One major chain drug store company routinely expects their full-time pharmacists to work three 12 to 14 hour shifts every week with no lunch or rest period. No bathroom breaks. The timers give no time to counsel. Patients have suffered harm. This company is lucky to still be in business. Every pharmacist they have is a dangerous pharmacist.
Read and re-read the principles of The Pharmacy Alliance a number of times. Each time you will come back with a greater appreciation of those principles. We believe those principles should be the foundation of every pharmacists personal guidelines. In life, we need guidelines to keep us on track and to prevent us from making bad mistakes. In the practice of pharmacy, we need guidelines that set the goals of our job and the boundaries of what we do. In this article, we will talk about principle number 4:
4. Pharmacy professionals will counsel patients when appropriate and will advocate for a professional environment and for patient safety.
The number one guideline of every pharmacist should be based on patient safety. No matter how you try and frame your job, you are a professional and it is your responsibility to dispense medications to a patient in the safest possible manner. Now, I am going to outline what happens when you fail at this task.
Results of a dispensing error:
- Patient harmed or killed.
- Patient may be hospitalized and incur a huge medical bill.
- Patient’s family suffers.
- You must deal with the emotional agony of what you have done.
- You are fired.
- Your reputation is ruined.
- You can no longer find employment in pharmacy.
- You are sued and lawyer expenses lead you to bankruptcy.
- Your pharmacy loses its profit for the year.
- Your company incurs a lawsuit and an enormous court loss.
It does not take a genius to realize that a single bad mistake can completely ruin a pharmacists life. This is why patient safety should be every pharmacists number one priority! It is in the benefit of everyone involved for you to be careful, take your time, and do your best to dispense the right drug to the right patient. It is in the patients best interest, your best interest, and the companies best interest.
Counseling is important because it not only helps the patient understand their medication, but it is also a last check to make sure the right patient is getting the right medication. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have counseled a patient only to discover that something was wrong. It was not what the patient was suppose to get because the doctor wrote for the wrong drug, the patient was allergic to the medication, or directions were not correct. It is our job to take the necessary care to take care of the patient. It is in everyone’s best interest for us to do this. The number of prescriptions we fill in a day should not be our number one priority. The number of people standing in line at the cash register or the number of prescriptions we have to fill should not be our number one priority. What is our number one priority? PATIENT SAFETY!
Many of us work for chains and we often feel that the chain is primarily interested in the number of prescriptions we fill per hour. Whether this is the real case or not, I cannot say. However, I can say that a few big lawsuits will wipe out the profits for the pharmacy for one or two years, and it is in the best interest of the chain for us pharmacists to do a good job, take care of the patient, and not make any serious mistakes. We should never hurry at our task. We should always take diligent care in the things we do. Again, it is in everyones best interest, whether they realize it or not. The design of pharmacies are often not the best. They can sometimes be too noisy. Sometimes the nature of the job creates too many distractions. Wherever we see problems, we should contact corporate to make them aware. Yes, it is our duty to do so. Remember, the patients safety is our number one priority, and it should be the chains number one priority. A professional environment is not only good for the pharmacist, but it is good for patient safety, and this means it is good for the patient. It is good for the company because it helps keep down prescription errors. We are the pharmacy specialists…not the folks at corporate. We are the pharmacy specialists….not that non-pharmacist DM. We are the pharmacy specialist…not the store manager. And, we better hold our ground, and keep the patients best interests at heart.
It is easy to get “caught up” in work and a job. It is easy to lose sight of our number one priority. That is why we need to place before us our guidelines and read them anew each day. You might want to print out the pharmacy principles and read them each day before retiring and before going to work. Just remember that no matter how bad the circumstances may seem to be, it is you, that in the final analysis, check that last prescription for that patient and you better get it right. If you have any doubts about what I am telling you, then go back up and read what the results can be of a bad dispensing error. One bad error can ruin someones life, can even kill them, and it can ruin your whole life in the process. Taking chances with peoples lives is like rolling the dice with everything you own sitting on the table.