedure starts and these two lonesome souls are wrists deep in your chest cavity, the phone rings in the OR and the surgeon has to answer it because the nurse stepped aside to call for a radiologist. Someone needs to know what’s taking so long and where the vending machine is located in the waiting room. Oh, and a family member just poked her head in the door asking “how much longer?’ because they have dinner reservations in 10 minutes.
Is this a most absurd scenario? A professional team being decimated to save a few dollars for the hospital?
Is this what your pharmacists and their teams deal with on a daily basis?
Is this an exaggeration?
No. Not really at all.
For 12 hours a day this is what we do with skeleton crews.
Is that the environment in which you want your pharmacy staff to work?
Apparently it is because patients like to yell and scream at the pharmacy staff for taking too long and don’t consider the repercussions if their interruptions lead to a mistake.
Until someone dies, no one will care.
Except your pharmacist.
Unfortunately, when I discover I killed you, my life will end.
I will not be able to live with myself knowing what I did.
I will have to surrender my licence and leave the profession I love.
The pharmacy? No remorse.
Maybe a statement from their media mouthpiece about “thoughts and prayers” and how “that pharmacist no longer works for us”.
But that’s it.
They won’t change a damn thing.
Until we demand it.
Actually, until YOU demand it.
Your pharmacists have been demanding it for years. But they don’t listen to us. In their eyes, we are not smart enough to understand budgets and staffing demands.
I don’t want to kill you.
I don’t want to hurt you or anyone you love.
Please understand this.
I am going to kill you.
I don’t want to, but it will happen.
(A note from CP: I emailed a copy of this letter this morning to all Boards of Pharmacy and a few journalists. Please consider sharing with them as well.)
I STOLE THIS. I did not ask permission, I don’t know who the author is. All I know is that it was written by a pharmacist and that pharmacist is not someone that I know. I copied and pasted. I am not a pharmacist, but I have a very active conscience. If this happens and something that I have done or not done had contributed to it I know I will be devastated. This is happening everywhere. The associations that I belong to are nationwide. Independent Pharmacies are getting shut down and shut out. I read somewhere recently that there are around 20,000 independent pharmacies Nationally. I didn’t confirm that figure, but it is frightening. Pharmacy Benefit Managers are dictating prices and reimbursements and where you can get your prescriptions filled. Even if it is by saying you have to go to CVS instead of xyz pharmacy to get the cheapest price. It is becoming a monopoly. Making a patient go mail order instead of retail is another way. I don’t need to work this crappy job, I certainly don’t do it for the money. I am still holding out hope that things will get turned around. I am not big on government control of things, but they have let it slide too far and too long. I will be fine. Will you?
10/16/21 update things have actually gotten worse this last year with Covid vaccines, Covid testing, and sooooo many phone calls with questions about Covid daily. Supply issues and lack of applicants for jobs is nationwide. Recently I posted about two young children in Indiana who received the Covid vaccine in error. Sadly this is not the only instance of such errors. In an effort to turn PATIENTS into CUSTOMERS pharmacy chains are continually adding ways to make pharmacies more like stores than health care. Can you think of any other business where someone who doesn’t work there would tell you that something you wanted would be ready when you got there? Does the undertaker tell the bereaved that the florest will have the flowers ready for them when they get to the store because they emailed an order in? It’s absurd!

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