The Five Minute Fail

22 05 2011

I’m sure by now many of you have seen the ads: “Let us fill your prescription in 15 minutes. Guaranteed.*”

Oh, sweet readers. Y’all love me enough that I don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining why this is a bad idea, right? I don’t need to devote an entire post to how asinine it is to place such an emphasis on time that quality control might very well fall by the wayside? I mean, I’d really like to think a pharmacy that consistently fell short of meeting the 15-minute goal would be evaluated and perhaps staffing issues would be addressed. I’d also like to think unicorns are real and money grows on trees.

In case you’re wondering what happens when you rush a prescription, I’ll use my five minute fail today as a cautionary tale.

When you get a prescription from your doctor, many of you probably look at it and see what looks like some freakish shorthand. That’s because it is some freakish shorthand—specifically, Latin shorthand. The doctor’s written instructions are called the “Signatura,” from the Latin “signa,” meaning “write” or “label.” We call it a “sig code.” Many sig codes use the same phrases, so we have them entered into our computer program as quick codes. No need to type the same words over and over again, right? So when your doctor wants you to take one tablet by mouth every day, we type something along the lines of “1T PO QD” (which technically translates to, “1 tablet per os quaque die”).

I know. Don’t ask me. That’s just how it’s done. Fortunately, we know what the doctors mean, and we translate it for you.

Except when we don’t.

See, the problem with quick codes is they only work when you type them exactly as they’re entered. How stupid is that?

Today was a slow day at the pharmacy, until a small group of customers decided to descend upon us at once. I’m convinced our customers plot against—they text or call each other to make sure they all show up at the same time. It’s diabolical. It wasn’t a massive rush, and nobody was terribly rude, but I always feel (as I believe most pharmacy personnel do) I should get prescriptions done as quickly as possible when customers are waiting.

In my haste to input prescriptions, I managed to place a stray O in a most inopportune place:


It’s times like this I’m really glad someone double-checks my work.

In case you’re wondering, Clomiphene is the generic for Clomid, a fertility medication. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any studies showing increased rates of fertility with daily bowel movements on days 4-8 of a woman’s menstrual cycle.*****

Then again, I haven’t done extensive research. Anyone want to write a research proposal? I’ll pay you with Mt. Dew LiveWire. I may or may not have offered sexual favors to the Pepsi rep and/or the grocery manager at my workplace if they can stock LiveWire for more than a week.

*”Guarantee applies to prescriptions dropped off in-store and at drive-through only. Offer is limited to one gift card per order of 3 prescriptions maximum. Certain exclusions apply including services, or prescriptions requiring ordering, prescriber contact, third party assistance, professional services, or prescriptions presented immediately before or during Pharmacist lunch break.”

**”Or if we have to check the Controlled Substance database because you’re obviously a crack whore.”

***Okay, I made that one up, but it should totally be on the list.

****Also, how would a person present a prescription during the pharmacist lunch break? If it’s an actual honest-to-goodness lunch break, isn’t the pharmacy closed? Our pharmacy doesn’t have real lunch breaks. We just stuff food willy-nilly into our mouths when we have a moment between helping customers. I think that’s how a lot of independent or small chain pharmacies work. But if a pharmacist isn’t available, a pharmacy can’t be operating…therefore, a prescription can’t be presented during the pharmacist’s lunch break. Right? Am I missing something here?

*****Or is she just supposed to poo the tablet? Those are terrible instructions. I’m the worst fertility specialist ever.

******I totally taught you Latin today. You’re welcome.

Time to Examine Your Priorities

28 04 2011

Every Thursday I work six hours at my “Hey, look! I’m a real adult!” job as a pharmacy technician. One of my responsibilities is pulling all of the prescriptions on our shelf that are over 10 days old and returning them to stock. Insurance companies don’t like it much when you bill them for drugs patients don’t pick up, so it’s important we do this on a regular basis.

Today I ran across a prescription that was nine days old—still inside the time frame to leave on the shelf, but I had to wonder why the customer hadn’t picked it up yet.

Fortunately, the customer came in halfway through my shift. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there to pick up her nearly returned prescription. She wanted her Lortab. As usual.

I want to let you decide if she made a wise decision or not, so I took a picture of the prescription she didn’t get:

Because I love y’all, I’ll save you the uncomfortable Googling and tell you this medication treats bacterial vaginosis. Really, though, I think all you need to make an informed judgment is the word “vaginal.”

That’s right. I had you at vaginal.

I could go so many places with that, but I think I’ll just go to sleep. You’re welcome.

This Is Why I Can’t Be Nice

14 04 2011

Okay, fine. One of the many reasons.

Actual conversation from work today:

Customer: I’d like to refill my birth control.

Me: I’m sorry, your prescription is a year old and the refills have expired.

Customer: Can you just refill it one last time and I promise I’ll get a new prescription before the next pack is due?

Me: I’m afraid I can’t do that. I can fax your doctor for refills.

Customer: But you did it last time. (Since her last new prescription was a year ago, this must’ve been over a year ago.)

Me: Your doctor’s office is still open, so why don’t I fax her and you can call her, and we’ll try to get your refill by the end of the day. Are you due to start the new pack tonight?

Customer: No. I start it tomorrow night.

Me: Okay, so we have until tomorrow night to hear back from the doctor.

Customer: Well, I feel weird calling her because she’s not going to be my doctor anymore. Can’t you just give me a pack to get me by until I see my new doctor? You did it last time.

Me: We do that in emergency situations. It’s the middle of the day during the week. Doctor’s offices are open, and you aren’t out of your medication. This isn’t an emergency.

Customer: *sigh* Fine.

I want to be helpful. Really, I do. But conversations like that suck away my will to provide assistance to even the most worthy customers.

Therefore, to this woman and other such customers…stop ruining it for everyone else.

A Day in the Life

8 04 2011

Have you ever wondered what working in a pharmacy is like? My coworkers introduced me to a video on YouTube which provides a good approximation. Watch this video, and feel my pain:

Right now you’re probably laughing at how absurd that video is, but I’m laughing at how true-to-life it is. I’ve actually heard approximately 90% of the comments the “customer” made.

I once had a customer ask why his cream prescription would take 15 minutes. “All you have to do is slap a label on a tube.”

Today a customer asked how long it would take to get her prescription ready. When I told her five minutes, she heaved a big sigh and said she’d just come back later.

As I counted down the till at 9 pm tonight, a customer asked to have prescriptions refilled. When the pharmacist agreed to do it, she said, “I’ll come back for them later.” No, ma’am. No you won’t.

The first time I watched the above video I laughed so hard I cried. I’ve watched it six times since and it hasn’t gotten old yet.

Ten hour shift tomorrow. Will I make it through the day without shanking a customer? Only one way to find out!

Let’s Add A Year to Medical School

10 03 2011

We’ll call the extra year “remedial skills.”

First semester: math!

Do the math with me, won’t you? 24 hours ÷ a dose every 6 hours = 4 doses. 4 doses x 5 milliliters each = 20 milliliters.

So…why, exactly, are we cautioning the patient not to exceed 30 ml in 24 hours? Because math is hard, and I’m guessing because we assume most patients will take more than they’re prescribed. So either the doctor’s math is lousy or his faith in humanity has been crushed. Yeah, I’m going with the latter.

Second semester: penmanship!

You know, this one isn’t as bad as others I’ve seen, partly because the quantity is a big tip-off when determining which medication the doctor intended.

I know doctors’ bad handwriting is a long-standing joke. We see someone with horrendous penmanship and say, “Ha ha! You should be a doctor!” But this isn’t funny. Sloppy prescriptions slow us down, and they increase the odds of medication errors. The prescription above is for a 12-year-old patient. Would you want your child on the receiving-end of this prescription?

I know I’m generalizing, and many doctors are wonderful, conscientious individuals who do their best to get it right. To those doctors I say thank you—I appreciate your efforts and wish all doctors were like you.

To the rest—the doctors with lousy handwriting with stupid instructions…the doctors who become angry when we call with questions—you aren’t God. You aren’t even God’s gift to the medical profession. Get over yourselves and remember who your customers are.

Whoops. This was going to be a light-hearted post about silly pharmacy stuff. Apparently I have some anger issues. Who knew?

*Adding to the “who knew” list for the evening: I’m British. At least, according to the WordPress Proofreader, which gave me this suggestion:

Prescription Fail

3 03 2011

We see some interesting prescriptions at the pharmacy—from the illegible (a local pediatrician who tends to write for only two different medications, which fortunately makes his indecipherable scrawls predictable) to the downright bizarre (Clomid for men).

However, sometimes even the most experienced pharmacy (by which, of course, I mean my pharmacy) is at a loss.

Today a customer sent a prescription in through the drive-thru and said she’d send someone to pick it up later. Here’s the prescription she sent in:


Sadly, we were fresh out of 10W-40.

Moral of the story: if you have multiple papers in your car, you might want to double-check what you’re sending in the tube. Just a thought.

To My Beloved Customers

31 01 2011

Dear pharmacy customers,

We do not live in the deep south, where certain endearments are a cultural norm. I daresay 90% of you have little more than a fleeting connection with the south. (I feel as though I should make a 5% exception for you, mister customer who sounds exactly like Foghorn Leghorn.) We live in Utah, which is very, very far from the south and much more reserved due to our staid pioneer heritage. (What? I can be staid! Shut up. Jerks.)

Now that we’ve established this fact, I have one more thing to say:

The next time one of you refers to me as “sweetie” or “hon” I will reach across the counter and flick you right in the middle of your forehead.

Bless your heart.

I Did Not See That Coming

22 01 2011

We get a lot of idiotic/uncomfortable/bizarre questions at the pharmacy. If you think you’re calling with a strange or stupid question, there’s a good chance we’ve heard it a million times before.

Except when we haven’t.

Today a rough-looking woman in her late 40s walked up to the pharmacy counter. “Do you have any empty douche bags?” she asked. “I can’t find them anywhere.”

People? In an ideal world, I would receive accolades out the wazoo for keeping a straight face.

Instead, I got to search through the feminine hygiene aisle and confirm that, so sorry, all we offer are, in fact, pre-filled douche bags.


Major props go to my boss, who said, “You should’ve told her, “Oh, I’ve got one right here” and  pointed in my direction.” I love an authority figure who can make a good douche joke at his own expense.

Bonus pharmacy pet peeve of the day: I don’t care how it’s spelled—if you name your daughter Skylar, you waive the right to be irked when I refer to her as a him.

You, Sir, Are No Frisbee Champion

13 01 2011

I love my job. You remember that, right? When I write posts like this, I feel it’s important to remind everyone that I remain a pharmacy technician because I truly enjoy the work.

Tuesday night one of my…less favorite customers walked in. We’ll call him “Bob.” Bob is one of those customers who isn’t necessarily openly objectionable—just annoying. I did the whole “immerse myself in whatever is available so that I seem terribly busy and don’t have to help him” tactic. It worked momentarily, but then the pharmacist had to take a phone call and asked me to finish the sale.

“Oh, wait,” said Bob, “I forgot one thing.” He jogged down the aisle and grabbed a box of Prilosec. He stopped about 20 feet from the register and lobbed it toward me. Not surprisingly, it fell short. He picked it up and said, “I used to play frisbee.”

At this point, I just want him to go away. Of course, if that had happened, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

A normal person would pick up the box of Prilosec and set it on the counter. Bob is not normal. Bob was living the frisbee dream. He picked up the box and flung it straight at me. Strangely enough, I wasn’t really expecting a frontal assault, and the box pegged me in the middle of the chest.

People? I’d like to take a moment to brag. In a show of epic restraint, I did not lob a bottle of Miralax at Bob’s head. Instead, I said, “I’d prefer it if customers didn’t throw products at me.”

Bob, of course, then impugned my sense of humor and questioned how long I’ve worked at the pharmacy since he didn’t recognize me (answer: four years).

Bob finally went away, and I was left with two thoughts:

  1. What the hell?
  2. At least it’s good blog fodder

I do love how blogging has changed my view of the world.

I had not thought to assume otherwise.

27 11 2010

This is the toilet at my place of work:

It’s not just me, right? Normally I would just sit on the toilet and do my thing, but now? I’m all paranoid.

I can’t decide if this is better or worse than the “No Parking” sign that used to be there. Yes, I work with a bunch of 12-year-olds. Thanks for noticing.

*Sorry about the blurry photo, but it’s a cell phone picture. In the bathroom. I’m feeling all skeevy just thinking about it.