Making a Case for Staffing More Pharmacists

The only way to prevent a body count is to have 2 pharmacists on staff all day long-one for drug dispensing, and the other for tertiary care.

“Don't kill anyone” is my code and prayer at the beginning and end of every shift. So far, so good, but it goes without saying that after 21 years or so as a pharmacist, I had a few close calls.

Misfilled prescriptions are part of the game, and part of me dies every time it happens. Even when I didn't fill the script, I apologize profusely. When the obligatory corporate incident is filed, I feel like a rat when I have to report another pharmacist. When the report takers ask if there is anything else they can do, I ask if they could alter time.

Thankfully, very few of the reportable mistakes I have made were due to distractions from my prime directive of keeping my patients alive. All it takes for a mistake is broken concentration. I hate having to bow to the Human Condition when I want to be the Vulcan version of Lieutenant Commander Data.

Pharmacy is evolving, and there is so much more we can do. In the next few years, all pharmacies will be "star rated" and reimbursements will be based on whether they are 1s or 5s.

Tertiary care is where pharmacies will make money, and frankly, I could not be happier about it. Getting reimbursed for teaching smoking cessation, immunizations, medication therapy management, and weight loss has been a dream of mine for about 12 years. The preventive medicine pharmacist is about to become a reality.

I firmly believe the corporate business model of pharmacy needs to change in order to make this successful. A pharmacy technician cannot assist in this type of work; it all needs to be done by the person with the license. There are only 12 hours in a shift, and unless your pharmacy is filling 20 prescriptions a day, you need every second to safely dispense drugs.

The only way to prevent a body count is to have 2 pharmacists on staff all day long—one for drug dispensing, and the other for tertiary care. Documentation takes a lot of time, and time away from verifying prescriptions means checking them at a faster rate than you normally would. That is when trouble happens.

When medical practices get stretched beyond a safe capacity, they hire a new doctor, and they still appear to be making money. Pharmacy should take a page from that prescription pad. Lives depend on it.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, has only one pair of hands.