11 New Year's Resolutions to Improve Pharmacy Work Life

DECEMBER 29, 2017
Starting the New Year off with resolutions is extra motivating. Most people want to get fit and lose weight, stop smoking, or be more fiscally responsible. Although we all have personal resolutions, I rarely hear people talking about professional resolutions. Making resolutions to improve at work can keep us empowered, focused, and motivated. 
 
Here are some ideas for pharmacy-related New Year's resolutions to address some of the common issues that we face in the retail setting. They are great habits to get into and are much easier to stick to than going to the gym every day for 2 hours.

1. Kick it old school. Type prescriptions that physically come in while patients wait for them. This way, pharmacists can keep patients informed about any issues with the prescription, reset pickup expectations if necessary, and prevent patient frustration. Triage the contact queue, as well. Fill antibiotics/acute medications first, then the maintenance medications. Address insurance issues immediately. Resubmit or follow up on requests that have been sitting in the queue for too long. Try to keep the queue as streamlined as possible.

2. Mark open bottles and rotate inventory. This can save a lot of time and aggravation as well as prevent situations when you think you have a full bottle of something but you don’t. The pharmacy shelves will also start to look less cluttered as a result.

3. Correct directions that auto populate in the sig field from electronic prescriptions. Patients do not need a label that reads, “Take 1 (one) capsule by mouth every day daily.”

4. Keep it simple. Clear and concise directions are best, and if there is something extra important, add it to the label, if state regulations allow it. The ones I add most are:
  • On antibiotics: until finished
  • On reconstituted antibiotics: Shake well before using.
  • On metronidazole: no alcohol
  • On phenazopyridine: may cause discoloration of urine 
5. Set expectations properly to manage stress. We are great at multitasking, but we are not superheroes. One of the most common scenarios: A patient has 2 prescriptions that are being filled too soon, OxyContin and Percocet. Instead of just communicating the day that the 2 prescriptions can be filled, why not give him a time as well? Otherwise, he will show up at 8 a.m. when you are trying to open, the tech is late, a car is waiting in the drive thru, and 3 phone lines are ringing. Give yourself time to do things at a safe pace, as we all know any mistake can be fatal. If the patient knows that he must come in after 11 a.m. on the day that the insurance allows, he will begin to adapt. Of course, exceptions can be made, but try to avoid putting extra stress on yourself in general by allowing ample time to do things. Pharmacy is stressful enough without adding more pressure. 

6. Clean up profiles for insurance. When a patient brings in a new card, update her profile right away, but also inactivate all old cards. Find out if the new card applies to the rest of the family, and if so, take a minute and update their profiles as well. This is tedious work, but it saves a lot of time and a phone call later on. 

7. Take accountability for unresolved issues. I remember a pharmacist I worked with, who flawlessly managed a busy store, used to say that a good pharmacist would pick things up and say, "What's this; what do I need to do?" Whether you are a pharmacist-in-charge, a staff pharmacist, or a floater, take a few minutes and resolve some lingering issues. Your patients will thank you.

8. Set the tone, because attitude is contagious. Those who are negative and complain constantly, spark others to do likewise. Those who are pleasant and do their job with minimal complaining find that their attitudes are contagious. It may not work every day and in every situation, but a positive attitude certainly never hurts.

9. Drink more water and eat healthy food. I polled a pharmacist group, and a consensus was that we need to drink more water and stop buying or eating junk food that is left around. Also, we should sit down for 5 minutes to eat. And take bathroom breaks. There will never be a quiet moment in the pharmacy, so just go when you need to. We are professionals, and we should treat ourselves better.

10. Go above and beyond. One pharmacist suggested that we extend ourselves for at least 1 patient every day. 

11. Use different language. Another pharmacist suggests replacing the words “retail,” “store,” and “customer” with “community,” “pharmacy” and “patient," respectively. Also, communicate value when we speak of all the wonderful, valuable contributions we make as pharmacists. 
 
Pharmacists are some of the most trusted professionals, according to a Gallup poll, and should be treated as such. 

Check out some more tips to reduce stress in the pharmacy workplace.

These are just some ideas that can make life easier in a retail setting. Feel free to try some or all of them. Let me know what your pharmacy New Year's resolutions are (karenmichelleberger@gmail.com).


Karen Berger, PharmD
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 karenmichelleberger@gmail.com
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