The Slap: bearing pharmacy’s pain

pills make a sad face

Pharmacy is under a lot of pressure, writes Mouhamad Zoghbi—but does keeping worries to yourself help your team?

I’d like tell you about something that happened at my home recently. I was on the couch, tickling my two-year-old daughter Amari, and blowing raspberries on her belly. Then, out of nowhere she slapped me in the face—a slap so hard my ancestors’ bones rattled!

And then, with authority, she said “I want chocolate!”

Shocked, I didn’t know what to do. Should I get angry and discipline her by putting her in the naughty corner, or take a different approach?

Whatever the discipline was, it needed to be something assertive, because I don’t want to encourage her to use such aggressive behaviour whenever she wants something. She looked me directly in the eye with a defiant stare that was almost enough to freeze the air I breathed.

Usually in similar circumstances, I’d get angry.

This time though, I decided to do something different. Instead, I showed her that I was in pain. What came next was one of the most meaningful moments I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Amari’s defiant little face started to show emotion. Her lips started to quiver, her innocent blue eyes flooded with tears and then she burst into a heartfelt cry that was full of sorrow and regret. She embraced me with all the love and affection in the universe, laid her head on my shoulder and cried from all her heart. Unable to absorb her sorrow, I cried with her. It was one of the greatest exchange of human affection that can ever be experienced.

Why is this story relevant to you?

How many times do you get slapped in the face?

Whether it be through family, friends, or within your pharmacy, you are confronted with countless blows that sometimes rattle you to the core.

From October 2016 we will see a price reduction of some generic medicines of up to 50% due to the removal of the originator brand versions from the weighted average disclosed price calculations.

That’s not to mention the painful effects of intensifying price wars, external competition, wholesaler discounts and credit term reductions, rents, wages… only to name a few.

This has resulted in significant cutbacks in pharmacy assistants and other staff levels, increasing the burden on the remaining pharmacy team and creating a vicious cycle of reduced patient interaction and pressure to increase sales.

Unfortunately, with all these pressures I clearly witness pharmacy teams working without a sense of care. Many of us dislike our jobs… and this is the biggest slap in the face you can ever have: a demotivated team that adds salt to the wound.

For this reason, you need to show them that you’re hurting. Your pharmacy assistants and other staff need to know that the dynamics of the industry are changing, and that the pressures on them are there not because you want them there, but because you don’t have a lot of choice.

Don’t be ashamed or feel vulnerable to express the pain inflicted upon you. Why? Because you will be amazed as to how your team may embrace the pharmacy and feel what you feel.

Letting your team know that you’re hurting can ignite a sense of ownership and pride that you may never have witnessed before.

Our human spirits have an innate feeling of empathy towards one another: embrace this and with your team conduct brainstorm meetings to find innovative or just simplified ways to improve your pharmacy’s performance.

Trust in them, because they know much more than you actually think they know.

My daughter Amari’s response to my pain taught me an invaluable lesson. For this reason, I would like to extend my expertise in pharmacy communication and selling skills to support any pharmacy that needs guidance in these turbulent times with no strings attached.

I believe that it is time that we all rallied around each other and found ways to inspire one another.

It is not wrong to show you’re hurting, but it is wrong to keep the pain within yourself and not do anything about it.


Mouhamad Zoghbi is the author and founder of ‘The Prescription For Pharmacy,’ specialised in the training and development of pharmacy teams and leaders. His goal is to create high performance pharmacy environments based on enhancing pharmacy communication and selling skills that improve health outcomes and increase profitability. You can get in touch with Mouhamad at

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