Pitching in to Plunge?

JANUARY 22, 2018

There is a fascinating (to me!) pharmacy-related debate I have been following on social media this week. A store manager told the pharmacist that the pharmacist must clean the store restroom. Following this Facebook post was a heated debate as to whether this chore was indeed within a pharmacist’s scope of responsibility. Let’s take a look at both sides. It is important to note that this is a chain pharmacy scenario.

Here are some arguments presented as to why the pharmacist should clean the bathroom:

  • Pharmacists are part of a team, and should not have an entitled, “not my job” mentality.
  • With proper tools and gloves, the task should take 20-30 minutes and sets a good example for the team.
  • A leader should not lead if he/she thinks he/she is too important for the job.
  • Regardless of degree, pay, or title, the pharmacist should be a leader.
  • The entire staff has a responsibility to keep the store clean.
     

Here are some arguments presented as to why the pharmacist should NOT clean the bathroom:

  • The pharmacist is the only staff member in the building who can verify prescriptions and should not be pulled away from this task.
  • Does the chef at a restaurant sweep the parking lot? Does a doctor or surgeon clean the bathroom?
  • Why should someone who makes a pharmacist salary clean the toilet? (according to salary.com, median hourly wage for a pharmacist is $61 as of 1/2/18. In comparison, a front store cashier likely makes between minimum wage to $10 per hour.) Having a pharmacist clean the bathroom is a poor use of skills, time, and company assets (nearly every company is strict about payroll and does not tend to “waste” payroll budget).

We need to stand up for our profession. This is proof that our profession is going down the toilet (no pun intended)

  • Cleaning bathrooms is not in our job description. 
  • Having the pharmacist clean the bathroom is a complete waste of resources, not to mention the issue of having an unattended pharmacy for up to 30 minutes.
  • Many expressed disgust at the thought of a pharmacist cleaning the bathroom, and then, even after washing hands, giving immunizations and handling pills.
  • Sick patients should not have to wait even longer because the pharmacist is unavailable to check prescriptions while completing a task that anyone else can perform.
  • Many pharmacists noted that this is disappointing and embarrassing for our profession and this is not the path to getting the respect we need and deserve.

When I was PIC of my store in a large chain, my pharmacy supervisor would remark that I was doing "too much" to help the technicians. I would be the first to grab the register, help count, scan out of stocks, etc.  My supervisor was worried that if I wasn't there one day, some of the newer technicians wouldn't know what to do.

I would say that I was always a team player in general, and it is important and beneficial to team morale when the pharmacist helps out with pharmacy related tasks. However, after reading all of the comments and thinking about both sides, I would say that in a chain environment, it is a misallocation of resources to utilize a pharmacist to clean the bathrooms.

Cleaning the bathroom is a skill that can be taught to anyone. The very specific skill set of a pharmacist should not be put to waste cleaning bathrooms. I think there needs to be better staffing in general so tasks can be assigned appropriately to the person most able to do that task. 


Pharmacists have more on our plates than ever before. We are already rushed, with barely enough time to USE the bathroom, let alone clean it. What if we are pulled away for this cleaning time, then come back and rush through things, missing an important drug interaction because we are even more backed up from cleaning a toilet?  We certainly know the patient will not be able to sue the manager for making the pharmacist clean the bathroom. Our job is one where any mistake can be fatal; we should not be pulled away from our main focus of ensuring patient safety to perform tasks unrelated to pharmacy. With our license on the line and our name on the label, ensuring proper verification of prescriptions is our responsibility.

 

 



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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