You’ll hear the same complaints over and over about why certain pharmacists hate their retail jobs. Patients get on their nerves. Working long hours without lunches.
Bosses that never praise or appreciate. Stressful work environments. All things outside of someone’s sphere of influence.
This type of pharmacist likes to complain about their conditions just like they would about the bad weather they can’t change.
Instead of spending their early years as a student researching the job they want, building the skills required to succeed, and networking, the practitioner of mediocrity settles for a job in retail pharmacy.
This type of pharmacist doesn’t like a high-stress, fast-paced work environment, yet they don’t seek alternative pathways for their career.
Instead, they go for the low-hanging fruit, knowing sooner or later they will regret it.
Instead, they wallow in self-pity, playing victim and villain, while surviving off the affections of other downtrodden and jaded professionals.
All the while, this sad pharmacist does little to elevate their own station. They practice pharmacy with a grudge, striving to do the bare minimum to keep their jobs and their license active.
Sarcasm and cynicism escape their mouths as soon as the patient turns away from the counter.
They want so desperately for others to hear and feel their despair. Anything to make the pain more bearable.
Anything to numb the stinging truth that the reason they are so miserable is completely and utterly their own fault.
“Why do I hate my job?” they cry, typing their thoughts into the Google search bar at night.
“Why did I ever become a pharmacist?” Tears of sorrow translating into keystrokes…
Two Types of Pharmacists
It may be sad, but the reality is: there are two types of retail pharmacists: 1) Those who want to be there and 2) Those who have no choice. Unfortunately, the loudest voices in the pharmacy profession are those of the whiners who like to promote chaos and rebellion.
Having no sense of control over their lives, they turn to the small amount of authority the white coat brings them, and they use it for evil.
They are the ones who mock the patients and the company they work for, tainting the image of The Corporate PharmD.
These are the leaders who breed distrust and resentment in their technician colleagues. Pharmacists like this could care less about culture and morale.
These are the pharmacists who make others hate their jobs because they don’t have what it takes to succeed in their own careers.
In many instances, the lack of skills and foundation required is not their fault. Maybe they didn’t get the proper training during internships.
Perhaps their supervisor is a metric-driven leader who cracks the whip all day long. Maybe they just don’t have the people skills to handle a retail profession, period.
But the fact remains: a pharmacist who was once able to earn a doctorate degree is more than qualified to develop themselves, learn new skills, and persevere through tremendous adversity.
Yet, why do so many professionals with poor attitudes represent our profession? Why does the retail pharmacist seem so powerless?
Without Agency, We Are Nothing But Dust
Power comes in many different forms, but the most effective way to create power is through agency, or our ability to choose. Those who give up their choices essentially give up their autonomy.
And when everything seems like its outside our control, nothing seems important. The work will never get easier. The patients will never be nicer. So why even try at all?
But when we blame others or our circumstances, we give up our opportunities to make decisions and influence our future.
In retail pharmacy, it’s very easy to succumb to negativity and cynicism because it feels good in the moment.
It feels good to snap back at the patient when they are being rude because we feel in control. It even feels good to make fun of corporate initiatives behind the supervisors back.
That’s because when they are facing us, we are completely silenced and powerless. We sacrifice our dignity and hopes for success in exchange for the little band aid that mends our broken hearts.
Of course, when we are constantly bombarded with stress and attacks from all angles, it’s normal for our natural fight or flight defense mechanisms to kick in.
We fight fire with fire, mirroring rude remarks from patients and blaming the company for all of our problems. Poor, poor me.
But instead of asking for help, our defeated mental state prevents us from seeing a way out of the black hole of despair. Instead, we run further away from salvation.
We run from our responsibilities and turn our backs on the Oath we had taken. And then only dust remains under this white coat.
Take Stock and Assume Full Ownership
On the flip side, one thing that you’ll rarely hear of is a pharmacist who takes ownership of their situation. They don’t blame the patients or their circumstances, but rather themselves for reacting emotionally to them.
Even in the face of constant business demands, they manage to put their teams and personal health and well-being first.
Despite their bosses passing down forced culture and micromanagement from above, The Corporate PharmD manages to stay positive and resilient by being resourceful and demonstrating accountability.
Being proactive starts early on in their careers, where they study communication, leadership, and management in conjunction with clinical skills.
Being a knowledgeable clinician and treating patients’ medical conditions is not enough.
Corporate Pharmacists understand that in order to make the most effective and largest impact, we have to work with and through people.
They understand that blending healthcare and business together is the necessary formula for success in retail pharmacy and that success can’t happen within a vacuum. We need patients to believe in our pharmacy team and to empower them to improve their health and well-being.
In the same manner, we need our technicians to believe in our company and our mission. The only way to do all of this is by communicating the purpose behind our work day in and day out.
No matter how busy and no matter how stressful.
As pharmacy leaders, we are responsible for everything in our pharmacy. The way patients perceive us. The clinical outcomes that we deliver. The engagement and morale of our teams.
If anything fails, it is solely our failure to use our resources, adapt to new situations, and solve problems.
Ultimately, the pharmacists who don’t hate their jobs all have one thing in common: the ability to re-frame negative situations into positive ones.
When they fail or experience adversity, they don’t sulk in misery. Instead, they find a way to look at it from a different perspective. They exercise curiosity and change the lens they are looking through in order to find a solution.
Complaints and cynicism become opportunities to demonstrate resilience. Negativity and failure are merely obstacles to overcome. Stress and constant challenge become the steady state.
When a patient storms to the pharmacy counter, upset and belittling the technicians, The Corporate Pharmacist doesn’t become defensive. Instead, they ask, “Why is this happening? What does the patient see? How can I help?”
When problem after problem surfaces causing the team and patients distress, the pharmacy leader is able to keep their cool, analyze root causes, and inspire people to work together.
When the workload gets unmanageable and patients become abrasive, they smile and laugh it off.
This is retail life, baby.
Quit hating. Get with it. Or, get out.
Business Tips for The Corporate PharmD
- Complain upward, and never down to your direct reports – the ripple you create travels far and wide
- Focus on things you can control – everything else is a waste of time
- Take ownership of all problems and use your skills and resources to solve them
- Quickly re-frame negativity and failure to reduce the time spent wasting resources