Community Pharmacist Roundtable, Part 2

APRIL 18, 2018
Welcome back to our Community Pharmacist Roundtable. In Part 1, our expert pharmacists were introduced. In Part 2, they read a second round of questions, and provide answers.

Question: Do you have any 'hacks' to make your day at work easier?

Michelle Taylor Harmon, PharmD: I always go in about an hour early to get the robot awake, start computers, do temps, and review sales, and scripts. I cannot walk in, and just turn on the lights, and start working.

Larry Riggi, PharmD: For me, I find the most important part of the day is the first hour you are open. What you do in that first hour can set you up for success or failure throughout the day. Not necessarily a hack, but I will typically schedule an extra person opening, even though we don’t need one, based off customers. But that extra help to get things done when you usually don’t have a lot of customers at pick up is huge. In that first hour, I try to get the queue cleaned up, and ready for the hustle and bustle when customers start showing up.

Cynthia Barrera, PharmD: I tell myself and my team, “It’s going to be a good day,” and I try to always schedule a strong tech for morning duties.

Whitney Rae Kinder, PharmD: I assign a tech as backup cashier, so that when we get a line with the cashiering tech backed up, we know exactly who is going to help, instead of searching for someone to go help. So, then I don’t have to take a break from what I’m doing to find someone to go help with the line. We also input the prescription, and ensure it goes through insurance before we let the person walk away so that there aren’t any surprises when they come back. It makes things so much easier throughout the day.


Q: What is your favorite part of being a pharmacist?

Sarah White, PharmD: Helping people. I love getting to do CMR’s because it means I get to sit down, and talk to my patients, and it makes me feel good to know that I’m helping them heal or helping them reach their goals.

Kinder: Making a difference. Not in every patient’s life, but every week or so I can feel when I’m really making a difference. Whether it’s a new mom with breastfeeding problems, a new mom with postpartum depression, a newly diagnosed patient who has anxiety, or diabetes or asthma. I connect with them in some special way, and make a difference in their lives, and I remember why I do it. Not just as a pharmacist, but as a person. I’m there and able to make them feel more comfortable with whatever is going on in their lives.

One time I had a 21-year old who was angry about her birth control pill price. She was being super rude to my tech, so I walked over, and gave her some cheaper alternatives. I talked to her about another pharmacy down the road that could prescribe it to her without going back to the doctor, and she broke down crying at the counter. She had just started taking Celexa, and she was a mess. I stood there, and talked to her for a good 10 minutes about anxiety, ways to help, finding a counselor, and talked a little about my own experience with it. Those moments are the why behind what we do, and my favorite part of being a pharmacist.

Harmon: Building relationships with patients. Actually, showing them I care, and want to help them. I also like the challenges of pharmacy, and overcoming them with successful outcomes for all.

Riggi: The best part is when you can see you really made a difference in a patient’s life, and well being. When you make a strong recommendation for a medication or an OTC, and the patient comes back to thank you for how well it worked, or they really appreciate your advice. When a customer appreciates you for doing your job, and you made a difference in their lives, it makes all the chaos of every day pharmacy life worth it.

Chara Reid, PharmD: Two things. 1. Helping patients. This particular patient, we drummed up 2-month supply for a metastatic stage 4 (chemotherapy) drug worth $30,000. There was a $3,000 deductible. Well, I didn’t want him to pay it in November, and again in January. He was willing to do it too. He was so grateful he brought me a nice gift. 2. I love free lunch! One of our reps brought in lunch today.

Barrera: My favorite part is vaccinating our patients, and making sure everyone is up to date on needed vaccines. I also like doing a quality CMR. Also, counseling! I like helping our patient understand more than what their doctor may have told them.


Q: How do you deal with working with not enough help? How do you get everything done without being totally stressed out?

Eva Kasbohm, PharmD: Two things: 1. Have a list of tasks in order of priority. (Number 1 is always to take care of the customer). Work the list. If you don’t finish, it’s ok. But you got the most important tasks done because they were prioritized. We eventually catch up.

 2. Work at the same pace, no matter how crazy. I have found a pace that I’m comfortable with (very efficient without cutting corners,) and I do not work faster than that when we are crazy busy. I have found that when I or others take on too much, it backfires. It creates a chaotic environment that is not comfortable or safe to work in. I never want to compromise patient safety. Work in your comfort zone, and plug away at those priorities. And remember, always take care of your customers! Also, take care of yourself! Eat lunch, drink water, use the restroom. You’re not going to be working at your best if you don’t take care of yourself. I can usually find 10 minutes to step away, and take a working break to eat. Or if someone needs a recommendation for a product, I’ll walk them to the product, and then take the long way back to the pharmacy to just stretch my legs, and get away for an extra minute or 2.

Reid: I leave early once a week. It’s the only way to keep my sanity. I also try to get out of the pharmacy on my admin days. If I’m there, they rely on me too much. I need my staff to function without me. I also need to get work done, and it’s too hard if I’m at my desk in the pharmacy. I will also not hesitate to tell my boss that some things have to wait. I can’t staff 5 days and get projects done, so I try to keep realistic deadlines.

White: The best way I’ve found to handle inadequate staffing it to not panic. You have to continue to do your job safely above all else, and you cannot do that if you let the chaos consume you. I’ve also found that communicating with patients helps a lot. If you are upfront about wait times, people are usually more patient than if you try and give a shorter wait time that you just can’t meet.

Kinder: We just work 1 script at a time, 1 patient at a time. The main thing we do is ask when people are coming back for their Rx and put the correct time in, so we are only working on those that are due next. This prevents us from being overwhelmed, even when we are short staffed. The pharmacists also step in wherever needed when short staffed. And we are all still super nice and caring to our customers, no matter how busy we are. Generally, our customers are understanding because we are very efficient, so when we take a few extra minutes they understand.

Ashley Gulyas, PharmD: One Rx at a time. Establish and maintain workflow. Everyone needs to know their duties. Slow and steady wins the race. The pharmacist is the hold up on all prescriptions, let the techs do as much as they can so you can do your job. Give realistic wait times, better to under promise and over deliver. Keep your pharmacy clean, neat, and orderly. Prioritize all tasks. Your techs are also important. Free them up for a few minutes to let them complete tasks. Communicate everything.

Riggi: Sometimes you just must step away. We don't get lunch breaks, and when you do decide to eat, you almost always get interrupted... Step away. I like to step outside for 5 minutes, get some fresh air or go stand in the cooler where it's quiet... You sometimes just have to step away because 12 hours standing in front of a computer can be mentally and emotionally brutal. Take a few minutes for 'you' time, especially after a rough situation or hectic time during the day.

Barrera: Lots of deep breaths, and just get 1 thing done at a time. Getting stressed out will only lead to making an error. I try to stay calm, so my team stays calm. Also, we might not get everything done. For example, we will fill all the scripts for the day but some things from our daily task list might not get done and we will just catch up when we can.

Aakash Gandhi, PharmD: I take care of the patients that show up and get it done right. Stressing doesn't solve anything, and I can't go any faster than I can. Let what goes red go red because there really isn't anything I can do about it. When I'm working a 13-hour day, I'll always take a 10-minute break around 7 pm, after everyone is out of the store, just to refresh myself for the next 2-3 hours.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we will discuss dealing with difficult patients, advice for new pharmacists, and how to recharge on your days off.

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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