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    The pharmacist's power animal

    David StanleyDavid StanleyThis is a story about a clock and a raven. One illustrates how low our profession has fallen, while the other shows our potential. During my workdays at one of the big chains, I was always aware of a clock that stared down at me; for me, it became a symbol of the petty workplace tyranny so many people now contend with in the modern business world. It wasn’t a symbol in the way you might expect, though, because I loved that clock.

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    It was a gift from one of our regular patients, and far from being a constant reminder of the time I thought I had to sell to giant corporations in order to eat, this particular clock was a fun reminder of the history of pharmacy. In place of numbers, it displayed symbols of medieval medicine, such as the traditional “Rx,” the image of the snake wrapped around a medicinal goblet, etc., making it a unique addition to our pharmacy's decor. And it never failed to remind me of when my shift was over and my time my own again.

    End of an era

    Some readers working for the chains can probably guess what happened to the clock. During one of his periodic visits, our district manager's only comment was that the clock had to go. There was not a word about patient care, store operations, profitability, or metrics; apparently that clock was the only thing worth talking about.

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    I never quite understood why the clock was so important, but I lobbied the pharmacy manager and was allowed to take it home at the end of the day. A few weeks later I gave it to a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend and never saw it again.

    I think of that clock these days far more than I do of her, asking myself, “How can someone call himself a professional when he doesn’t even have the power to hang up a wall clock?” Isn't the very definition of professional someone who is autonomous, free to make his or her own decisions? 

    A few months after the order came to take down the Rx clock, a different type of clock showed up on our computer screens. It turned from green to yellow to red, depending on how quickly prescriptions were being filled. At that point, pretending you had any control over how you practiced your profession became almost impossible. An order came down from a new district manager that in order to keep those computer clocks as green as possible, we were never, ever to have more than five labels printed out at a time.

    That wall clock became, in my mind, the symbol for the end of an era, and the story of its demise really bothered me. Few people understood why. I bet you do, though.

    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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    • Anonymous
      Good story! Those of us who have left retail chains refer to the chains as pimps. And you know what that makes pharmacists. Colored clocks? That is reprehensible! Shame on them! My clock would have been red when I left the counter (aka"cage") to give a customer a nitrostat.... and he didn't have refills left. Yes I broke the refill law but gave patient care. He was gratful. Your raven is not in a cage.