Tales from Sark’s World: Rants from a Pharmacy

In case you missed it, or if I forgot to mention it, a few years back, I took a course to become a Pharmacy Technician. It’s basically an “official” title for a Pharmacy Assistant, the person who takes your prescription, fills it, does a bunch of other stuff, and takes your money when you pick it up. Up here in my part of the Great White North, the “Registered” Pharmacy Technician, also does some of the jobs a Pharmacist used to do, freeing them up to do more stuff like flu shots.

Waaay back in 2012, I was unemployed. Job hunting was getting me nowhere. So I looked to start a new career. Unfortunately, being a writer wasn’t what the government wanted. They gave me a choice and for some ungodly reason, I chose Pharmacy Technician. I’ll tell you why my choice was ungodly soon enough.

So I took the course. It was interesting enough. I always enjoyed school, well, I always enjoyed the college, and this was like college, minus the quality of instructors (not all were bad), curriculum (such as it was), and do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do corporate mentality.

But half way through, I began to realize something. I didn’t really like it. Sure there were elements I did enjoy. But I ad this feeling that this wasn’t for me. But, with so many people depending on me (IE: pressure), I continued on, hoping that I’d find my way.

I graduated and three months ago, I started working in the field. In that short time, this is what I learned…

1. People are stupid.

There are various reasons why people are stupid. Like people taking numerous drugs not paying attention to their work’s drug benefit plan, then getting pissy wondering why their drugs cost so much. People telling you to hurry cause their child is sick, but when they see it costs more than they expected, raising a stink about it, which delays their precious child getting their medicine that they were hurrying you about 10 minutes ago. People having no clue what drugs they are taking. Here is an example of an exchange I’ve had more than once…

Stupid person: “Could you refill my prescription?”

Me: “Sure, which one?”

Stupid person: “The little yellow ones.”

Me: “Um, ok. Do you know the name of the particular drug?”

Stupid person: *snort* “No!”

 

2. It is a business.

I had this high-minded idea of what working in a pharmacy would be like. It would be helping people when they are sick, concerned for a loved one, and ensuring they got the treatment, while being treated with respect, compassion, and courtesy.

I was wrong. It’s a business, one where a lot of money can be made. And like many of the other retailers out there, there is money to be made, and customers to be won via points systems, company credit cards, and surveys. Where asking someone if they “strongly agree” with how good their service was, as so to implant the phrase in their mind when they fill out the survey, made me wonder why I just didn’t become a telemarketer. At least they don’t have to deal with people face-to-face and see the customer’s puzzled look when I ask them “How was their shopping experience?” when all they came for was the prescription.

 

3.  In-School Edjumication Vs Real-World experience

During my course, we spent 4 weeks (if memory serves) on anatomy, something I have yet to use during my placement or jobs in the pharmacy. The week we barely spent on dealing with people’s work benefits was absolute crap compared to how to deal with in the real world. Our course on entering prescriptions was focused on speed rather than actually learning how to do it properly, and learning how to fix errors. I sincerely think that if I had got a job in a pharmacy for a year instead of taking the course, I’d probably have learned more practical and useful information.

There are people in my class that got a lot out of the course. But I didn’t. Which brings me to…

 

4. I suck at it

Now before you think I’m being too hard on myself, consider this…

The last two, long-term jobs I had before being laid-off involved a steep learning curve in industries that, at the time, I had no clue about. Yet I was somehow able to learn how to do things and advance through both of them. Despite being unsure of myself, I managed to over-come the obstacles. Even when I was at my most unsure and nervous, I never though to myself “I really suck at this.”

More often than not, I think that at the pharmacy. Sure there are things I can do well enough, but the thing is, I know how serious an error can be here. It won’t just affect an inanimate object, it could seriously injure someone. So whenever I make a mistake, which seems to be pretty regularly, my stress grows. As my stress grows, so do my mistakes. I forget to do something, add in a piece of information, click a box on the profile, or whatever. It’s like a snowball effect.

Then there’s the pressure from those around me. When I got a job in the pharmacy industry, they told me how proud they were, talked about seeing me at work, looking so professional. Too bad they couldn’t have seen me when I screwed up something and got a serious talking to from my boss. It also made me wonder if those same people, who had been so proud and supportive of me in some job that I picked off a list, had supported me in my first choice of career, my true goal in life, writing, maybe that confidence might have spurred me to make a different choices.

By the way, if you think any of this is my boss’ fault, nope, it isn’t. We actually had a chat about my progress after a couple of months. He knew I was having a hard time, that my heart wasn’t in it, that I wasn’t giving 100%. He was bang-on! As hard as I have tried, there were times when I was at an utter loss, overwhelmed, and I felt that at any moment, the boss will just shake his head and say “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” Despite all the jobs I’ve had before, I have never felt stupid, and I really hate feeling that way. I don’t think I’m a stupid person. I have had jobs where I was stressed out, over-worked, exhausted, and temporarily overwhelmed. But I learned the job and improved. I have never felt stupid. In this job, I feel stupid.

I could try to blame someone else, but in the end, the blame is on me. Waaay back, when I was at the crossroads, trying to determine my future, if I had had more confidence in myself, I should have fought for something that ether utilized my writing skills, or enhanced my then-current work-related skills. But I let myself be talked into something that would be government-funded and that the work force needed. I did that instead of fighting for what I wanted.

 

I’ve already had some people try to tell me to “just give it time”, or “you just need more experience”. There may be some actual truth to their words, but it won’t be at my current/ former place of employment. After my 3-month probationary period is done, so am I. Now the question is, will I continue to pursue this career, or will I have to re-evaluate. But one thing I have learned for sure is that what I envisioned in a pharmacy is not what the reality is like. And that is quite disappointing.

If there are a life lessons to be learned here, maybe they include…

Don’t pick a career off a list. Don’t always listen to the well-meaning words of those around you, especially when they don’t understand, or have their own agenda. Trust your instincts. If you have a dream and a drive to pursue it, do what you can to make that happen so that someday, you can prove the doubters wrong! Ok, maybe less vindictiveness in that last one, but you get my point.

Whatever my next job is, whether it be back in a pharmacy, or something else that puts money in my pocket, it is simply a means to an end, as it should be.

In the mean time, I have more important things to do, and its about frickin’ time I did them!

Stay tuned!

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