Working with a Pharmacy Mantra

APRIL 08, 2018
Do you have a pharmacy mantra—your own personal statement?

One of my favorite floater pharmacists was known for saying “Keep it movin’” (in a positive way) all day long. Looking back, I think that was his mantra. It kept him (and the staff) focused and productive. He was extremely efficient, and when I was PIC, he was my favorite floater because I knew I would walk in to a spotless, problem-free pharmacy the next day.

I never thought about having a mantra. But over the summer, every day after I dropped my children off at summer camp, on the way home, I passed by the town high school. All summer long, on their electronic bulletin board outside, flashed a simple but meaningful mantra: “Work Hard And Be Nice.”

Even thought my drive home was almost on autopilot, every day that sign caught my eye, and resonated with me. It made me think, "What a simple but all-encompassing statement."

Let’s break it down:

Work hard

Working in a pharmacy is HARD. it’s mentally and physically demanding. I know it. You feel like a punching bag sometimes (or often). You are perpetually overworked and understaffed.

We all work hard—I recently wrote an article about how no matter what your environment is like, pharmacists work hard. Working in a retail pharmacy is extremely stressful, and the list of tasks, in addition to filling prescriptions, is endless.

No matter what your pharmacy workplace is like, you will work hard. I can promise you that. With our licenses on the line, we need to find a pace that is right for us. Take the time to check what you need to, no matter how stressed you feel. Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

Is your entire queue turning red? Breathe. You are working as hard as you can, but sometimes the queue will turn red, and you just have to throw your hands up and 'keep it movin.'

I think another part of working hard is to 'keep your head down.' It’s easy to get caught up, and upset by drama. But, it is possible to keep a great camaraderie with your staff, without getting caught up in the drama, and stay more focused on your work.

Be nice

'Kill them with kindness'—What an appropriate saying in our profession.

One important thing to develop, working in a pharmacy, is the ability to let things roll off your back. When I first started out, I was sensitive, and took things personally. After a while, I developed a 'thick skin,' and pretty much nothing bothered me.

Many people coming to a pharmacy have just spent a lot of time waiting in a doctor's office, and many are sick, so they may not be as cheerful as usual. Once you develop the ability to not let things get to you, the next part is easy.

I will never forget the words of another pharmacist colleague. Basically, every time someone was rude to her, she would find a way to say 'thank you.'

She told me her strategy many years ago, and it works basically in every situation. At the time, she was the PIC for the busiest store in the area, and has had many promotions over the years—I have no doubt this strategy helped her. I have employed that strategy, and it has worked every time.

Some examples-
Patient: "10 minutes? Don't you just have to slap a label on it? There's always a problem when I come here"
Pharmacy staff member: "Thank you so much for your patience! Yes, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and we are doing everything we can to process your prescription, so that you can go home and rest"

Patient: "What do you mean, prior authorization? My prescription is the authorization"
Pharmacy staff member: "Thank you so much for understanding, I know this is frustrating, but your insurance requires additional information before they will let us fill this prescription. We will let you know as soon as we hear back from the doctor"

Patient: "Why is my prescription not ready? I called this in last week"
Pharmacy staff member: "Yes, thank you for your patience. We have sent 3 faxes, and made 2 followup calls. If you try calling too, hopefully we will get an answer quickly"

Patient honking horn in the drive thru:  "You guys always take forever to come to the window"
Pharmacy staff member: "It’s a little crazy today—thank you for your patience"

Doctor's office staff member: "Yes the prescription is for Lipitor 10mg 400 tablets daily. That's what the doctor wrote."
Pharmacy staff member: "Thank you so much for clarifying, but sometimes electronic prescriptions have errors, and the dose was likely once daily, so if you can please check with the doctor that would be great!"

This is a great strategy to quickly diffuse little aggravations or remarks that have the potential to spiral out of control. It also makes the other party take a pause because they are surprised by the polite reaction. It's hard to argue with someone who finds a way to say 'thank you.' And as busy as we all are in our pharmacies, who wants to spend time arguing? No matter how frustrated you feel, if you pause for a moment and try to find a way to say thank you, the conversation will end up on a positive note 99 percent of the time.

The other one percent? Well, good luck with that. I didn’t say it worked EVERY time.

I just love the phrase, 'Work hard and be nice.' It is so simple but so relevant.

Do you have a mantra, or saying, in your pharmacy? Email me at [email protected]

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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