Pharmacist apathy – or lack of knowledge and care factor?


bored-looking young pharmacist writing on a clipboard

There’s no excuse for just going through the motions in pharmacy, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

I admit to being one of those people who seek out the programs that can assist and benefit patients. The patients that I encounter in both my consulting work and when I am in the community pharmacy benefit from my knowledge and expertise.

I am also one of those pharmacists who become angry when I encounter lazy pharmacists who perform the minimum amount of tasks each day when working in the pharmacy environment.

In recent times we had a lady come to us for DAA packing. She normally has her DAAs packed in Sydney and is given a large quantity at one time. This lady has a DVA Gold card and is on a lot of medication.

When setting up the DAA I asked whether she had an authority prescription that covered off on the costs of the DAAs. She had no knowledge of this.

I also asked whether she had undertaken a recent Home Medicine Review as she was taking a lot of medications and was clearly not very well. She had no knowledge of this process either.

I telephoned the pharmacy in Sydney and asked about the authority for DAA packing. The pharmacist explained that she was ‘just the locum’ and that the owner did not ‘get into those kinds of things’. They packed for six weeks at a time and charged all patients a fee for packing.

I then rang the GP to try and discuss applying for an authority from DVA for the packing fees. The lady that answered the telephone told me that the GP was overseas and that there was no locum to cover his patients.

On discussion with the patient I was told that this was a regular occurrence and that the GP always provided the prescriptions that the pharmacy needed when he returned to Australia.

This mess was becoming worthy of a letter to AHPRA by the minute.

This situation is very sad and very bad for this patient. She is elderly with many comorbidities and requires the care of a GP who is accessible. She is paying money for services that DVA would provide at no cost to her but no one in her care cycle had cared enough to investigate and organise this for her.

As I discussed the programs that she could access I came to realise that she probably has not had access to any of the programs within the Coordinated Veterans Care Program.

I am amazed when I encounter pharmacists who are happy to just routinely go to work, dispense and go through the basic motions of being a pharmacist. They provide minimal care and support to patients.

I am dismayed and angry when patients tell me that they have never been counselled or informed about programs or even appliances that can assist them.

It is frustrating to work within an industry where such an apathetic work ethic can be considered okay.

Being someone who never steps back from a confrontation, I have asked some of these pharmacists to attend CPD and networking events so that they gain knowledge and understanding of the programs and services available to the patients.

These pharmacists tell me that they are happy to gain their CPD from reading a magazine or doing the online modules. They do not realise or want to know how much more they can gain by networking and interacting with fellow health professionals.

Apathy in the workplace is not just a pharmacy issue. We all complain loudly about the barista who serves cold coffee, the retail assistant who cannot smile and the delicatessen person who sneezes over your sandwich.

Being a pharmacist comes with a lot of responsibility. It is not good enough to provide a minimum standard of care to the patients who put their wellbeing into your hands each day.

I am not asking for you to be an amazing driven human being, but I am asking that you ensure your knowledge and capacity to provide knowledge, advice and professional service is worthy of the profession that you have chosen as a career.

If you are only marking time in this profession as a means to an end or for the money, it is time to move on. We are health professionals, with a duty of care.

Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has just been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.

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