“Sometimes, you just have to get angry!”

    It all started with an email I received from another pharmacist.  That email left me wondering about questions I felt I couldn’t answer. 

    Someone who has been a pharmacist for a lot longer than I have sent me an email with some comments and questions about the state of our profession.  His concerns and frustrations have been echoed here and elsewhere by many other pharmacists. 

   He wrote about the idea of the unionization of pharmacists and his personal reservations with unionizing.  But he did mention that something needed to be done. 

    He also voiced his frustration with the organizations that represent our profession.  He said that we needed to unite in some meaningful way as pharmacists.  Sound familiar?  It should. 

   I sat on this email for several days without responding.  I didn’t know what I could say.  I felt a lot of the same concerns he did.  And sadly, I have fewer answers than questions.

   I showed the email to my wife and I told her I didn’t know how to respond.  “What do I need to tell him?”  I asked the question as if I was completely lost.  In some ways, I am. 

   She looked at what this pharmacist wrote and then she said to me “sometimes, you just have to get angry!”  She knows my frustations.  She knows the challenges I face at work.  I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

    Her comment got me thinking.  Anger is a good motivator.  It spurs action like no other human emotion. 

    The problem with anger is that it can lead to irrational behavior. We don’t need irrational behavior pushing our profession forward.  We need organized and thoughful responses to any problem we might face. 

    Sometimes it does seem like the organizations that are supposed to have our backs don’t really care or are focused on non-essential issues.  They want to push us towards the future.  But sometimes we just need help with the present.

    I’ve explained before that I don’t think unionization is the answer for the profession of pharmacy.  I won’t bore you with my reasoning.  Let’s just assume I’d vote no if it came to that. 

    But the fact that so many pharmacists entertain the idea tells me something is wrong.  Power and control are important.  And many pharmacists feel like they’ve lost both at work. 

    I also think the big organizations like the APhA do more for our behalf than they get credit.  But having said that, couldn’t they do more?  Couldn’t they voice our concerns a little louder? 

    I think a code of conduct for retail pharmacy operators is in order.  It could include a basic set of standards for working conditions, staffing, and expectations.  The big organizations could become involved in this.

    But we all as individual pharmacists need to get more involved ourselves.  And that might even include joining the organizations that we sometimes question.  They can’t be expected to be the strong voice we need if we aren’t there to support them. 

   I’d also lean harder on politicians.  Like it or not, they have power.  And if they don’t understand how bad working conditions in retail pharmacies might endanger the public, they won’t be pressed to address the issue. 

    I don’t know exactly what it’s going to take to make things better for the profession of pharmacy.  I do know that something needs to be done. 

   As my wife said “sometimes, you just have to get angry.” For many of us, that time has already arrived.  The question then remains: what are you going to do about it?

The Redheaded Pharmacist

4 Comments to ““Sometimes, you just have to get angry!””

  1. By Pharmacist steve, March 25, 2014 @ 12:24 am

    Yes our profession has a problem.. IMO.. I have seen the enemy .. and it is us.

    Unions are desperate to gain members.. they are trying to unionize Wal-Mart.. knowing that Wal-Mart has closed stores in Canada & China..when employee unionized.

    There are few RPh unions.. west coast, around Chicago and East Coast.. why are unions not trying to unionize Pharmacist?.. Just look at us collectively… do you think that 50%+ would sign a card to organize a union? I doubt it.. Even if we cross that hurdle.. do you think that if a strike was called.. would a large per-cent honor the strike – I doubt it. Those two facts.. presuming they are true.. suggests why the Unions have not tried to unionize us.. waste of time & money.

    All the Associations.. depend highly on funding from various corporations including manufacturers and chain drug corporation.. without that financial support.. if they pissed some of these supports off.. and they pull their financial support… they would either downsize .. or implode…

    I would suspect that the dues pay 10%-20% of the total cost of operations.. When I hear a RPH’s posing the question – what have they done for me or the profession?.. My reply is .. are you a dues paying member ? When they say NO.. I tell them then they got what they paid for.

    Associations function on money and volunteers.. I have been on planning committees at the national level, on and chaired committees at the state level and been on the BOD of my state assoc.. The time and money out of pocket invested in doing this volunteering .. makes the annual dues look extremely cheap.

    I suspect.. although no proof.. the per-cent of the number of licensed RPH that belong to at least state or national association is FALLING..

    The chains have turned a lot of us into “loners”… we are the only pharmacist on duty and since we don’t belong to associations and we don’t go to association meetings… our interaction has been reduced to face book, twitter, emails, texts.. I have heard a lot of RPH’s talking about the “snitches” that the DM has turned some of the techs into.

    The chains have – for the most part – standardized the Rx dept layout.. and because of the Rx volume and so much administrative tasks.. that nearly all these functions have been delegated to the techs.. So the Pharmacist is not much more that a warm body and a license.. and the chain can float a RPH from store to store… and if the store’s volume continues to grow.. would suggest that the RPH .. is just another commodity … So how can be claim to have pts.. if RPH’s are always floating and are the RPH is so swamped with “metrics” that they can’t fine the time to interact with the pt.

    In fact, one chain went to court.. arguing that they had customers.. not patients..

    We are seeing dozens and dozens of Senior RPH’s being summarily discharged.. I know of three that were accused of being impaired, stole control drugs and other things that are illegal.. So that the chain can challenge unemployment.. because the RPH was fired “for cause”. All RPh’s claimed that they were innocent but no proof of guilty was ever produced by the employer.

    If you are 40-45+ and 10 + yrs of service.. you have a target on your back.. The youngest BS Pharm will soon be turning FORTY. It is estimated that we now have a annual surplus of 2000 RPH’s and growing to a estimated 4000 by 2017-2018.. That is >1% of the labor pool growing each year as a surplus.

    United we stand.. divided we fall .. goes back to Aesop’s time. If you wonder how we got here.. part of the answer may be starring back at you in the bath room mirror in the morning ..

    For decades the National Community Pharmacist Association has had a motto for decades… “Get into politics or get out of pharmacy ”


  2. By Mary, July 30, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

    Thanks, RedHeaded for your input on unionization of pharmacists.

    I have been a pharmacist for 25 years, and I am flat broke, with a kid and a husband to support, but I think I am going to be taking my chances elsewhere.

    I don’t know what the answer is for pharmacy. I spoke with a person from APhA who was completely out of touch with reality, telling me how promising pharmacy still is. (He has not seen the intense competition for pharmacist jobs I’ve seen.)

    I float, as well. I have no work. The market is saturated in Seattle. Before, when I looked for work, I would at least be granted an interview. When I got an interview, I would be offered a job. Not any more.

    In fact, I was reprimanded at my previous job for being snappy to a technician, and still, I am not absolutely sure what was wrong. I left this job, since nobody would tell me what I did. I suspect I really did nothing, and this was an excuse to get rid of me and usher in a DOP favored child. The irony of this is that the DOP has on her record, that she could not figure out the difference between Fungizone and Abelcet, and yet, she still has a job, in spite of killing a patient through her error. I know, **YAWN**, but all of this tells me that pharmacy has gone from being a true clinical/technical profession to that of political appointments.

    Unions would not have helped this, as they, too are political entities.

    Honestly, all I ever wanted to do was my job. So, that is fine. Pharmacy schools can pump out new grads ready to default on their student loans because they can’t get a job, all while organizations like APhA paint rosey pictures, and pharmacists can’t or won’t stand up for themselves, as a group.

    It’s just awesome! Here’s to a promising career!


  3. By Joe Dugan, September 14, 2014 @ 11:02 am

    So what is the answer? Everyone says we shouldn’t unionize but what is the answer? Do you think the BOPs will save us ? Not a chance in hell .. They have been bought and paid for by the big chains and their only interest is keeping their board seats. However , the working conditions are reaching a critical mass as public safety is being impacted and that is supposed to be their main role. Nobody cares as long as they’re not stuck in the box and suffering. Why wouldn’t you give someone a small break working in a 12 hour shift? Why not afford that person a chance to sit down and eat a warm meal? My dog gets better treatment than this and the conditions unfortunately will continue to detoriate if unions don’t step in . Unions are not perfect but i say that unions are long overdue… We have no representation.. The retailers hold all the cards and we are their slaves


  4. By The Pharmacy Sage, September 27, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    The Red Headed Pharmacist,

    Getting angry is one thing. Making effective decisions is yet another. If you’re going to follow the pied-piper, then make sure he’s taking you to the promised land.

    Far too many organizations still support an outdated business model: traditional scrips. They no longer pay the bills for the independent pharmacist. A different, and newer business model does. I heartily encourage you to read my blog post: http://thepharmacysage.com/pharmacy-business-model/

    No more “angry” pharmacists, and certainly no more angry wives.


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