Mary Sheehan RPh

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Daily Report of a Recently Freed Pharmacist

Photo by Jennifer Morrow

With permission from my friend and pharmacist, Jennifer Morrow, I share with you excerpts from her journal beginning the day she left her retail pharmacy job, which she calls, Daily Report of a Recently Freed Pharmacist.

 I’ve added comments. Her words are in italics.

Having done all she could to make things better, Jennifer says goodbye to her coworkers and leaves CVS pharmacy. On this day, she says she isn’t sad, just disappointed:

I drive home in the gray waning light of a December afternoon with Hallmark channel snowflakes drifting slowly down. I’ve been here before, this feeling of hope and opportunity. It is the same feeling I had when cursing out my emotionally abusive boyfriend in college and swearing to never talk to him again. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. So maybe this too will be okay. 

Day 1

Work, for many of us, work is about relationships. And not just relationships with our patients and coworkers, but with our bosses, and our company.  It’s no wonder Jennifer is reminded of other abusive relationships:

It’s funny, but I don’t yet feel “free”. Somehow it makes me feel even smaller than the days when I couldn’t do enough to help every patient. I couldn’t give enough vaccines or verify the mountain of prescriptions left over from the night before. This is the point when it is easiest to return to an abusive relationship.

Day 2

It takes time to adjust to new found freedom. We may feel like strangers in our own homes:

I should try to blend in with my family. 

What is this ‘Breakfast’ of which you speak? Have lunch before 4pm? You mean I can go to the bathroom anytime I need to?

Turns out if you do all the laundry at once, there’s no room in closets/dressers for it all.

This is going to be harder than I thought. 

Day 3

Jennifer didn’t see that she was living in fear until she had some distance. Like that saying goes, “If you don’t take your hand off the elephant, you can never see the entire elephant.” I’m struck by how much living in fear a human being can bear:

….. it starts to sink in. I don’t have to live in constant fear anymore. The fear of nagging phone calls where I have to explain why some non-patient impacting tasks weren’t completed. The fear of being fired for something out of my control. The fear of making a vaccine error as I’m pulled like an octopus from all eight arms.

Day 4

A happy day for Jennifer, having found a new place to work so quickly:

Today I start a new job. Jitters and butterflies, age dampened, but still there…..The owner is explaining to the technicians how their quarterly bonus is calculated. You heard that right. Technician. Quarterly. A pharmacy that is profitable while appropriately staffed…

Later that same day, having some time to process the discrepancies in her current and former company:

Despite the minus 10 windchill, I am burning on the drive home. The chain pharmacies are making bank on the backs of those I call friends and family. And our backs are breaking. The patients are just hapless witnesses experiencing longer wait times and store closings. I’ve been taken advantage of, used. I was lied to at every turn that I wasn’t good enough, that my store didn’t make enough money to have the staffing needed. 

Day 5

……My family, the people who deserve the best of me everyday, they have paid the price. I gave everything I could to my patients and my staff. The grumpy, the angry leftovers of short tempered remarks is what I brought home. 

Here Jennifer is talking about how she sacrificed her family for her profession and in an attempt to make it up to them, decides to make turkey and rice soup. She ends up spilling the rice all over the kitchen. She cries- big uncontrolled sobs but these tears are not because of having to clean up three pounds of rice. They’re a much needed release. She’s realized that she has been stuffing her feelings of inadequacy inside: 

While I happily scoop handfuls of rice from the floor, I pack up that cloak of chain pharmacy fear that I will never be good enough and heave it into the emotional rubbish bin. Now that I feel valued, that I do help people as a pharmacist, that my years of training and student loans are worth it. That I am worthy.

Day 6

Too spicy for my blog as Jennifer shares about having found her long lost sex drive.

Day 7

Another big day for Jennifer. It takes courage to speak your truth. Her truth is featured in a respectable publication:

Today Bloomberg published an article on Pharmacist working conditions….my story is every chain pharmacist’s story in one form or another.

I don’t feel like I did anything unusual. I stopped living in fear. That was the hard part. Once I stepped out into the light, I had to speak out against the injustice that continues. 

Probably not the smartest thing. Maybe even career suicide.

Day 8

Jenn realizes that she may have saved herself getting out of a big chain pharmacy when she did. She still cares about the patients she left behind:

The Chains are running terribly understaffed stores, and they will whine to congress how they can’t find anyone willing to work. Because they have created an environment so toxic that well trained, intelligent people die on the job. Heart attacks, strokes, stress induced injuries and suicide. 

Pretty soon there won’t be any medical knowledge left in a chain pharmacy. 

So move your scripts now before it is too late. Your skilled pharmacy staff is leaving the chain stores. Take your prescriptions anywhere you feel safe.

Day 9

Today Jennifer is both hopeful and concerned:

So that makes me wonder, how are the masses, you, your mom, your kids, going to get their meds. And will they be correct? Will they harm you instead of help you? The difference between medicine and poison – a simple matter of dosing.

Until the next saga, take care and be prepared for what comes after the great resignation, for we are now in a workers revolution.

I wish you joy, gratefulness and personal growth.

I enjoyed reading Jennifer’s story. I wish I had documented my own early days of the Great Resignation. My story is quite different from hers and maybe from yours too. 

One thing that we can all relate to, however, is how losing something we love is painful. If you’ve left your job or your job isn’t what it once was, there is loss. That grief will be processed with anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Don’t forget, there is another stage of grief and that is finding meaning. May you find meaning in your loss and rise like the Phoenix into a better and brighter future.

You can read the article Jenn references here:  Pharmacy Workers are the Pandemic’s Invisible Victims by Angelica Peebles in Bloomberg Businessweek. 

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