Fighting the Pharmacy

Pharmacy Rx symbol

Pharmacy Rx symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A brief summary of my day: up early for Tai Chi class, got home, ran on treadmill, then lifted weights. Rested briefly. Went out to do errands with Kate. Returned home, did a few chore-type things, rested a bit (I’ve been playing this very simple game on my cell phone that nonetheless has me hooked). Watched part of the women’s Wimbledon final with Richard and Kate, then helped to prepare dinner which were grilled Portobello mushroom-burgers (basically a giant Portobello on a gluten free bun) and grilled corn-on-the-cob. It was fantastic. As usual, we watched Jeopardy as we ate.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for…The Wellness Quest!!!

Ok, I apologize. Wheel of Fortune comes after Jeopardy and it is somewhat obnoxious but it put me in a sort of hyped-up mood. Fortunately (no pun intended…see, I am in a strange mood) things are settling down, as am I.

The topic of tonight’s post involves long, torturous phone calls. It involves conflict. It involves money, drugs, anger, blame, and…ultimately, acceptance and understanding.

What does that sound like to you? Well, you’re probably wrong. Because I’m talking about my struggles with the Lake Oswego Safeway Pharmacy!

Yeah, some of you might have guessed that. I know I made it sound pretty dramatic, but after that series of difficulties I have had dealing with my pharmacy and my insurance, etc…It has become something more than a simple exchange of service. For me, it has become a learning experience.

Alright, here’s what happened today:

I turned in a prescription yesterday. At that time, the pharmacist on duty, Gary, told me that they could fill part of it and have it ready for me this morning (30 out of 45 tablets) and that they could get the rest for me on Monday and I could pay for it then. But, when I called today, not in the morning, but in the afternoon, the pharmacist who I talked to, Ngoc (she is Vietnamese), had no idea what I was talking about. She went and looked, and the prescription hadn’t been filled and no one had told her about the arrangement I had made the day before.

Now, that might not sound like a whole lot. But this isn’t the first time that Ngoc and I have interacted. In fact, every single time I have had a problem at this pharmacy, it has been Ngoc that was working at the time.  She brought that up on the phone today.

What she said to me went something like this: “I know that whenever you come in and I’m here there is some problem, and you always get upset with me, but I don’t know…I never know what is happening. I don’t know what Gary tells you or what happened the day before. And I am so busy, I can’t even catch up so I never even knew you had a prescription in yesterday…”

She would have kept going, I think, but I cut her off. I said something to the effect of, “that’s ok, that’s not what I’m calling about.”

I said that because she was actually referring to a different problem with a different prescription. It was a problem that her colleague Gary had fixed for me the day before. But once again, she hadn’t been informed of that.

Our conversation went on until I was able to explain the arrangement I had made yesterday and she had promised to fill part of the prescription for me today and let me pick up the rest on Monday as I had discussed with Gary earlier.

But when I got off the phone, I really began to think about our interactions, wondering if there was a solution.

Honestly, because I have had so many problems with Ngoc at this pharmacy, I had started to consider her incompetent. She has a moderate Vietnamese accent, which makes her difficult for me to understand at times. I really wish I didn’t have to disclose this, because it portrays me in a pretty awful light, but I know that I subconsciously judged her right away because of her accent. The first interaction we had was over the phone, and it was about a prescription that was supposed to have been taken care of but hadn’t been. I talked about that particular situation in a previous post: How to Harmonize. But I know that part of my judgment of her was based on the way she spoke. Again, I am embarrassed to tell you that, because I always try to be as unprejudiced and as non-judgmental as possible.

But my relationship with Ngoc is obviously an opportunity for me to learn to practice what I preach.

I discussed the situation with my aunt and uncle after hanging up the phone with her today. It really hit me when she said, “every time you come in you get upset at me and I don’t know what is going on”. I felt her anxiety, heard the frustration in her voice, but most of all, I heard the plea in her voice, “I am trying, please give me a break!”

After talking with my aunt and uncle about it and thinking through it for a while on my own, I realized that deep down inside I have known that she is not incompetent. In fact, I can clearly see that nearly all the problems I have had with her have stemmed from her co-workers neglecting to pass information on to her when they leave.

One of the things my uncle Richard brought up with me in reference to a previous issue with her was the idea of the system as the problem rather than the individual. And the more I thought about it, the more obvious it was to me that Ngoc was not to blame. In fact, it was the system at fault – there seems to be no concrete method for one pharmacist to pass on information to his/her colleagues when he/she goes off duty. The exchange of the details between employees at this particular pharmacy seems to be extremely lacking.

Either way, the problems are not the fault of any individual, and certainly not the fault of Ngoc, just because she has happened to be on duty every time a miscommunication arises.

But, besides realizing that my accusatory, judgmental attitude was completely misguided, I also had a deeper realization. I realized that, in fact, my energy was part of the problem. From the very first interchange, I have approached interactions with her and with the pharmacy with frustration and zero tolerance. I have been impatient, quick to anger, and generally bad tempered. I realized that this energy I was giving off has been influencing the interactions. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you go into something with negative energy in your body, the world around you will react to you and may end up actually causing the problems that frustrate you.

I know that I have been making this pharmacy situation more difficult because I went into ever interaction radiating one of the most primal human emotions: disgust and contempt. And that kind of energy was making me hard to deal with and making this even worse. Which, of course, increased my contempt. And I ended up in cycle that kept on getting worse.

So, armed with that realization, I was determined to break that cycle today. When I went in to pick up my prescription (which, incidentally, although she had promised it would be ready in a half-hour and we came in almost an hour and a half later, was not ready) I waited patiently and peacefully. And when we spoke, I waited till we had finished and I told her that I understood that the problems weren’t her fault and that I could tell she was trying to help me and that I was sorry for getting upset with her and for being rude to her.

After that, she opened up to my aunt and me. She showed us all the prescription slips that she needed to fill in the next few hours. There was a whole bin of them. And she was working alone because the tech had called in sick, and everyone else she called couldn’t come in either. I have been around enough pharmacies to know how difficult it is to work one alone. She was having to fill prescriptions for people waiting and for ones that were called in. She was answering the phones, and serving the customers in the store. It is too much for anyone to handle on their own. So it made sense why, if staffing was that poorly handled, the communication between employees was neglected. It seemed like she was at her wits end just trying to keep up.

It gave me a whole lot of compassion for her, and it changed my attitude. Yes, I need my medications and yes, I need them in a timely manner. But that doesn’t give me license to treat another human being like they are stupid and incompetent. In the future, I am resolved to consider my interactions with everyone at this pharmacy (and, in fact, service people in general) with respect and consideration despite whatever prejudices I might have. And yes, I have them, no matter how hard I try to be tolerant of everyone.

I know this post is a little long, but I needed to explain the situation and explain the conclusions to which it led me.

I challenge you to think about the energy you bring to your everyday interactions with those around you. Do you have a peaceful presence? Or do you inspire fear, anger, or irritation?

Thanks for reading, and goodnight.

-Nathan

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One response to “Fighting the Pharmacy

  1. Max Planck writes, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” You proved this today by bringing a different energy, a higher energy – loving compassion, in to a tense and stressful situation, and transformed the experience for all involved. Thank you for making such a positive difference!

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