What do we know for sure, with Certainty?

Jp Enlarged

I put “For Sure” on the search line at Bing Images.  I couldn’t resist this one.  The woman in bed is the pharmacy profession.  The man in bed is the Chain Drug Store MBA Masters of the Universe.  The guy at the right represents the Pharmacists.  I see the pharmacist turns the corner, stops, eyes wide, mouth open.  ”Ah.. Uh.. Excuse me.  I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I believed falsely that she was my wife.  

“She’s mine, asshole, now get the fuck out of here.”  MBA sneers.  ”Oh, by the way, asshole, your dick is hanging out.  Your APhA dues haven’t been paid yet.  No you do not get overtime for hours over eight in a day.”  He kisses the profession on the neck and dips his left hand under the covers.  A quick inhale, a sigh.  Pharmacy leans back.  

MBA says, “Tell fuckhead to get out of here and I’ll give you some more.”

 The profession looks over at the pharmacist wistfully.  ”It could be different.  It does not have to be this way.”  There is a silence, broken when pharmacy says, “You better leave.”

The pharmacist goes outside and pukes.  He ends up at the bar, drinking Stingers, eating Sliders and Fries.  He cries until his friends, The Dentist and The Attorney take him home.  

24 hours and none of you have additions to the list.  I thought that someone would have jumped on these.  

We know for certain that major drug store companies are marginalizing or downright firing veteran pharmacists and hiring newby robo-dispensers (at a lower wage?).  Why are they afraid of people who know their way around the landscape.  Why does a 15 year, pleasant woman PIC summarily fired.  Wal-Mart is getting this in gear.  So, far, I know for sure that you aren’t interested in this.  Head in the sand?

When you are serious about making changes, there are some steps to take that are wise.  Let’s start with the first three.

One: What do we know for certain.

Two: What do we have that we do NOT want.

Three: What do we NOT have that we want.

It is a good idea to take these in order.  These are steps that are not only important when looking at your employment situation or how you practice pharmacy, but in your real life.

If you have a situation with an intransigent neighbor, you can start with: One. For certain my neighbor is too noisy after 10:00 PM and keeps me awake.   Two. I DO NOT want to put up with my neighbors unwillingness to turn down the volume after 10:00 PM.  Three. I want peace and quiet at bedtime.

Or, my personal case around 1970.  Had I asked these questions, my life would have been much easier.  For certain, my wife drinks too much and goes out at night with no explanation.   I do NOT want to tolerate this behavior.  I want a divorce.  I got a divorce, but had I followed these steps, I would have been out mush sooner.  I would have ended the marriage in much better shape psychologically and physically.  I may or may not have quit a terrific job, dropped out and headed for Europe.  This was vital to my well-being.  I know that I would not have done well had I tried to tough it out.

Let us start with step one today.

For the most part, chain drug store pharmacists are treated like piece-work laborers on the factory floor.

Pharmacists are, generally, not respected by some large drug store companies.

For sure, pharmacists have failed to stand up for themselves.  They have not acted like they are highly trained medical professionals and they whine when they are treated badly.

Pharmacists seem to believe that someone else will stand up for them. That is for certain.

Talk about wag the dog.  Pharmacists have allowed the chains to wag the dog.  

Young pharmacists, heady with a big wage, get themselves into too much debt.  The result is that they become prisoners of their own lifestyle.  The chains count on this.  You can’t quit.

The 14 hour shift, with no regular scheduled meal/rest periods, is untenable if the intention is providing alert, competent pharmacist service.  Patients are cheated.  Patients are harmed.  Patients die.

Chain Drug Store companies consider fines, settlements and judgments as a cost of doing business.

Pharmacists care only about the pay check.

Pharmacists are chickens, with a yellow streak 8 inches wide down their backs.

They complain that the pharmacy organizations are no help, but they do not join the one that is dedicated to their welfare.

All righty, that is a good start.  There has to be a start if we want change.  My listing is certainly not complete.  Please make suggestions in the Comments and I will add them all right here.  You can tell your stories in the Comments, but I may not copy and paste them entirely.  I will give your screen name credit.  



  1. Crazy RxMan  •  Aug 21, 2013 @1:56 pm

    I’m not certain that this is happening at my Goofmart pharmacy chain, but I do know that there have been a couple of unusual situations regarding some pharmacists that were let go in the past few years. I admit that I only see my microcosm of pharmacy. If this is truly happening it is horrible. And just like we are scientists and refer to evidence-based proof, I’d like to see an actual study or investigation into these allegations. If this is really true, I know myself and others will step up and fight for what is right. I will stand up for myself. Others will too.

  2. Pharmaciststeve  •  Aug 21, 2013 @3:38 pm

    @Crazy.. I get -almost weekly – emails from RPH’s that have been shown the door for nebulous reasons and/or sees the writing on the wall.. and just waiting for the axe to fall.

    They are all seeking one thing.. what do I do.. who do I call..

    Most of these RPH’s have a few things in common .. they are all 45+.. with a BS degree and have 10+ yrs of service with their company.

    Just last week got email from a 62 y/o with 20 yrs service that was told- by DM – that since the Rx dept had been remodeled.. they needed a “new face” in the pharmacy and he was being sent to the float pool.

    Being assigned to the float pool .. often means having to work stores 1-2 hour drive – each way – after working a 14 hr day.

    The ones that we don’t hear about .. really concerns me.. because they may have fallen into a deep depression and are just curled up in a ball somewhere… contemplating some irreversible decision/action…

    It is projected that by 2017-2018 the pharmacy schools are going to be graduating 4000 more RPH’s than need.

    BTW.. it was announced today that a new pharmacy school opened today in northern TX.

    It is happening.. and the numbers are growing.. but none of the various Pharmacy groups.. seems that they could care less..

  3. Peon  •  Aug 21, 2013 @10:56 pm

    In my area, Wal-Mart is not firing older pharmacists. Beginning this year, they jumped on the metric bandwagon. But, so far, there has not been any use of these metrics to get rid of pharmacists.

  4. bcmigal  •  Aug 22, 2013 @2:09 pm

    I believe that the bias against older pharmacists takes very subtle forms. Comments such as “perhaps you should consider working fewer days per week if this job is too much for you” or “I am glad I am not like you and Bert and Ernie”. (we are all over 50.) “Aren’t you thinking of retirement soon?”

    I do resent the comment, though, about us caring only about a a paycheck. Most of us have families to feed and clothe and perhaps elderly parents to care for. Not all of us drive fancy cars and take luxury vacations. We still have house payments, kids in college, and perhaps other responsibilities that are nobody’s business. We may not have a spouse’s income to rely on or a viable 401K. . One person cannot even support him/herself on unemployment. So quit being all self righteous. Speaking for myself, I am offended by that attitude.

  5. Peon  •  Aug 23, 2013 @8:20 am

    JP, the list you have is good. As I read over it, I began to think about a lady that I know that is having marital problems. I know…you don’t see any relation to pharmacy. But, bear with me. She has been in a marriage where the guy is very controlling and verbally abusive. She is intelligent. My first question is: why did she stay in the marriage for as long as she has? What is it within herself that kept her in the state of a ‘victim’? The guy is the abuser and she is the victim. She has a good job. She could make it on her own. So, why did she play the role of the victim? What she needs to do is analyze herself. She needs to learn what it is inside of her that has fostered her being a ‘victim’. Now, we can easily equate this to pharmacy. What is it inside of pharmacists that make them ‘victims’? If you think about the years that a young pharmacist will be working, and you think about all those years that they play the role of the victim, then it hits you. This is terrible. But, as the woman which I mentioned, there is a pattern, a role that she is following. Pharmacists are following a pattern, a role. Until they can realize what it is within themselves that leads them to that pattern or role, then no change is possible. In the pharmacy world, there is the ‘abuser’ and the ‘victim’. You cannot have an abuser without a victim. As long as pharmacists play the victim, then that is how long they will be the victim. I will venture to say that one thing that pulls pharmacists toward being a victim is the ‘idea’ of being a professional, doing their job very well, and working in an ‘ideal’ environment. If you think about it, the pharmacy schools, the pharmacy organizations and magazines, push this ‘image’. You see the pharmacist dressed neatly and she is counseling a patient that is following her every word and there is no one else around. Of course, this is about as far from reality as you can get. The more likely scenario is the patient’s phone ringing, they start talking on the phone while you counsel them. There is people in a line behind this patient. There are techs talking to other patients. A patient is angry and cursing at the cash register. The other pharmacist is having a problem because the printer has broken. I think you get the picture. And, as JP mentioned, pharmacists seem to be waiting on someone or agency to come along and help them. It is like the victim, in the marriage, that is awaiting someone or some event to come along and change their lives. In reality, they will have to change their lives themselves. They will get out of being a victim once they reach a deep understanding of why they play the role of the victim. It is not a matter of pharmacist vs corporation. It is a matter of getting to the root of why we play the role of the victim.

  6. Anonymous  •  Aug 23, 2013 @11:21 am

    The analogy is good. I take issue with your reference to new Pharmacists as Robo Dispensers though. I have met and worked with the new graduates and most of them have been very intelligent and determined to practice Pharmacy as it should be practiced. And several of them have plans within 6 months to get out of the company we work for. Possibly even going back to school a medical degree or research. Most are not married, mortgaged, or raising children yet. They are not of the generation that was deluded into believing that years of service and loyalty had value. They are not likely to tolerate the shit for long. It didn’t incrementally change for them. They have all the standard crap that was fed to them in Pharmacy School freshly contradicted by the reality they face daily in big Retail Pharmacy. Embrace them.

    They may be the Pharmacists to court. They have huge debt, but many that can’t find work will be angry enough at the outset to seek changes in their chosen profession. If you care about that as much as your individual issues, you should attract them to your cause, not alienate them with “in my day” types of commentary. It’s not their fault.

  7. anonymous  •  Aug 23, 2013 @10:13 pm

    None of us older pharmacist refer to the newly graduated as Robo-Dispensers.
    That is maybe what the chains think of them as. My own 3 children are in college- none in anything medical…if they were- they’d deserve their own place when they graduate. Tuition, room and board at their colleges totals $136,000 per Year. For liberal arts degrees! What IS our family to do?
    Guess what the Govt and the colleges want to give us when we had a combined income of 150,000 last year.
    I lost my 15+ year job last year Dec 2012. I was a payroll cut.
    ….Sorry, we need to cut payroll by 20% My DM also quit.
    I was LUCKY enough to get another job at an independent.

    But I have no health insurance- No days off, no vacation and a $10+/hr pay cut.

    I really don’t give a shit about Pharmacy anymore.
    I feel betrayed, and rejected.

    I have bills of $1700.00 for one son’s wisdom teeth, another son’s bill of $2400.00 for root canal of a chipped tooth (caused by son #1 )-just horsing-around. Another $18,750 for the next semester.

    Other women play golf, have their nails done. They go lunch, belong to clubs. I pay $$ to a lawyer who is my children’s Father. All I’ve ever done is PAY. I wanted my children with me, so when they were young, I agreed to no child support. He only had them when I wasn’t working.
    He was married to his Secretary -now he’s marrying his student-15 years younger.

    I’m ready to quit. I’ve had so few pleasures. We took our two sons to college yesterday.I think I’m done.
    I’ve been fired. 3 banks have told Us that that we’re not worthy.

  8. Pharmacy Gal  •  Aug 25, 2013 @1:53 pm

    This is a good start. You have to define the problem before you can say that a union or any other solution is the answer. I have never considered myself to be a victim. Pharmacists are way too smart to play that role. Perhaps what we need first is some real education on employee rights and responsibilities. Our students can cite practice guidelines backwards and forwards but few have heard of the EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or the concept of “employed at will.” Let’s educate them so they don’t become victims. Keep the conversation going…

  9. anonymous  •  Aug 25, 2013 @4:00 pm

    Employment law should be taught in school. It should be mandatory for school officials to teach real life pharmacy (i.e. 14 hour shifts, no bathroom breaks, techs and front end that spy on you constantly, patients getting upset and rightly so because they’ve had to wait and you have little or no help, and uncooperative management and HR). I learned much in retail. I knew of three dangerous rphs who are still employed who have made each dozens of mistakes (all reported). I know of half a dozen rphs who regularly violate the truth in billing laws. I know of a rph who went from state to state who was fired from every job for stealing narcotics yet none of her employers passed that info on. I have discovered that companies are more than willing to cut loose a potential whistle blower rather than fire the law breaker for fear of a lawsuit. I learned that the chains don’t want you to sign up for a union. I’ll keep the person private, but a union pharmacist on the East coast says the union does nothing to help them out. I believe them. Unions take your money, make promises, then give you the finger when you need them. What needs to happen to change at the state and federal level. Pilots and doctors finally got changes after years of complaints of being overworked. I am drawing up my complaints and petitions. I suggest we all do something and quick or else you can all keep your job by keeping your eyes, mouth and ears shut to what’s going on around you.

  10. T-NW  •  Aug 25, 2013 @6:07 pm

    (I just sent this to Jim directly, but I should post it here too)

    I’m a frequent reader of your blog and I was just wanting to pass on some new info I got.

    I just gave a copy to Rite Aid in Northern California. After business, we discussed new happenings in NoCal and he said there’s 2 new pharmacy schools coming to California within next year or two. He says Walgreens in bay area is now or will soon be offering new grads $40/hr, 30 hr weeks, no benefits, that’s it. For me that’d be a $20/hr paycut, he says for him that’s almost $30/hr pay cut, not to mention the benefits lack.

    Just wanted to pass along this unverified info. It’s not good news for pharmacy.

    T in Northwest

  11. Young Gun  •  Aug 25, 2013 @6:08 pm

    My company just discontinued our 401k match (and our ability to make contributions, citi g some bogus IRS regulation) effective immediately. And so it begins….,
    Anonymous, quit paying for your kids college. Sounds like you can’t afford it, and they will make better decisions and respect their time more if its on their dime. My kids will pay for their college too, if they choose to go and there are any jobs in 2025

  12. MSDEMEANOR  •  Aug 25, 2013 @7:13 pm

    All this talk about no lunch and no bathroom breaks is absurd. Has anyone been disciplined because they had to use the rest room? If you are in pain thinking you have to
    fill more rx or else you will piss on yourself then something is wrong with you. As for the 14 hour days and no lunch you knew as much when you decided to work retail.

  13. Goose  •  Aug 25, 2013 @8:52 pm

    I’m following this closely because outside of the purge of older pharmacists, I agree with MSDEMEANOR, working conditions in retail have always been bad. That’s why I left retail for hospital twice. The more recent time, 7 years ago, I had seen enough of Big Evil from the management trainee side to see where things were going.
    All the Phaarmacy Supervisor and District Manager positions were going to the under 30 crowd that just didn’t know any better. Staff started getting cut.
    When I got out of school in 77 I got one job offer (not really an offer, I had to ask for it) and I took it. There sure wasn’t a shortage then and there were a lot fewer drugstores. (Yeah, I know, fewer pharmacists too.)
    Look, retail hours and conditions will never get any better so you put up with it or you don’t. The 12-14 hour day is not new. No breaks is not new. Lack of tech help is not new.
    I’ll bet that filling 500 Rxs a day with 3-4 techs is easier than filling 200 a day with no tech while typing out labels manually, pulling the Rx to stamp the back, handwriting receipts and insurance forms, hand-counting everything and manually figuring a price (although that allowed a little customer payback)
    It used to take a lot of time to fill a script and you usually had no help.
    Make the best of what you can, do what you can and work on survival.
    Watch for some pushback on the replacement of older pharmacist by the younger. The lawsuits will help. The kids coming out mostly don’t want to do retail.
    We have been our own worst enemy for many years now. We need to get tougher and smarter.
    That’s what this blog says over and over.

  14. pharmacyslave2000  •  Aug 28, 2013 @8:14 am

    “All this talk about no lunch and no bathroom breaks is absurd. Has anyone been disciplined because they had to use the rest room? If you are in pain thinking you have to
    fill more rx or else you will piss on yourself then something is wrong with you. As for the 14 hour days and no lunch you knew as much when you decided to work retail.”
    This sums it up nicely. We are a bunch of whiners. You want to be a “professional”, then act like one. No one needs to hold your hand and tell you when to eat, piss, take a break, etc. No union superman is going to swoop in to save the day and make your working conditions better. YOU are in charge of the pharmacy so act like it! NO ONE that I’m familiar with has been fired because they went to the bathroom. If you let the customers and corporate policy dictate your comfort level and your working conditions then you will be miserable. Grow a pair and be a professional adult.
    That being said, you also have to be smart about the battles you fight. Now is not the time to rock the boat too much. The times, they are a-changin’. I don’t think the firing of the older crowd will continue, too much potential for lawsuits. I do think we will see what Pharmaciststeve had predicted, a move towards “bidding” for positions. You want your job, bid against “Jimmy New Grad” for it. Low man wins. How big of a pay cut are you willing to take to do this job? When the money’s gone is it really worth the hassle? 14 hour days, crushing stress, weekends/holidays away from family. It might be worth $55-60/hr. but is it worth $40? I know what my answer is.

  15. bcmigal  •  Aug 28, 2013 @12:52 pm

    I think the “old days” of retail pharmacy were easier. Working with a only a typewriter and one or no tech may sound terrible, but we actually had time to sit down for lunch. Folks paid cash and did not haggle about the price. We filled out about a dozen “universal claim forms” per week. If we worked a 10 or 12 hour day, we were paid time and a half. There were 3 schools of pharmacy in our state. (Today there are nine and counting.)

    Then came PBMS and their low reimbursements. The independents and small chains were absorbed by the big guys. Computers and online transactions promised to provide more time for counseling. The “metrics” appeared like a slow eating cancer. Retail has evolved from challenging (but fun) to just plain brutal.

    Now we end the day with the hope and prayer that in our efforts to “beat the clock” we do not hurt or kill anyone. Isn’ t there something morally wrong with that?

  16. Pharmacist Bob  •  Aug 29, 2013 @8:39 am

    You got that right bcmigal. Working for a POS giant chain makes death look attractive

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