‘Our younger pharmacists are really struggling.’


angry customer patient pharmacist pharmacy

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff have a right to feel safe and be treated with respect, according to a new resource released by PDL and the Pharmacy Guild

The Pharmacy Guild and PDL have collaborated to produce a new flyer for pharmacies called ‘Your Rights and Responsibilities’.

This flyer highlights what patients should expect from their pharmacy and its staff, and also what the pharmacy and staff should expect from the patient.

Community pharmacy owner Curtis Ruhnau, who approached the Guild with the idea a few months ago, said there was a need to support pharmacists who are often abused or bullied by patients.

“Because I’m involved in PDL and now with the Pharmacists’ Support Service as well, I know that our younger pharmacists are really struggling because they’re feeling like they’re not being treated with respect,” Mr Ruhnau told AJP.

“They feel like nobody understands and that nobody’s even telling the patients or customers that [pharmacy staff] need to be treated with respect. That is causing incredible stress to them and maybe even causing us to lose some of our best and brightest.

“It’s easy for me, as a fairly tall middle-aged white guy, to expect that people are going to not just swear at me and try to intimidate me,” he said.

“Yet some of my younger staff who aren’t as tall as I am actually have this happen regularly and they’re not afforded the respect that is a basic human decency. That’s where this came from.”

Expectations of patient behaviour from the flyer include, among others:

  • To be courteous and respectful and provide a safe environment for our staff, other workers and visitors to our pharmacy.
  • To be patient during busy times and understand that we have processes we must follow for your safety.

Mr Ruhnau said he hopes the flyer will remind everyone in the pharmacy of expectations for their behaviour.

“Putting this up on the wall won’t de-escalate a situation, that’s far too much to expect of a flyer. However, when we put this up on the wall in the pharmacy, I will say to all of the staff in our pharmacy – this means I expect that you will be treated with respect, and if you feel like you’re not, then you need to tell me.

“As the business owner, it’s my responsibility to make sure that gets done.”

It’s not just for patients but for anybody who visits the pharmacy, said Mr Ruhnau, including suppliers and visiting specialists.

“They have the right to be able to come in and expect not to be yelled at indiscriminately. Just like other patients who might happen to come into the pharmacy also have a right to feel safe,” he said.

“We tried to write it fairly broadly so it’s not just pharmacy staff who are afforded this respect, it’s also other people who might be in the pharmacy at the time.”

He thanked the Guild for their work on the document.

“They’ve just been fantastic, They’ve understood the need and have been working on it with me the whole time.”

The flyer is available for member download on the PDL and Guild sites

The Guild has also developed courses for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants on dealing with difficult and challenging behaviours in the pharmacy.

Are you copping abuse from patients? Let us know in our poll

Pharmacists who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support service on 1300 244 910.

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