Please Be Kind to Your Pharmacist

When you have 99.99% awesome patients, a pharmacist's job is fun to do.

When you have 99.99% awesome patients, a pharmacist’s job is fun to do. I have won the Favorite Pharmacy Team Member award for the past 5 years, and it is a pleasure to be of service.

But then I think about the 0.01% of patients I have encountered throughout my career.

What I am about to discuss has happened on several occasions throughout my career, so I won’t attribute it to any particular incident.

Opiate pain management patients are usually great to take care of. They appreciate that we are willing to fill their prescriptions, provided that they play within the rules of our state and ethical decisions based on the pharmacist’s judgment.

But then you run into the 0.01% of them.

One time, I had a patient drop off scripts for various pain meds, 2 of which were opiates—one a sustained-release formulation, the other an immediate-release prep for breakthrough pain.

The doses were nothing I hadn’t seen before, and I was all set to fill both, until the pharmacy gods put a smiting upon me. The sustained-release product required an insurance prior authorization, while the immediate-release prep’s prescription had no signature on it—a requirement in all 50 states.

It was a “No soup for you!” moment, and I knew it wasn’t going to go well.

As expected, a hearty expletive was hurled in my general direction. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time, either. I don’t know a person with any part of a community pharmacy career who doesn’t have at least 10 of these stories.

Sometimes, a prescriber can be just as aggravating.

A preceptor of mine had a real ethical dilemma about filling controlled substance prescriptions for prescribers’ family members, and I inherited his set of ethics. While the practice is not illegal, it is a slippery slope, and I’d rather not trek towards it.

When a prescriber left a tranquilizer script on my voicemail for his mother, he included his cellphone number “in case there was a problem.” When he finally picked up after having someone else answer his phone, I told him that I was sorry, but I would not fill the script.

He told me that people like me were the reason he wanted to get out of health care. I thanked him for his kindness.

I think I speak for most pharmacists when I say that it is a joy to take care of the 99.99% of patients. While the 0.01% can drive you to insanity, believe me when I tell you that it is merely a hazard of the job.

As sad as it sounds, pharmacists expect it. Remember to be kind to your pharmacist this American Pharmacists Month.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is among the 99.99%.