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    Put your money where your mouth is

    VIEW FROM THE ZOO

    I think it was the argument over the number of labels that could be on the pharmacy counter that did it. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was.

    It was a stressful day in the pill room that Christmas season. (Of course, there aren’t many days that aren’t stressful in our profession anymore.) And amid all the usual holiday chaos, our District Manager had arrived with a new edict from the corporate mother ship: “We told you no more than five labels could be on the pharmacy counter at any one time, and we mean it.” There was a new metric in the land.

    Their way or . . . you know

    You see, the number of labels that had been printed but not filled within 15 minutes was being measured, and it was very, very important to adhere to the arbitrary standard now deemed the correct way to accomplish the prescription-filling process.

    This, need it be said, was more important than actually filling prescriptions as quickly as possible.

    Our team had developed a different way of doing things; We printed out as many labels as we could at the beginning of the day and filled off the label pile as time allowed. To make a long story short, our system worked beautifully, and the new corporate mandate slowed . . . us . . . down. A lot.

    No one at the corporate level cared. No higher-up was interested in seeing that our work was actually quicker when we were allowed to do things our way. Not one person was willing to consider the idea that the people at the customers’ level might actually have thoughts on how to best serve customers. Five labels. Period. That’s all we’re measuring.

    There ensued a knock-down, drag-out fight with the district manager, followed by dismay that I had blown that much energy on something so incredibly trivial.

    Yep, that did it

    The process started online that evening with a Google search: “pharmacies for sale.” At first it just seemed like a way to vent, an opportunity to indulge in a fun fantasy of actually living up to the promise of professionalism that came with my pharmacy degree.

    Then came little baby steps. “Well, maybe I’ll send away for some information.” And then,

    “It wouldn’t hurt to drive to this store and take a look around. The town seems nice.”

    A few more baby steps and I found myself in front of a spreadsheet, calculating whether the financials made sense.

    A few more asinine edicts came down from above, including one decreeing that we were never, ever, to start work even one minute early, no matter how many paying customers might be demanding our attention, and the baby steps became a baby run.

    We ridiculed business majors when I was in pharmacy school, I remembered. Why on earth did we ever let them take over our profession?

    Eventually I realized it was time to put my money where my mouth was. No longer would a business major or anyone else dictate my actions. Remember this always, my fellow pharmacists: Our degrees were way harder to get than theirs.

    The baby run became a full-on dash for independence. Mounds of paperwork had to be conquered, piles of red tape cut through, and money had to be put up, although not as much as I thought. The process can seem overwhelming, but there are resources and people that can help you through it. And trust me, it’s not nearly as hard as the Organic Chemistry finals we’ve all been through.

    If you’re wondering whether you can strike out on your own, let me assure you, you can. You too can liberate your own part of the profession. You will not believe how good it feels.

    Ta-daaaahhhh!

    Today was my first day as the owner of my own pharmacy. Never again will a nonprofessional be in charge of my little corner of the pharmacy world.

    As I walked — as early as I judged necessary — through the doorway of what was now my store, the first thing I did was to promise myself that no customer who walked in behind me would ever get treated the way the giant chains force us to treat people.

    The second thing I did was to print out six labels. So far, the money that followed my mouth hasn’t left me with a bad taste at all.

    Wish me luck.

    David Stanley, RPh
    David Stanley is a pharmacy owner, blogger, and professional writer in northern California. Contact him at [email protected]