Friday, October 12, 2012

A Day in the Life of a (Retail) Pharmacist

I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate my professional life into the blog since I spend so much time at work and it’s such a big part of who I am. I went to school for six years to earn my doctor of pharmacy degree, but I feel like I hardly ever dive into the details of my career on my website! When I put a call out on Facebook last week for post ideas, one person commented that they would like to see a post detailing the misconceptions about pharmacists. While I love that idea, I thought it’d be fun to entertain the topic by writing a post about what I do on a daily basis.


Before I jump into the details, I want to preface by saying that for those who don’t know, I am a community, or a retail, pharmacist. In other words, I am the pharmacist stereotype – someone who works either at a chain pharmacy, big box store, or a locally owned independent pharmacy. However, this is not the only type of pharmacist that there is. Actually, there are tons of directions that you can go with a pharmacy degree, including hospital pharmacy, academia, home infusion, compounding, nuclear pharmacy, and so much more. All of these jobs are so incredibly different, so I want to make it clear that not every pharmacist is going to have a job like mine.


(That’s me at my compounding rotation back in February. It was one of my favorite rotations!)

Secondly, I want to point out that I work in a very busy pharmacy. Many smaller pharmacies have no pharmacist overlap, but they only fill about 150-200 prescriptions per day. Often times, those pharmacists work solo 12 hours shifts and usually only have one or two techs during the day. My pharmacy fills over 500 prescriptions on weekdays, and we have to have more than one pharmacist at a time. Our shifts are eight hours, with the exception of weekends where we work an eleven hour day on Saturday and a nine hour day on Sunday.

We have three staff pharmacists at my store, and we have a rotating schedule. However, most days at work are more or less the same. On Tuesday I worked an opening shift, which is 6:30 am-2:30 pm, and here’s what went down that day:

6:30 am: Arrive at pharmacy, turn off alarm system, open up all eight computers in the pharmacy.

6:40 am: Start filling prescriptions that are in the work queue. These prescriptions include refills called in by patients throughout the night as well as prescriptions that were e-scribed (emailed) by physicians. By “filling,” I mean typing out the prescription, billing it to the insurance company, and printing out labels. On this particular day, there were only 30 prescriptions in the queue when I walked in. However, it’s not uncommon to have two or three times that amount. The most I ever walked into was 104.

7:10 am: Pull drugs off the shelf and start counting all of the prescriptions I just filled.

7:30 am: My first pharmacy technician arrives and takes over counting. I move down the counter to the pharmacist “checking” station and start verifying prescriptions. Verifying, or checking, means doing the final review of the prescription before it gets hung up for the patient to pick up. I have to make sure everything is correct, including the right patient, drug, dose, directions, refills, written date, and doctor. I also open up every prescription vial and make sure the right pills are in the bottle. Additionally, I check over the potential drug interactions and determine which ones are significant and should be brought to the patient’s and/or doctor’s attention.

8:00 am: My second tech arrives, and the pharmacy opens at this time. I open the gates and start helping guests that have begun to line up.

8:01 am: Phone starts ringing.

8:20 am: First flu shot of the day! Part of my job includes administering vaccinations on a walk-in basis. Lately, we’ve been going through flu shots, shingles shots, and pneumonia shots like crazy.


(Practicing my technique before administering flu shots at a clinic we did on an academic rotation last October)

9:00 am: Third tech arrives. I make phone calls to two different doctor’s offices to verify prescriptions that were written incorrectly. One had the wrong directions, and one had the wrong dosage form.

9:10 am: Guest is waiting at the pharmacist consultation window; she wants a recommendation for what cold medicine she should use. Second cold question of the day. I make a recommendation, then run out of the pharmacy to show her where to find the product. Get stopped twice on the way back.

10:00 am: Fourth tech arrives. We start to get pretty busy.

10:30 am: Fifth tech arrives. We really need her. At this point, we have over sixty prescriptions in the queue. More people at the consultation window, more stuffy noses.

10:45 am: The prescription drop-off line has four people in it, the pick up line has about ten. I can’t see how many people are waiting in the drive-through line, but I don’t ask. I’m stuck at my station, still checking prescriptions and answering the phone. Crap, someone is waiting at the consultation window with a question. And two people are waiting for flu shots.

11:00 am: The second pharmacist arrives, and immediately starts to help at the pick-up window since the line is so long. Prescription queue has climbed to seventy. Patients are upset that their prescriptions aren’t ready, but they come in faster than we can type them.

11:30 am: The other pharmacist takes my spot and relieves me for a lunch break. I’m starving!

12:00 pm: I return to the pharmacy and typing prescriptions on a back computer. Still answering the phones. Still helping guests at the consultation window.

12:30 pm: Two more techs arrive.

12:45 pm: Guest approaches the counter and requests a cholesterol and liver function test, which we now do on a walk-in basis. The only other tech who is trained to do this is trying to check in the drug order, so I volunteer to do the tests. Two finger sticks and about twenty minutes later, I’m done and he’s on his way.

1:00 pm: Third pharmacist of the day arrives.

1:15 pm: Three more flu shots.

1:30 pm: Type prescriptions, answer phones, help at the pick-up window, check my work email.

2:45 pm: Run for my life Go home for the day. Plop on my couch.

Now, I just want to clarify – I do like my job; for the most part. As you can see, my days can be pretty stressful, but I like helping people and I like being a pharmacist. However, I wish we weren’t quite so busy so I could spend more time talking with patients about their medications and answering their questions. I always feel so rushed, but I guess that’s just part of the job.

I always like reading other people’s “day in the life” posts, so hopefully you enjoyed this one. Let me know if you would like to see more pharmacist related posts in the future!


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