Is your pharmacy part of your community? Do you know your pharmacist's name, and more importantly, will your pharmacist recognize you when you walk in the store?
Just the other day, in the middle of a busy afternoon rush, I recognized a patient of 10 years walk into the pharmacy accompanied by her middle-aged daughter. I was pleasantly surprised because she has been relatively infirmed over the past few months and we have only spoken on the phone.
She is quite elderly, slow moving, and appears to be about 4 inches shorter than she was when I first met her many years ago. From behind the counter, I recognized her and said hello, addressing her by her first name. She appeared as delighted to be in the pharmacy as we were to see her.
She immediately sat in our small waiting area while her daughter proceeded to get on line and work her way up to our single-register pharmacy counter. After the daughter had paid and signed, our technician directed her over to the consultation area so we could discuss the medication. I could immediately tell that the 20 feet between the counseling area and the waiting chairs appeared to be an impassible abyss to my elderly patient, so I stepped around the counter and met her and her daughter in the waiting area.
In order to meet my patient eye to eye, I let myself down on one knee and began to gently explain this particular treatment. I fully understood that she was not comprehending even the simplest of explanations; however, it is her care and I know she wants to be part of the process. I also fully understood that her daughter was standing right there and it was really her, as the primary caregiver, that I was addressing with the specifics of the counseling session.
Up until a few years ago, this patient ran her own show. I remember seeing her drive in on her own, have educated discussions about her medications, and then call back after she got home just to clarify specific questions that she had thought of. Today, she is tired, weak, and making eye contact with her daughter to make sure she understands all that we are talking about.
As a community pharmacist, I have had the good fortune of practicing in an out-patient pharmacy for a local community hospital for over 17 years now. We are open to the general public and have many patients who, after filling their discharge or emergency room prescriptions with us, transfer their profiles to our pharmacy and continue to use our service.
Over the years, we have come to realize that the practice of pharmacy can be much more than efficiently and accurately filling prescriptions for patients. Yes, we provide medication therapy management services and discharge prescription counseling, and we are available to our customers for detailed medication inquires and consults. But, more than that, we are a community.
Over the course of 3, 7, or even 10 or more years, a pharmacist can come to know his or her patients quite well. We meet the patient the first time as a customer and then, over the course of time, we build a trusting relationship as their community pharmacist. Sometimes, there may be one defining moment when pharmacists realize that they have gained their patients trust; however, quite often, it is the consistency of listening to questions, providing appropriate information, and addressing the patient by name when you see them enter the pharmacy that builds a strong patient relationship.
As a practicing pharmacist, I encourage patients to develop a relationship with a community pharmacist they trust. When I meet new people and the conversation turns toward pharmacy, I always like to ask them if they know the name of their pharmacist. Next, I ask them if their pharmacist knows their name.
I am always surprised by the number of people who have never even thought about knowing the name of their pharmacist or, for that matter, that their pharmacist would know who they are. At this juncture, I make it a point to demonstrate the virtues of having a community pharmacist available for medication questions. Someone who has your list of medications and allergies in the computer in front of them may provide an educated and personal response to any of your medication-related questions.
If they are not comfortable with their current pharmacy, I tell them to visit 2 or 3 of the pharmacies in their area, walk up to each counter, and ask to speak with the pharmacist. When they meet the pharmacist in the counseling area, explain to them that they are interviewing pharmacies to see which one might meet their needs the best, and then listen to what the pharmacist has to say.
Each pharmacy has its own personality, and patients should provide themselves the opportunity to choose the one that best suits their needs.