The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
In the past two years, common courtesy towards retail workers seems to have been thrown out the window. In such a trying and confusing time, one would expect that people would be kind and compassionate to essential workers. Unfortunately, that seems to be the opposite of what has happened.
In April 2020, I started working at a pharmacy to help cover the shifts of people who didn’t feel comfortable working during a pandemic. My dad, being a pharmacist, had told me about the steep learning curve that comes with working in a pharmacy, but I didn’t realize how steep it was until I was thrown into the deep end, head-first.
Filling a prescription isn’t as simple as just plucking the medication off the shelf and handing it to you.
The process begins when we scan your new prescription into our system. Then, the information on the prescription is verified. After, the physical prescription is filled, and then it goes through one last check.
Think of the process of getting your medication as a road. There are four major stretches, with checkpoints along the way to ensure you are getting the right medication and dose. However, there are also potholes and traffic jams along the way
This should only take a couple of minutes, but wait. Your doctor hasn’t called in your prescription yet. You tell me you’re sure they have, so I call your doctor to inquire. Turns out they sent it to your other pharmacy. So, I call that pharmacy, and ask for it to be transferred over so we can fill it.
While I wait, the phone rings. I answer it and spend 6 minutes trying to figure out the medication this patient is requesting, because “the little white pill” doesn’t exactly narrow it down.
The transfer for the new prescription finally comes through, and I enter it into the system. But the directions from the doctor don’t make sense, so we call the office again for clarification, and spend 5 minutes on hold.
The phone rings again.
I page you to the pharmacy, and you come, expecting to pick up your prescription, but instead, I have to ask if you have new insurance, because the one we have on file says you’re no longer covered. You look for your new card, but you don’t have it. So, you call your spouse, and after 7 minutes they send you a photo of the card.
The phone rings.
I inform you that I need more information than what is given on the front of the card, and you spend another 5 minutes on the phone, when you eventually just put the call on speakerphone, and I spend another 3 minutes explaining why I need the information on the back of the card.
When I finally have all the information, I put your new prescription through to your new insurance carrier, who now tells me it’s been filled at another pharmacy. I call the other pharmacy and ask them to cancel the prescription so I can bill it through here.
Another customer comes to the counter to pick up her prescription that was filled a month ago, and after digging through the drawers for 4 minutes, I receive her full life story as I wait for her to find her change.
After double-checking the medication with you, you now tell me the other pharmacy has transferred over the wrong prescription. I call them back, wait on hold for 3 minutes, and request the correct medication.
The phone rings again.
One of the other pharmacy assistants fills the new medication, puts it through the plan, and when I finally call you to the counter to pay, you inform me you’ve never had to pay anything before.
I go to check where the charge is coming from, and the computer crashes.
When the computer restarts and the program finally loads, it tells me that this medication is not a benefit under the new insurance plan. I spend the next 6 minutes trying to explain that this isn’t something I can control, you yell at me, telling me you don’t want it unless it's fully covered. All while the phone is ringing in my ear.
We can’t control when a doctor will fax in your new prescription, or if your medication is on backorder, or if the doctor forgot to include the special billing code on the prescription. We can’t change the fact that your drug plan won’t cover a medication or change the co-pay your plan expects you to pay. Believe me, the 15-year-old cashier making minimum wage isn’t in a position to enact healthcare system policy change, or force your doctor to respond to a request—she is just trying to make it through a shift without crying.
Yelling at us, swearing at us, calling us useless, and trying to make us feel guilty won’t change that. We are trying our best in a difficult situation, we are flooded with an influx of prescription, working short handed most days due to illness and burnout, and we’re just trying to keep our head above the water.
So next time you feel the need to yell at pharmacy staff, please try to remember we’re humans. So please, have patience, and remember we are doing everything we can with what we’re given.
Be nice to your pharmacy staff.
Or better yet, be nice to everyone.