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    You talkin' for me?


    David Stanley, RPh
    This is a tale of two organizations. One held a hearing earlier this year to address concerns that "expanding workloads for retail pharmacists have had negative effects on their working conditions and impacted the level of care they are able to provide." The other has launched something called "Project Destiny" which "has identified potential mechanisms for offering services to patients that are valued by the healthcare system which can be replicable, scalable and economically viable for community pharmacy."

    Which one sounds as if it understands what you go through in an average workday?

    The first group heard testimony from a pharmacist in charge employed by a large retail pharmacy chain, who was concerned about inadequate staffing, company policies that discouraged breaks, and lack of time and proper space to provide patient counseling. Sound familiar?

    The other group sent out a press release applauding the Senate for including patient access to medication therapy management (MTM) services in its version of healthcare reform legislation.

    I'll ask you again. Which one seems more relevant to your work experience? I'll bet I already know the answer. To the average retail pharmacist, MTM, as well as the other priorities of the American Pharmacists Association, might as well be taking place on Mars.

    Unfortunately, the California State Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment seems to have a better grasp of the crisis that faces our profession and our patients than APhA does. Its very name implies that APhA would be looking for and advocating solutions to the problems of actual pharmacists, but when it comes to addressing the barriers that stand in the way of our practicing our profession, such as the ever-increasing workloads, ever-decreasing staffing, and employers who pay nothing but lip service to our obligation to counsel, APhA is nowhere to be found.

    I'm not saying that practices such as MTM won't be an important part of our profession. Someday. I am saying that we will never get to that idealized version of the future if we don't have leaders who will address the problems we face right now. Sadly, we don't.

    While major drug chains do things like add graphs and icons to our computer screens that turn from green to red to let us know that we are not moving the prescriptions fast enough, and while far too many people walk away from the pharmacy counter without a proper consultation because there just isn't enough time to provide one, APhA sends out press releases to let us know that it's important to practice good hygiene, get rest, and eat well while traveling. The organization is, quite simply, out of touch with our reality.

    In comparison, a group of politicians in California, none of whom is a practicing pharmacist, held one hearing in Los Angeles and immediately accomplished more for the interests of the average retail pharmacist than I have seen from APhA over the course of my entire career. And the politicians don't expect me to send in a dues payment every year.

    I fear that state associations are no better. The California Pharmacists Association was invited to that State Assembly hearing on pharmacist working conditions and declined to attend. I fail to see how that is advocating for our interests.

    I'd like to ask someone at APhA how employers who make it impossible to provide patient counseling now can be expected to provide time for MTM in the future. I'd like to ask them why they seem to care so little about the way so many pharmacists struggle just to keep up with the prescriptions coming in the door. Maybe I'd ask them about the irony of their advice to the public to "talk to your pharmacist" when at times it can be next to impossible to contact a pharmacist when I need to do a prescription transfer. Perhaps someday I'll get the chance, but both times I tried to contact APhA before I wrote this piece, I got nothing but silence in return.

    I'm not surprised. After all, I am just a pharmacist.

    What do you think? Send your thoughts to
    , and we'll present them in an upcoming issue.

    David Stanley is a practicing community pharmacist in California. He can be reached at
    .

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

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