Pharmacists at Retail Chains Aren't Corporate Drones


The life of high-volume retail pharmacists is rarely boring.

The life of high-volume retail pharmacists is rarely boring. We’re so busy yet so efficient that a 12-hour shift can evaporate into what seems like a mere 8 hours.

Being blessed with staff as highly capable as they come, we actually manage to fit a little bit of friendly conversation in between counts and checks without missing a step. We also develop friendships across the counter.

It’s our job to take care of patients, and it’s our pleasure to treat them with respect and kindness. When a commercial from an independent pharmacy claims that you’re a “name, not a number” and you’ll get better service there than you’d ever get from a chain, we take umbrage.

As far as I know, the “patient number” thing is a myth. Even in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t consider referring to someone as a serial number. I enjoy my job way too much, and I’m not dispensing medication to Palpatine’s Clone Army.

To this day, I remember patients’ names and faces from every job I’ve held. That’s how much I enjoyed taking care of them.

I don’t mind it when an independent pharmacy touts its excellent service skills, but don’t promote an opinion of a whole branch of the craft because of the way it was done by some back in the day. I assure you that corporate health care—especially pharmacy—has little use for those with even mediocre customer service skills.

Some time ago, I attended a convention at the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton. Years before, my management professor at pharmacy school explained the level of service of the entire Ritz-Carlton staff and how customers parted with a mighty fine dollar for it.

Even though I knew about the legend, I was amazed when I experienced the whole thing. It made me want to go back there on my own, and indeed I did.

I want patients to come back to my pharmacy, so I do my best to take exceptional care of them. It’s good for business, and it just doesn’t pay to be nasty.

Sometimes, the job goes beyond filling prescriptions. I can remember times when I’ve held patients as they cried and cried right along with them. You can’t take care of somebody for 16 years and not become friends on some level—at least I can’t.

A lot of patients and a fair amount of pharmacists flat out told me that they can’t believe what I do while keeping a smile on my face. I couldn’t imagine doing much else.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, loves his job.

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