What Your Pharmacist Actually Does

I've had this idea in my head that I would write this post. I feel that I'm in a great position actually to write it. I don't feel like if I was a practicing pharmacist that I would want to write this but since my career has did somewhat of a 360, I am able to take up for all the pharmacists out there. 

I would like to start with the usual disclaimers: I know that your job sucks no matter what you do unless you are really lucky. I know that everyone has a hard time in job settings so I'm not saying that yours is any worse than a retail pharmacist, but I just want you to know some things that you might not know. There are also stinky workers in any profession. There are stinky pharmacists. There are stinky Target workers. They are stinky financial brokers. I can almost bet you though, your pharmacist doesn't stink. Here's why:

When you come to the pharmacy, I know how the drill goes as I tend to almost do it myself even though I know better. You walk in, there's soft music, no one else is really there except for maybe one other person. You see the pharmacist back there on the computer almost looking as if they are doing nothing at all, and so you drop off your script. They tell you it's going to be a bit, and you're already annoyed because you had to wait at the doctor's office but whatever, you'll wait a little while. You tell them that you'll stay because you see that no one else is there so it certainly won't be THAT long. 

Ten minutes goes by, and you are steaming but you're holding it together because you're not a confrontational person. But at fifteen minutes, you are DONE. You are saying something. 

Counting in Belize! The pharmacy explanation below does not apply to Belize! Haha! :)

Counting in Belize! The pharmacy explanation below does not apply to Belize! Haha! :)

Let me explain. 

I'll explain the entire process from start to finish. This would be a semi easy patient. 

If the pharmacist had 0 other customers then they would take your script & check to see if it had any other issues with the way the script was written. If there is an issue with the script (which many times there are), then the doctor would have to be called. They may have put the wrong strength or the wrong dosing just because they aren't as familiar with the drugs and in a rush. You can't assume what they meant. You have to call and verify. You get off the phone and you enter in the prescription. Depending on where you work, if the technician enters in the prescription and tries to run it through the insurance. If you are a good little patient, your insurance works right. I would say there's a 20% chance that your insurance won't work. There's a red flag. One of these red flags could be that the insurance requires a prior authorization of this medication. 

What is a prior authorization? Well it's pretty common so you should know what it means. Explaining it to customers makes them just think that the pharmacist epically sucks when it's entirely 100% out of their control. The pharmacist must send paperwork to the doctor's office. The doctor's office will get the fax, and the nurse will have to get in touch with the doctor who will verify that the patient can actually be on that medication. The doctor's office will then fax the insurance company to say "Yes, this patient ACTUALLY needs THIS specific medication and you should cover it." The insurance company will then fix the red flag on our end. 

Now we have that done! So the tech is done entering but you don't want to die right? The pharmacist has to check that. Now the pharmacist checks it, and 99% of the time it's right. There could be a scenario where it's not right so the pharmacist may fix it themselves or they may have the tech fix the mistake. THEN, the tech can begin filling the script. 

Depending on where you work, the tech has to find the med, scan the med, scan the label, count, fill, stick, boom! Done! This becomes so fast it's like Ricky Bobby! 

Then, it finally goes to the pharmacist for the final stages of being checked. The medication that the technician put into the bottle is verified for color and the pharmacist looks at the bottle to make sure that the tech did in fact use the right med. There are many computer programs that help with this but the pharmacist must make sure that if your medication is new that it doesn't interact with anything that you are already on, or make sure that you know any pertinent information about this medication as you begin taking it. 

Okay, that's one script. A SLOW store does 150 scripts per day. A busy store does 600-800 scripts per day. Every company is trying to make a dollar so who do they cut first? Techs. Tech hours. Pharmacists are left sometimes alone depending on the volume of the store, so that process must be done from start to finish by themselves. 

During this time, there are 5 people waiting in line to pick up their meds. So, the pharmacist may stop for a second to ring those people out. When the pharmacist picks up one of the bags for one of the patients, they realize that one of their prescriptions was not covered under their insurance that they dropped off yesterday. The patient is PISSED!!!! The patient is pissed at the pharmacist. The pharmacist has 0 control because it's 100% the insurance but the patient goes off on the pharmacist. Then, the phone rings. The pharmacists asks the patient to hold on line 1 as she's busy. 

She's so cute in the pharmacy! haha ;) 

She's so cute in the pharmacy! haha ;) 

The pharmacist looks at the queue. The doctor's offices have opened. They are sending in electronic scripts. The queue has 15 new scripts. crap!

The patient still doesn't understand why the insurance won't cover their meds. "Can YOU call the insurance company because YOU ARE THE PHARMACIST AND YOU DO NOTHING ELSE RIGHT?" 

So, you want to keep the customer happy so you call the insurance company. They put you through to a customer service rep after like 10 minutes of waiting on the phone then they tell you that the patient has not renewed or paid their bill so they are no longer covered. You tell the patient. The patient yells at you because they didn't pay their bills. You finally manage them. The line is 10 deep now. You can hear people in the back of the line talking about how awful the pharmacy is and how it always takes forever. 

You look at the queue. It's up to 25 new scripts. Your tech comes in. THANK GOD. 

You ask them to fill the 60 scripts that you had already put through earlier. They start counting like a mad man. The phone rings. 

Someone comes to the counter with a rash that you have NO idea what it is but you tell them to try Benadryl. You ask the tech to take over the line because they are done filling those meds and now you need to check them. Your tech had just come in and was really frazzled but managed to only mess up one script out of 60. (good lord knows, I was a messy tech HA) No big deal. You'll fix it. 

I'm going to stop here because I think I've made myself clear. This does not include all of the internal things that your pharmacist has to do for working for a specific company. This is just the run of the mill. Your pharmacist does not pee. Your pharmacist does not have lunch except when they sneak behind the stack of pills in the back and shovel it in. Your pharmacist is not out to get you, forgetting about you, and your pharmacist works really hard. Many times, your pharmacist when just starting sheds many many tears. 

bestie in the pharmacy.jpg

Retail pharmacy has become a one stop shop like a convenient store. People expect fast food meds, and it's created a monster.

If you are still reading, then you are awesome and do me a favor. The next time you go into your pharmacy, tell them you really appreciate them. That pretty much never happens. 

With love and pharmacy,


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