Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"You're Lucky to Have a Job"

I should be sleeping right now. I have to get up less than 6 hours from now in order to get ready to open the pharmacy tomorrow morning. I just really felt I had to get this post done. I've been wanting to write it for a week now, but I've been putting it off for various reasons. Anyway...

A couple weeks ago, I had a particularly rough day at the pharmacy. Nothing went right. A technician called out. We were incredibly busy. There was one insurance problem after another, and the phone would just not stop ringing! I was going insane.

Finally, with about 30 minutes left in the day, things started to settle down, and I got a little quiet time to finish up some paperwork that I didn't get a chance to do earlier. I started ranting to one of our technicians about how something has to change in this pharmacy because I don't know how much longer I can deal with all this crap.

She listened for about 30 seconds before saying, "well, just be happy you have a job." You see, working at the pharmacy is her second job, and she doesn't get paid particularly well for it. It was supposed to be something to supplement her income. However, she's getting laid off at her primary job. Without her primary source of income, she's unsure if she can make ends meet.

This made me feel kind of stupid for ranting about my situation to her. After all, she was right. I do have a job, and I get paid quite well. A lot of people would kill to have my salary, especially at my age.

However, later that night, I got to thinking that there has to be a point where "you're lucky to have a job" no longer applies. I understand that a lot of people don't have jobs. I understand I'm very fortunate to be paid very decently. However, just having a job and being paid decently shouldn't preclude me from complaining about shitty work conditions.

By the "lucky to have a job logic," my company could force me to fill 1,000 prescriptions per day by myself without any help at all while dealing with all the customer complaints and all the phone calls, and I'd have no reason to complain because at least I'm employed and making 6-figures. At some point, the stress reaches a level where it doesn't matter how much damn money I make, I'd rather be unemployed and broke than be treated like shit.

I can't think of a single profession that forces you to multi-task more than a pharmacist does on a daily basis. At a busy pharmacy, there's always 5 or 6 things going on at the same time, and the pharmacist is responsible for directly supervising EVERYTHING. While we're trying to fill prescriptions, the phone is ringing. It's a doctor calling in a script, and only a pharmacist can take that call. However, there's also a customer at the counter that wants to ask a question that only the pharmacist can answer. While trying to decide which to attend to first, the prescription for Celebrex you were typing into the computer just came up "prior authorization required," which means that you have to send a fax over to the doctor's office in order to let them know they either need to call the insurance company or switch it to something else. Naturally, the guy in line after the customer asking the question is looking to pick up that Celebrex prescription...

This goes on ALL DAY LONG, and it happens EVERY DAY. Oh yeah, and while you're trying to handle these pharmacy tasks, you just got an email saying another drug has been recalled. It's the third one of the day, which means for the third time, you have to check your shelves, quarantine the recalled product, and fill out the paperwork that corporate requires. The next email is telling you about the Aetna audit that's taking place next week. You have to make sure to make all those prescription files available for the auditor. And the warehouse is out of vial caps for the second time this week, and since you're running extremely low on them, you have to call a bunch of other stores to hunt down some that you can borrow.

Between filling prescriptions, dealing with customers, dealing with doctors, handling insurance issues, and following corporate policies, you're head is spinning all day long. You're constantly racing around. You work 12 hours without a proper break. You just briefly pause for 5 to 10 minutes to scarf down a sandwich, and then it's back to the grind.

And know what your reward is for busting your ass all day? Customers complaining, "20 minutes???? Is it really going to take THAT long??!?!?"

However, community pharmacists can't complain about this because, hey, at least we have a job, and we make over $100,000 per year. We should just shut up and take it because we're "lucky" to have the opportunity to be overworked and overstressed.

That's what the chains count on though. The reason they can get away with this crap is because, at the end of the day, most of us subscribe to this lucky to have a well paying job mentality. We hate the work, but we're addicted to the money, so even though we may complain, we won't do anything to really rock the boat and risk that paycheck.

I'm guilty of this. I want to quit my job so bad. Sometimes I actually get a little giddy imagining myself just walking right out of work one day and never coming back. I'm scared to death to do it though. I've become accustomed to my paycheck. I'm used to not having to pinch pennies. I'm used to just going out and buying what I want without having to worry about whether I can afford it or not. I'm addicted to the money.

Because of this addiction, my employer has me by the balls. They know that as long as they keep the money coming, I'll put up with whatever extra responsibilities they throw at me. The money provides an illusion of freedom when in reality, it is the thing that imprisons me.

However, I feel like I'm very close to boiling over. I'm not quite there yet, but I feel like soon, I'll reach the point where the money just isn't worth it anymore. It would be scary, but losing this job might be the best thing that could happen to me. It would be the kick in the ass that I need to find something that I'm happier doing.

***I said I was done writing here. However, I guess I haven't quite run out of things to say. I'm sort of feeling the urge to write recently, which is probably a sign of mind not being at ease. In any case, if I have something to write about, I'll write about it.***


Anonymous said...

Hey man, money is not everything. Quit, head out and get a job at a PBM or mail order or hospital etc. You might make 10 or 20 grand less a year, but you will catch up eventually. I left my original retail job for another retail job with another company, and it has made all the difference. I can say I am a happy retail pharmacist. Maybe look for another company or another pharmacy field, there are a ton of options out there!

Anonymous said...

I do not buy into the "I am lucky to have a job". I spent 8 years in college and have around 120k in student loans to pay back. I worked hard to get where I am and sacrificed time with family and friends over last 8 years.

My friends that comment on my future wage are usually the ones who partied through college and wasted their time on BS liberal arts majors...most of them are working part time service jobs and living with their parents. I am pulling for them and want them to do well but they wasted their time and money in college partying instead of planning for the future.

I am in my last year of school and I am currently on the job hunt right now. It is a tough market out there right now, jobs are tight.

Anonymous said...

I'm a graduating pharmacy student. I'm seeing this ahead of me. Right now, I have a pretty positive outlook of pharmacy and my career - and yes, I'm talking about retail pharmacy. I've been told this outlook change in about... well a year if not a few months once I actually start working. I'm sorry that you're so stressed. I'm sorry that the patients don't appreciate what we do, like the above mentioned - you can be happy. There's so many options out there! And yea, you can complain and no, you don't have to feel guilty complaining. People make their own decisions about where they want to be. You make your decision. We all say the world is not fair, but actually, it's pretty fair. We get what we put in. Not always, but karma takes care of the rest. Thanks for blogging.

Anonymous said...

What is your opinion on graveyard shifts at 24hr pharmacies?? Would you consider those hours??

Anonymous said...

i agree. it may pay well, but that is not a reason to put up with murderous conditions. at a certain point pharmacists should set their foot down and stand up. i hope you can find a graceful way out of your situation.

Aleigh said...

How about you downsize. Take a long hard look at how much money you really need to live on. Start saving as much as you can, over the next few years, and then, once you have say, a year's worth saved up, just quit your job, and be 'retired for a year'. You can use that time to sit back and decide what you really want to do. Take a few shifts here and there to bring in a little cash.

It's not impossible, when you sit down and run the numbers, and cut out the frills.

rinter said...

Mike I am THRILLED you started up the blog again! Hang in there! I'll tell you, I've met pharmacists who had side jobs so that one day they can ease out of pharmacy once they got the nest egg. One does real estate. Oh, BTW, the personal trainers, I've heard are getting out cuz they get paid so little. Well, you're on the plus side cuz even doing Part-Time Pharmacy you can still have a steady income while you do personal training the other half of the week. So few can reach that kind of goal. I hope to have an article about this soon published, so I'll let you know.

Yvonne said...

I highly recommend Aleigh's suggestion.
Just because "you're lucky to have a job" does not mean you have to deal with these insane conditions while doing your best to not f'ing kill someone in the process!
In the end, who is to blame/scapegoat for the error?

The other Mike said...

Like almost everyone else who has posted, I HATE the "lucky to have a job" comments. It implies that this position that pays six figures just fell into my lap. To hell with that -- I worked my ass off in school (for the most part), did all my rotations, and studied like hell for the boards. I work more hours a week than most non-RPhs in much worse conditions, and I pay back my loans. I am not "lucky" to have this job -- I "earned" this job.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is rife with arrogance and elitist attitudes. You are not the only one to have ever "worked hard" to get to where you are. Many others have worked hard only to face a layoff or wage cuts and reduction in benefits but because you went to pharmacy school you are all of a sudden better than everyone. The post started with complaints about a tech calling in and having to stay late. Then you whine to a tech about it. She faces unemployment for an unknown duration. You dont. But you want sympathy because you went to school for 6 years and worked hard to get to where you are. Reality check. Life isn't always a casual walk in the park and there is a reason you get paid such a high amount for routine crap. My cousin wants to go into retail after saying forever that retail was evil and his reasoning? The people aspect. He knows its not all picture perfect but his desire to potentially have a positive influence on at least one person makes it worthwhile. Its not all about credentials and money.