20 Questions for The Cynical Pharmacist

APRIL 11, 2018
The Cynical Pharmacist is one of my favorite pages on Facebook. It has more than 125,000 followers in the pharmacy field. In true form, The Cynical Pharmacist changed all “f’s” to “ph’s,” so, the spelling in the answers is intentional and not a bunch of typos.

The Cynical Pharmacist, of course, did not reveal his or her identity, only sharing that he or she is between 39 and 49 and has worked in “unbreakable chains” since graduation. When asked if anyone knows The Cynical Pharmacist's identity, I was told, “Yes. Too many people in fact. However, that’s a rookie blogger mistake. You want everyone to read you, so, you work hard to carve out an audience ... you ask your phriends to help spread the word. My store definitely does, because all my material comes phrom work, and they know I’m trying out new stuff on them. Sometimes, they’re even my inspiration.”

So here are the 20 questions:

1. How did you become The Cynical Pharmacist and grow to have so many "phollowers?"
Answer: Honesty. I started by sharing my experiences and phrustrations on my personal FB page, but my friends didn’t understand. I believed that if I was experiencing these things here, then others out there must be as well. I started a blog phor my thoughts which, of course, no one read, so I took it to FB as a page. 

I don’t take myself too seriously and realize I can’t change everything. My goal is to change what I can, educate some, motivate others, phind humor in it all to survive, and make people smile, laugh, and think. Somehow, that resonates. 
 
2. What is the "phunniest" thing ever to happen to you while working in the pharmacy?
A: I had to counsel a sweet little old lady who was hard of hearing and was picking up rectal suppositories. I’m trying to be discreet about the delicate conversation, all while watching the queue behind her grow as she’s just not connecting the dots. The faces on these people were priceless and not helpful. Finally, I had to say, “Forgive me for being blunt, but you open this, bend over and (with a forceful raising of my hand and a little “oomph” for effect) shove it up your bum." Her eyes brightened as you could see she got it. She thanked me profusely and apologized for not getting it and having never heard of suppositories before. She smiled as she left, and the people in line were thanking me for attempting to be as professional as I was for as long as I was. 
 
3. What question do you get asked in the pharmacy often that is annoying?
A: "Really? That long?" probably tied with, “Didn’t my insurance cover anything?”

Yes, really. Yes, that long. Yes, they did. It’s the perception of our profession that corporate McPharmacy has phostered. Our services are undervalued, because people see us and watch us putting pills phrom big bottles into little bottles. We look like Subway with our linear drop-off to pick-up windows. If restaurants tell you your wait time will be 15 minutes, you will sit there for a few minutes and get antsy. However, if they give you a 15-minute wait time along with a buzzer, you will manage to phorget how long you’re waiting. It’s perception. 

4. Describe your ideal pharmacy?
A: Closed. I wrote 2 posts about closing the pharmacy (to public view) and how Apple stores are perfectly designed to be pharmacies. Remember when surgeons used to operate in open theatres? Speed was valued, and crowds watched. We learned that was not the best environment. Imagine if someone interrupted your surgeon today to ask where the gauze pads are or the bathrooms. Pharmacy has regressed. I don’t need to see the chef in the kitchen any more than you need to see me. If I have a question or compliment for her, she will come out. Same with us. I will walk out to counsel you when needed, but you don’t need to see me to know I am there. 

5. What do you do after work or on your days off to unwind?
A: I read a lot. I have an appetite phor knowledge. I write. I love to cook. I coach, referee, and play soccer. Mead. Phamily uber alles. 
 
6. What is the last book you read, and what did you like about it?
A: Quackery-A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. It gives a long history of medical therapies, including many known poisons used as cure-alls. I really am amazed humanity survived into this century. I was interested in this book because I love all things history, especially medical history. I have a book my mother gave me called Mothers’ Remedies. It has been in my phamily since it was published in 1910 and contains many handwritten notes in the margins and on cards tucked inside. It offers remedies for anything and everything that ailed you. At the time, this was the only resource many people had. Phunny thing is, many remedies are still recommended and are reemerging today. 

7. What is your favorite TV show, and why?
A: I have to say it is Game of Thrones. It is a rich world with deep characters. I have to consider pharmacists as the modern Maesters, although I did just phinish Altered Carbon, and that was nearly as good as the books.

8. If you were not a pharmacist, what would you be and why?
A: A park ranger. I love history and nature. Getting to spend time outdoors and educating people about my passions seems, well, natural. Or a chef. I love to cook. 
 
9. What takes up too much of your time at work?
A: Complying with protocols. I remember when my phirst priority was philling prescriptions. I took care of the patient and her prescriptions. I ordered what I needed, when I needed it. Everything else took care of itself, especially customer service. Now, I get on conference calls about why I didn’t administer any shots last week and why my inventory increased, even though it’s corporate-controlled, and why patients are unhappy about long wait times and how I have to adjust my schedule, again, because they cut hours because I didn’t give any shots last week and patients are unhappy about long wait times and ... 
Once everything I always did became a monitored metric, I have had less time to actually perform it. Phunny, huh?

10. What makes your day better at work?
A: My technicians and some awesome patients. Coffee. Lots of coffee. 
 
11. What could you give a presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
A: If you asked my technicians, they’d say just about anything. However, I would best be able to deliver “a day in the life and why I love my job” or “what they don’t teach you in pharmacy school” extemporaneously. 

12. What movie title best describes your life?
A: Pulp Fiction.

13. What question would you like to know the answer to?
A: Who was Jack the Ripper?

14. Who is your inspiration?
A: William Shakespeare. I love the etymology, or words, and many trace back to him.
 
15. If you could make 1 rule that everyone had to follow, what would it be?
A: Be nice. I made a whole bunch of “Dick and Jane in the Pharmacy” comics. Do what you’re supposed to do. Don’t argue with me or anyone in retail, for that matter. I’m not trying to keep you phrom your medicine, and that high school student at your favorite fast food joint is just trying to make money phor college. Be nice. 
 
16. What would be some of the most annoying things about having yourself as a roommate?
A: OCD. I need to be in control of everything. I need order and organization. 

17. What is your biggest fear?
A: Somebody, someday, is going to tell me I’m not good enough. That, or I’ll have an epiphany where I realize I’m not good enough. 

18. What would your spirit animal be, and why?
A: Platypus. It doesn’t conform to conventions and expectations. It refuses to be typecast. Its very existence is rebellious. 
 
19. What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
A: Best? Invest wisely and early.  

Worst? Anything that started with “You shouldn’t" or “Don’t ... " with regards to a career choice, as in, “don’t go phor that extra year of school, that extra rotation, or that residency." No one should discourage you. 
 
20. What is your advice to new pharmacists on how to survive retail pharmacy?
A: You are in charge of your license. You can find a new job with your license, but you can’t get a new license once you lose it. Have phun. Remember why you chose this profession. Smile. Get to know, really know, your patients. Above all, take care of your techs. Stand up and support them. Good ones make your day easier, great ones make your life easier. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take care of your feet; you’re going to be on them a long, long time ... 
 
Hope you enjoyed getting to know The Cynical Pharmacist better. Follow on Facebook.


Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 16 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at [email protected]
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