Closing Time at the Pharmacy: What Would You Do?


How can pharmacists handle the common dilemma of customers who show up after the store has shut its doors for the day?

For many years, I had a recurring dream, in which it was closing time at the pharmacy. After a 14-hour shift, I was exhausted and ready to go home, put my feet up, and watch television. But every time I pulled down the shutter, someone would wave their hand under the closing window and give me a prescription. It would go on and on, until I woke up, relieved that it was just a dream.

This is actually an all-too-common dilemma in the community pharmacy world, making us ask ourselves, when do we draw the line? As pharmacy employees, we frequently go above and beyond for patients. We straighten out sticky situations, and make it look easy. We are natural problem solvers. But what happens when a customer takes advantage of our kindness?

One such situation was recently discussed in a Facebook group, with many opinions on both sides. A child needed amoxicillin. The mother dropped off the prescription at about 11 a.m. She was told that there would be a 10- to 15-minute wait, which is quite reasonable for data entry, drug utilization review, production, verification, and reconstitution in a busy chain store.

The mother chose to leave after being informed of the closing time. A few hours later, another family member arrived to pick up the medication and was told, as is customary, to wait a moment for the antibiotic to be reconstituted.

The family member chose not to wait, even after the staff explained that mixing was customary procedure, no matter what time the prescription was picked up. This second family member was also informed of the closing time. The Rx was not picked up before closing time, and the staff left 10 minutes late after getting tied up with other issues. As the pharmacist was walking out the front door of the store, at 9:12 p.m., the patient's mother appeared, wanting to pick up the antibiotic.

What would you do? It takes some time to reopen the pharmacy, start the register, and mix the antibiotic. The family was informed at least twice of the closing time. They had many hours to pick up this prescription. It is unfair for the pharmacy employees to have to stay late when the mother was impatient and fully aware of the closing time. What if 5 more people come in after her? What if you have a babysitter to relieve? What if the mother calls corporate and you get that dreaded "what happened" phone call from your supervisor? What if you tell the mom to come back tomorrow morning, and the child gets worse and ends up in the emergency department? So many what ifs.

My husband's favorite saying is, "Don't tell me why you can't do something. Tell me how you can."

I think that would apply here. We took an oath to help people. There is a sick child who needs her medicine and has already waited long enough. It is not the child's fault that her mom was too impatient to pick up the Rx in a timely manner. If I was in that situation, I would not be thrilled to stay even later, but I would do the right thing for the child.

What would you do? I would love to hear from you Tell me what issues you face in your pharmacy. Email me at

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