Wednesday, September 30, 2009

People Will Get Away With Whatever You Let Them

It had been a busy work week up until today. It was my turn to open the store. Like usual, I arrived at work 45 minutes before we opened in order to fill all the prescriptions called into the refill line the night before and organize the place so that we could start the day smoothly.

My coworkers, along with probably every other normal pharmacist out there, get to work right when we're supposed to open. When I come in an hour later, the pharmacy usually looks like a bomb went off with prescription labels all over the place, voice messages yet to be checked, and customers waiting in line. It looks like chaos to me, but I guess most people don't mind it. It drives me crazy though, so I've decided that, for the sake of my own sanity, I will get there extra early in order to have everything done, so we're not playing catch-up. I don't get paid for those 45 minutes, but to me, the peace of mind is totally worth it. Plus, I get to spend the first 45 minutes of the day listening the music on my PDA instead of whatever generic garbage that happens to be on the radio.

See, I know I'm strange in this regard. I don't expect anyone else to be like me. That's not the point of this post. The problem I have is that my coworkers see that I've done all this work and just assume that means I'm going to do everything all day long.

It's the same thing all the time. They stroll in and before they do anything, they look for breakfast. Then, they spend 10 minutes eating breakfast. Then they look around to see just how much work has piled up, and if it doesn't look like that much, they decide it means they can take another break. One of them might take a walk around the store to see if there's anything she needs to get for home. One of our pharmacists sometimes announces, in the middle of the day, that she has to go pick up something at Walmart, and then leaves for 45 minutes. They'll all sit down and have conversations about who the hell knows and watch me while I do everything.

Today, right around noon time, the second pharmacist decided that she wanted to go into the store's backroom and watch as our pharmacy manager built us some shelves for the room where we keep all the old prescriptions. If she wanted to take 5 minutes to check it out, I'd have no problem with it and wouldn't be complaining now. SHE TOOK AN HOUR!

During that hour, I got swamped with work. One of the technicians, realizing I was getting killed tried paging her back to the pharmacy. She didn't come. Fifteen minutes after the page, she strolled leisurely back to the pharmacy, apparently having seen enough of the shelves. Then she acted completely shocked that I might have gotten busy and backed up during the busy lunch hour trying to do the work of 2 pharmacists by myself.

I guess I bring it upon myself. When I'm at the pharmacy, I spend the entire time working. I don't come to socialize. I don't come to grocery shop. I don't drop what I'm doing in the middle of the day and run to the store down the road to pick up some shoes (I'm not making that up). If there's work to do, I do it. If by some small miracle, we're all caught up, and there's nothing at that moment to do, I wait until there is something to do. Then I do it.

The kicker is that I sometimes get jokingly accused of stealing everyone's work. They'll see scripts start to come in, and they'll say, "Oh, Mike's here. He can handle it." Then they go right back to talking or otherwise wasting time.

Maybe I wouldn't steal anyone's work if people actually did the work when they were supposed to. It just seems to me that for a lot of my coworkers (and I'm sure it's the same way with most people) unless you constantly stay on them to keep busy, they'll do everything but what they're supposed to. Sometimes, I swear half of them need Ritalin. They have such short attention spans when it comes to working. They'll fill 3 or 4 scripts and then get sidetracked for the next 5 minutes because they have to talk about someone who just walked by with ugly shoes.

Yes, I know what a lot of you are saying. "Stop whining about it and say something to put an end to it." You're right. That's what I should do. However, I'm spineless when it comes to confrontation with coworkers. In addition, this is my blog, so I can complain about whatever I want (and I often do.)

The point isn't whether I should or should not be cracking the whip on these people. The point is that I shouldn't have to. Everyone knows what they're supposed to be doing at work. Why do they have to be continually told in order for them to do it?

The other day, one of our techs (our lead tech who thinks she's too good to wait on customers) looked at a customer in line, then walked right past them and out of the pharmacy. The customer looked exasperated to be ignored like that. I watched it happen, but I figured there had to be some sort of explanation. Maybe she had just put the phone down and ran out in the aisle to check the price on something. Maybe she was going out to help someone find an item. Not knowing what was going on, I dropped what I was doing, and went to help the customer at the register.

You know what that tech was doing? She went out into the aisle to get a chew toy for her dog. She walked right by a customer, so she could go buy a fucking chew toy! That one almost made me lose my cool. That time I know I should have fucking let her have it, but once again, I'm a wimp.

I've watched my coworkers look at customers in line, but then let them wait there for a minute while they finished a conversation.

I've seen my pharmacist coworkers completely ignore a customer asking a medication question, which causes me to stop what I'm doing to answer it. Know what the excuse often is? "That was a 'Mike question'" meaning that they thought I'd know the answer better than them, so they let me take it. You know... in a lot of cases, I actually don't mind them deferring to me on medication questions. I'm not exactly an encyclopedia of pharmacy knowledge, but there are some areas that I consider myself very well-versed. Therefore, if a question comes up in one of my strong areas, I don't mind playing the role of "resident expert." However, when they start deferring to me before they even hear what the question is, that's just being lazy.

I thought all this lazy crap would go away once we got rid of Betty. It hasn't. In a lot of ways it got worse. Interestingly, the fact that Betty was so lazy and such a shitty pharmacist made everyone work a little harder to not be like Betty. After all, you can't really complain about someone if you pull the same shit. Her extreme laziness also forced everyone else to pick up a little more slack just to get the work done. Now that she's gone, much of the staff has relaxed and collectively filled the void of laziness she left behind.

I guess their laziness is what makes me valuable to the pharmacy though. My coworkers think I work so damn hard and do such a good job simply because I do what they all should be doing. The truth is that I feel like I could be doing so much more, and I continually try to improve on the areas where I feel I'm lacking.

That's the main difference between me and what seems like most other people. Most people do some work and are satisfied with themselves for being productive. I'm never satisfied with anything I do. I always feel I should be better. I always feel like I'm not working hard enough. It's just not in my nature to be like them.

Back to my original point (I'm getting really sidetracked) about coming in early. I come in early so that we never have to fall behind during the day. When I get a new script, I can do it right away without having to worry about 30 scripts on the refill line that need to be done. However, because several of my coworkers seemingly only work when we start falling behind, my coming in early ends up not making a difference. We end up falling behind anyway because they don't start working until they see a pile of script building up. I end up running around like crazy either way.

Pretty much the only thing I get from coming in early now is a couple extra hours of peace in the morning. I'll still take that over being crazy busy during those 2 hours. It just shouldn't be like that though. I come in early so that we're caught up. If everyone did the work they were supposed to do, we would never all behind.

Ok... I'm having such a hard time writing lately. Everything I write comes off sounding disjointed. Back when I didn't have any readers and was completely anonymous, I wrote about anything I wanted as much as I wanted. If I wanted to write 30 posts in a row about how my life sucked without my ex, I could. Now, I try to not be so repetiive, but it's taking away from my writing quality.

Hopefully, I'll get back on track soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Don't Think People Understand the Importance of Exercise

The thing that bugs me most about my fellow coworkers is the frequency that a few of them call out sick. Now, I entirely understand that people do actually get sick from time to time. Moreover, I'm not talking about someone that develops some kind of chronic disease like an autoimmune disorder or something rare and random like that. However, we have several people on our staff that call out every single week, and it always seems like it's for the stupidest reasons.

"I have a cold."

"My back hurts."

"I'm nauseous."

I also see a number of my friends who are constantly getting sick and complaining about being sick. I think I'm starting to detect a pattern...

OVERWEIGHT people who live a SEDENTARY lifestyle get sick far more often than people who exercise regularly.

I know that the medical community has known this for quite some time. However, I'm writing about it now because it has become so abundantly clear when comparing myself to the people around me.

I've mentioned in this blog before that I rarely get sick. I've never called out sick for work a day in my life. I haven't taken an antibiotic or gotten a prescription filled since I was a freshman in college 9 years ago, and that was for a relatively minor sinus infection that had I known then what I do now, I wouldn't have gotten that prescription either. I don't get headaches. I don't get the sniffles. I get a minor sore throat and a stuffy nose maybe once or twice a year, usually in the winter months, and the symptoms usually go away on their own within 2 or 3 days.

As I also stated before, I take absolutely no special precautions to avoid germs. I don't shy away from contact with other people. I don't constantly wipe everything down with alcohol. I don't carry a bottle of Purell with me wherever I go. I don't excessively wash my hands every 5 minutes. Basically, I don't do any of the things that germophobes do, yet I find that they happen to get sick much more often than me.

The only reason that I can come up with to account for my resistance to colds is that I exercise quite regularly, and, for the most part, my diet is relatively healthy. I do slip from time to time, splurging on pizza or a restaurant like Chili's maybe once a week. I also have a weakness for Octoberfest beer, but the season will be over soon, and I can cut those empty calories out of my diet too. Other than those few indulgences, my diet consists mainly of chicken, brown rice, eggs, broccoli, oranges, bananas, whole wheat bread, and milk.

I do some form of exercise almost every day. I follow a body weight workout routine 3 days per week. In between workout days, I try to get in a session of high intensity interval training (HIIT). However, HIIT generally leaves me feeling like I want to die after about 10 minutes (and that's how it's supposed to feel), so if my legs aren't quite up to it, I substitute going down to the park and shooting some hoops for 45 minutes to an hour. Saturdays are usually my rest days, but many times I'll go shoot hoops or some other form of light exercise for a little bit. On Sundays, I usually play a couple hours of full-court basketball in the morning.

That is a routine week for me. I don't even feel like I'm in that great of shape. However, compared to the average person, I'm like an Olympic athlete. Everytime when I hear the regular absentees call out of work sick again, all I can think is that maybe if they got off their asses and exercised every once in a while, they might be healthier (as in sick less frequently).

Really, it doesn't take long to work out. My body weight routine takes me 45 minutes. HIIT takes 10 to 15 minutes at the absolute most (trust me, if you're doing it right, you're not going longer than 15 minutes) 2 or 3 times per week, and that will take care of your cardio. That's a total of 3 hours of exercise per week right there. No, it's not professional athlete level, but it's sufficient to maintaining some form of physical fitness. No one can say they don't have 3 hours per week they can devote to exercise.

I've ranted about health care several times on my blog. As everyone who reads my endless drivel knows, I'm a proponent of Universal Health Care. However, I feel the absolute most important thing we can do as a nation to improve our health care is to do a better job teaching people how to be healthy. We need to start at a young age and stress the importance of exercise. We need to begin teaching children as early as elementary school how to eat right. We have wars against drugs and smoking, but when it comes to the food we eat and our level of exercise, we seem to be very passive. Eating right and routinely exercising are probably the single best way to improve the health of the nation. Healthier people spend less money on health care. Healthier people are more productive at work. Hell, healthier people are happier people in general.

I work in a grocery store, so it's quite common for me to hear overweight, out-of-shape people trying to decide what and how much to eat by reading the caloric content and other nutritional facts on a box of muffins or crackers. I still get shocked when I see people pushing around carriages full of regular Coke or Pepsi. Maybe it's because I gave up regular soda so long ago, but I'm shocked that people still buy non-diet soda.

I understand if people are confused over which kinds of fats (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, trans) are unhealthy. Nutritionists can't even seem to decide what kind of fats are bad for you. However, I thought everyone knew that all the added sugar in soda was unhealthy. Maybe everyone does know that, but they just don't care. That's probably the case, and honestly, I think that's a tragedy. People shell out big bucks for medication in this country, but in many cases, the most effective way to treat their conditions is lifestyle modification. For example, people with metabolic syndrome will probably be on a statin for cholesterol, an antihypertensive, and/or an oral diabetes medication like metformin or glipizide. However, want to know the absolute best way for these people to improve their health and prolong their lives? LOSE WEIGHT THROUGH EXERCISE AND EATING HEALTHY.

It's easier to take the pill though, isn't it? Medication is becoming a way for people to, once again, shift responsibility away from themselves. Even the way the medical community names these "diseases" shifts blame. For example, metabolic syndrome makes it sound like something that just randomly went wrong with your body. If you have high cholesterol, heart disease, and insulin insensitivity, it's not because you're overweight and out of shape. It's because you have this "syndrome." So you go and take medication to treat your "syndrome," but that medication better work well and not cause any side effects or else you'll go screaming to doctors, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies about how they're trying to kill you with these dangerous drugs.

Let's shift the blame back where it belongs. Instead of calling it "metabolic syndrome," let's call it the "Disease of the Obese and Inactive." Instead of prescribing drugs, you prescribe proper diet and routine exercise. Tell them that they're the ones who got fat and out of shape, and the situation will not go away or improve unless they lose weight and exercise.

Of course, this would be bad for business in the world of pharmacy, so maybe I really don't wish that. I sort of like feeling like I have a super human immune system. I also like having a job, so I guess I retract everything I've said up to this point.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thanks For the Responses

Thanks to all who commented regarding Walgreen's pseudoephedrine tracking system, as well as several commentors who explained that the law is a little different in other states.

Your comments made it very clear to me that the problem lies in my own company's system for tracking pseudoephedrine. It's glaringly obvious that our paper log book is not sufficient to ensure we properly follow the federal law (regardless of how dumb I think that law may be).

I plan on bringing the issue up to my superiors and seeing if I can get anywhere with it. My guess is no, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is This True?

The walgreens system is computerized and will not let you sell the product if it is over the daily or monthly limit and the data is readily retrieveable.

That's what someone left as a comment to the last post. If that's true, then I have a bone to pick with the Walgreen's pharmacist down the street from us who told me he had no way to find a specific person's history in their electronic database. If it turns out that it's readily available, then he was being lazy (and that's not even a busy store), and I'll be calling him back soon.

Is it possible that it could differ from state to state? It doesn't make much sense, but I'm completely oblivious to other state's laws.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Dumbest Law

I absolutely hate that we're required by federal law to keep track of pseudoephedrine sales. For one, I don't see how people turning Sudafed into methamphetamine is a problem for me. Honestly, I couldn't care less if people are getting high off the stuff. Shit, they can make all the Meth they want. It's never affected my life one bit.

I have the same attitude towards the whole "war on drugs." Do I think people should do drugs? Absolutely not... except if they're getting prescriptions drugs at MY pharmacy. I think it's important to educate people on the dangers of drugs, but, in my opinion, that's the best we can do. If after learning the dangers, people still want to get high, then I say we let them. They were warned. If they still choose to do drugs, then they can only blame themselves for fucking up their lives.

Moreover, I hate how we pick and choose which drugs against which we stage this "war." We're made to keep track of Sudafed, a drug that's been sold over the counter for fucking decades, but when it comes to alcohol, nobody cares. What the fuck is that? Alcohol has killed more people and ruined more lives than methamphetamine, heroine, and cocaine combined, but we have commercials for Budweiser before every fucking sporting event. It's especially weird when you compare it to a drug like marijuana, which has an adverse effect profile that pales in comparison to alcohol. But judging from commercials, if you get drunk, no matter where you are, you'll probably be surrounded by models in bikinis, whereas smoking pot will destroy your life. If we're going to fight a war against drugs, then I say we should be consistent and fight against all drugs.

I digress... Besides the above reasons, the biggest reason I hate the "Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act" is that it's completely unenforceable. I'm a firm believer that a law can only be a law if you can enforce it. The whole Sudafed log book thing is really just designed to be a speed bump to try to deter people from buying massive amounts of pseudoephedrine and making methamphetamine, and like most speed bumps, there are plenty of ways around it.

First of all, there's no central pseudoephedrine database that all pharmacies can access. I have no idea if the person that just bought 2 boxes of regular Sudafed from me has a stuffy nose, or if he's bought 2 boxes of Sudafed from every pharmacy within 5 miles over the last 24 hours. A person can literally go from pharmacy to pharmacy buying Sudafed, and as long as he stays within the daily limit at each store, no one would think twice about it.

Secondly (and this is the reason for this post), some pharmacies do not even have a good system for tracking pseudoephedrine sales. For example, my pharmacy keeps a log book. This log book is a simple, old-fashioned binder where we write down the customer's name and address along with the product he bought. In a slow store, this might work fine. However, when you're filling 400 scripts per day, and there's literally 5 or 6 different employees who might be at the register during the course of the day, it's really hard to keep track of who bought what and when. I'll admit, we generally do not look through the log book to check if the person is within the monthly limit of pseudoephedrine. In fact, a customer could probably come at 9 in the morning, buy 2 boxes of Sudafed, and then come back 8 hours later and buy 2 more boxes from a different cashier, and we wouldn't even realize it. We're just too busy, and it takes too much time to always check.

This became clear to me over the weekend when one of our clerks thought that one of the pseudoephedrine-purchasing customers looked a little sketchy and decided to look back through the log to see if he had a history. Well, she found out that he had purchased Sudafed 12-hr about 15 times during the months of July and August. Technically, he was within the legal monthly limit. However, after reading the article The Angriest Pharmacist mentioned, I decided that some asshole undercover narcotics agent might consider these sales "reckless" and arrest me on felony drug charges.

I brought the issue up to my pharmacy manager, who kind of laughed it off. I don't think it's funny though. A paper log book is not a good enough on-the-fly tracking method. Sure, we can look back and see who got what, when, and how much if we were alerted to someone who might be buying a heck of a lot of pseudoephedrine. However, it's very unlikely we'd ever deny someone the sale on the spot because we just wouldn't have the time to thoroughly analyze the book. I suggested that we try to bring our situation to corporate (along with a copy of the article to which Angriest linked) in order to try to get an electronic tracking system.

Upon calling the closest Walgreen's in order to ascertain if our Sudafed Guy had been getting it at other pharmacies too, I was told by the Walgreen's pharmacist that even though they have an electronic system that monitors and makes sure no one is sold more than the legal limit, the pharmacist cannot actually access the records and search for a particular customer's purchasing history. Therefore, he could not tell me if our Sudafed Guy was getting Sudafed from them too. He just knows that if they did sell it to him, he would be within the monthly limit at Walgreen's.

What good is that? Just like I said, even with the electronic tracking system, there's nothing stopping someone from going pharmacy to pharmacy purchasing the legal limit. Therefore, like I said, the law is simply meant to be a deterrent making it a little bit harder for someone to acquire enough pseudoephedrine to make methamphetamine.

While I think a law as a deterrent is pretty stupid, it wouldn't upset me so much if not for the fact that, judging by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics actions against that pharmacist, the federal government takes the law very seriously... so seriously that they're arresting pharmacists because they're selling perfectly legal quantities of pseudoephedrine to "suspicious" customers.

If you want to have your stupid law, fine. Just don't pretend that it makes a difference. Yes, it seems that ever since the law has gone into place, there have been far fewer methamphetamine labs in the United States. However, despite fewer labs, the supply of methamphetamine on the streets has stayed roughly the same. The reason? Mexican producers have noticed the increase in U.S. demand of their methamphetamine and have increased shipments into the country using the cocaine shipment routes from the '80's. Therefore, just as many people are getting high on Meth now as they were before the act was implemented. Doesn't sound too successful to me.

All the federal government is doing now is taking the focus off the real methamphetamine dealers and putting it on pharmacists, thus adding another responsibility to our ever growing pile. When will this shit end? We get so bogged down in following the stupid laws that we forget the whole point of the law in the first place. It's the COMBAT METHAMPHETAMINE EPIDEMIC ACT. The new law didn't do a damn thing to stop the epidemic. It's now simply inconveniencing pharmacists and possibly turning them into felons for selling a drug that has been perfectly legal for decades. The stupidity never seems to end.