Pick Yourself to Make Things Better in the Pharmacy with These 10 Tips

The other day I was giving Covid shots along with several pharmacists that I didn’t know that well. Throughout the day I got to speak with several of them. Every one of us is happy to be able to do our part during the pandemic. Every one of us feels a duty to serve in this way. Every one of us also feels overwhelmed and exhausted. Several people confided that they would quit their jobs now if they were able. In fact, we pharmacists are not alone in this sentiment. According to this article from the Society for Human Resource Management, 50% of people surveyed said they are going to quit their jobs after the pandemic. We are all feeling the stress. Maybe it’s the stress of not being able to meet demands like it is for us pharmacists. Maybe it’s wanting a change that we can control. 

If you decide to stay and be a leader in post-pandemic healthcare then please realize that if you’re looking for someone to rescue you, you’re going to be disappointed. You’re looking in the wrong place if you are looking beyond your own lab coat. You are the one you’re waiting for. Pick yourself to make things better in your pharmacy. Here are some ideas to get you to tap into your inner superhero:

  1. Celebrate Success

Here’s a fun game that rewards your team for handling conflict successfully. Every morning you can come into the pharmacy, pin a five-dollar bill to the bulletin board. Then explain that this money goes to the person that first has to deal with an angry patient and second, turns that situation into a win. 

In essence, you’re making dealing with conflict somewhat of a challenge instead of a burden. Just the other day, I had a patient that was very upset that I had to call his doctor due to a potential allergic reaction. He was in a big hurry and just wanted me to pick another medication. My technician whom we will call Mason jumped in and handled the situation. He did such a great job at calming this patient down, that the man actually called a few hours later to apologize for his behavior. There was no five-dollar bill on the board that day, but I did let Mason know what a great job he did in handling that situation.  I also let him know that in doing so, he also made my day much easier. 

2. Rescue Someone

If you see a fellow pharmacist struggling, having a bad day, or seeming extra annoyed, give them a break. You take over the most challenging task of the day instead of them. Let them decide what tasks would be most fulfilling to them. Or if a fellow pharmacist has been yelled at by an angry patient that is unable to get scheduled for a Covid shot, say to that pharmacist, “That was rough. Sorry. I’ll answer the phones for the next thirty minutes,” and then do it. If your technician has been at the drive-through window for over two hours and the customers have been especially crabby, tell them that you’ll get the next ten cars. They’ll appreciate the empathy in action. 

3. Create Good Vibes

Ask your store manager, not your pharmacy manager, how her day is going. Be really sincere and strike up a chat- find out what they are struggling with.  There are many advantages to having a good relationship with your store manager. They will have your back when you need them. They may even give you a copier and a table to use for Covid shots as mine did. If you don’t have a good relationship with your out front store manager, now is the time to build one. It only takes one person to change a relationship and that person can be you.

4.  Share a Good Word

The next time a customer says something nice about one of the other pharmacists you work with, write them a quick note (post-it) and tell them about it. You can leave it in their mailbox or on the counter for them to find the next day. We could all use a bit more good news so start sharing the good news when you hear it. This creates goodwill and gratitude. Ever since one of my pharmacists did a Covid clinic last month, the customers have been raving about how lovely and kind a person she is. Each time I get a call from a customer asking, “Are you that pretty blonde pharmacist that gave me the shot?” I am sure to let the pretty blonde pharmacist know that she’s made a good impression. 

5.  Tell Someone She’s a Good Mom

There are plenty of moms that stop in your store. It’s been a rough year for moms with school-age children. The next time you mix up that antibiotic for her child, tell her something like this, “It’s really tough when the kids are sick. This will really help. Good job. Hang in there.”  Choose someone who really seems to be suffering. You will recognize her by the vacant look in her eyes, she may have work clothes on, there is frozen pizza in her shopping cart, she has dark circles under her eyes, she just seems exhausted.

6. Enjoy a Teachable Moment

Just once during the day, when you get a weird E-Scribe or the doctor makes a mistake on a script, even though you think they should know better and you feel yourself getting really annoyed, use it as a teaching moment. Call the office and say something like this, “I wanted to help you out by showing you how you can prevent calls like this in the future. You’re busy just like I am so next time, have the doc review the escribe just really quick before pushing send. When she does that she can see that this area isn’t populated and just make a quick fix.”

7.  Let Someone Else Off the Hook

If a customer snaps at you, try to imagine that they are having a really bad day and their rude behavior was just a lapse in judgment due to unrelenting stress and worry. Say to yourself, “This has nothing to do with me. I hope they feel better later.” You don’t even have to say anything, just carry that intention. 

8.  “You Got This!” Notes

Here’s another good use of Post-it notes. I use them all the time for all sorts of things, like recording a good idea, writing someone a note, or jotting down a website. Another thing you can do is write one for yourself and put it up on your computer. If you are ambitious you can write your favorite inspirational quote and it will seep into your subconscious via your peripheral vision all day. If you’re a bit shyer, you can just put up something like “Have a good day!” One of the other pharmacists I work with left me a post-it note and I found it the next morning on the NDC scanner. It started my day with a smile.

9.  Let Yourself Off the Hook

If you make a mistake and blow it with a customer by not making things better, tell yourself you did your best and it’s OK. You are only human and as such you will make a mistake. If you get impatient with someone, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. If you’ve worked overtime 6 weeks in a row, try to schedule yourself a three day weekend and then plan something fun.  This job is no place for the faint of heart. 

10. Do a Victory Lap

Just one. Around the OTC section. You can walk but it’s much more fun if you jog. This is especially invigorating after a 12-hour shift. It’s like saying to the gods of pharmacy, “I made it. You didn’t defeat me today!”

Even though it seems like there are so many things against us during the pandemic- time constraints, not enough tech help, unreasonable demands on us by our companies, a patient population that wants a shot NOW, there are things that are working in our favor. There is an untapped reservoir of intelligence, heart, caring, ambition, and love of all things medicine that lies inside of us. Just pick a few of the things that are listed and do them for yourself and see if your day isn’t just a little bit better.

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