This is the first year that I've been able to give them, but now that I can, I have to say that I love giving flu shots. I'm finding that I actually look forward to going into work every day because of the chance that I can give some flu shots that day. In the past, I would dread the days I had to work. Flu shots have re-energized my enthusiasm for pharmacy.
Maybe it's a little stupid. I guess it's really not that big of a deal. Medical assistants can give flu shots. They don't jump up and down for joy every time they get to stick a needle in someone's arm. Despite this, I can't help but like doing it. For one, it's something different. Different is good.
Retail pharmacy, despite all the craziness, is a repetitive job. Every day is exactly the same. You fill prescriptions. You check prescriptions. You answer mostly the same questions all the time. You deal with the same insurance problems all the time. The days just seem to blend into each other because day after day after day you're doing the same damn thing.
Flu shots at least break up that repetitiveness. It gives me a momentary break from the prescription mill. I have a table set up in front of the pharmacy. I go out and talk to the patient for a minute or so. It's not really private, but it almost feels like I get a little bit of one on one time with every patient to whom I give a flu shot.
The best part is that my employer can't complain about me halting the regular prescription mill in order to give a shot. We make $15 to $20 profit on each shot. They're great for business. That's why pharmacies push these flu shots like crazy. They put signs and banners all over the place. They record messages on the store's automated system. They hold clinics, schedule appointments, and accept walk-ins. Flu shots are a gold mine.
What's great is that they're a gold mine we don't have to feel bad about pushing to our patients. Let's face it, most of the prescriptions we fill are completely unnecessary. How many Zpaks do we dispense for people who have the common cold? How many Robitussin with Codeine prescriptions do we dispense even though there's no strong evidence that codeine-related cough suppressants actually reduce cough? We dispense weight loss drugs to people that don't want to exercise. We dispense Vicodin to seemingly any patient that goes to the ER for anything.
Even the drugs that have some value mostly just treat chronic illnesses. There's not a whole lot of drugs that cure disease. We just treat them. We can't cure diabetes, so we give people insulin. Thanks to the modern diet, we can't prevent heart disease, so we load people up on statins and blood pressure medications.
Flu shots are different though. They PREVENT the flu. When I give a person a flu shot, I know that I have prevented that person from getting those particular strands of influenza for that season. For example, everyone I give a flu shot to this season will not get H1N1. 30,000 people die of influenza every year in this country. Getting people immunized would drastically reduce that number. In that way, flu shots are saving lives. I know that has nothing to do with why my employer wants me to give them. I know my employer just wants the money from them. However, no matter what the reasoning is, the more people that get flu shots, the better for public health.
Finally, flu shots have separated me from the other pharmacists I work with. My store has 3 pharmacists. The other 2 want nothing to do with injections. Both of them actually say they're afraid of needles. They don't want to even watch me give an injection. That's how opposed to giving flu shots they are.
That's fine with me. If they want to stay behind the times and limit their own scope of pharmacy practice, I'm not going to convince them otherwise. Right now, my competitive edge in my company is that I can immunize. I've given out 20 flu shots so far this season. I only started a little over a week ago. I know that's not a lot. I know a lot of other chains hold clinics and do other things that allow them to give dozens per day. My chain is behind the other pharmacies in its flu shot promotion. Even still, those 20 shots netted the store $300 in profit. That's $300 that no other pharmacist in our store could have generated. It's early in the season, so I'm sure I'm going to give out a whole lot more than that. Whatever that final number ends up being, the profits that go along with it are entirely because of me. I'd say that gives me a nice competitive edge.
In addition, our patients look at me different. I know that sounds corny and cliche, but they really do. I didn't think it would happen either, but it's true. They all ask questions, not just about the shot, but about other health issues they might have. They ask for information about other vaccines, and whatever else might come into their minds.
The best thing is giving the shot and hearing the patient say he didn't feel a thing. They see the professional way I carry myself, and the painless shot reinforces the idea that I'm someone that knows what I'm doing. They ask how long I've been giving out flu shots. Some have even ask who I work for because they're so used to going in and out of the pharmacy without ever interacting with a pharmacist that they never noticed I've been working in the store for over 4 years. Some comment, "they got you doing everything back there," and that makes me chuckle a little bit.
Flu shots are one of the few things I do in the pharmacy that I think are worthwhile. There's no downside to them. They're good for the store financially and in crafting a positive image. They're also good for public health. I don't feel bad advising and/or convincing someone to get a flu shot, which is more than I can say about almost every other product we sell.