The National Pain Report has received a number of reader comments recently about problems in dealing with their pharmacists. It prompted a thought that maybe how pharmacists are being prepared in school is causing some of this tension. We asked Steve Ariens, a retired pharmacist who writes extensively on chronic pain issues, what he thought. His perspective, as always, is interesting.
I don’t think that the problem is so much with what is taught as to what the selection process is to allow those in pharmacy school. Right now it is highly influenced by academic scores (GPA). Until the recent acknowledged Pharmacist surplus–we had 5-6 applicants for every academic slot. Rumors have it we are now only 1.5 applicants per slot. When I applied to pharmacy school, there was no problem getting in, rather the problem was reaching graduation. There was 39 in my graduating class and just 13 were out of the original 85 freshman declared pharmacy majors.
At the special committee meeting of the Florida Board of Pharmacy in June, they were talking about “educating” Pharmacists – basically educating them in “common sense.” In my experience all too often those who have high academic scores tend have low common sense scores. It is difficult to “teach” common sense. That position, demonstrates to me just how disconnected state Boards of Pharmacies are.
Some of us see a large influx of students, over the last decade, that are being more influenced by the sizeable paycheck, and the perceived job security. We have went from 80 odd pharmacy schools to 120+ schools in the last decade or so and most of the new ones are for profit schools and have went from a 4 yr. program to a 3 yr. – 36 months straight degree and some believe that they are more focused on “teaching to the test.” Pharmacy is a highly scientific based degree and these new grads are all about the data – the black/white of medical care. They know little/nothing about ADA, labor laws. They are well versed on DEA regulationss and the state laws and practice act. Many are $100,000+ in school debt… and that “cocktail” makes them very pliable to the corporation. They are eager to please and not question when they are asked/told to do something that may be unethical, illegal, immoral.
The fact that their mindset is data based means that subjective disease like chronic pain, just throws them. They have no data to make a decision and go into “shutdown mode” because they can’t relate to the medical needs of patients like those who suffer chronic pain.
I once saw a quote from a Pharmacist complaining about having to get vaccination that she “became a Pharmacist… so that she would be a DOCTOR and not have to deal with patients …”
Now, back to the Board of Pharmacy dilemma – a real can of worms. Most are stacked with non-practicing corporate Pharmacists… they will recuse themselves if something comes before the BOP concerning their employer but collectively they will not do anything that will harm the chain store industry. They will take an independent Pharmacist out and because of the surplus – they are imposing tougher fines/suspensions on individual pharmacists because they no longer have to protect the labor pool to make sure their employers have a warm body and license to keep the Rx dept. open.
Only time that I see a BOP act is when controlled meds are involved and/or some sort of immoral issue is involved – other than that they are basically catatonic.
A couple of us just started a new blog www.mederrorsdepot.com/blog we are trying to get pharmacists to come forward with how many errors are happening and being buried and “paid off” and that the numbers are exploding… It has been reported that CVS is having further Rx staff reductions as of the first of the year.. this is the fourth or fifth year in a row of staffing cuts… while their Rx volume continues to grow. With the CVS/Target & WAGS/Rite Aid merger.. that represents about 60% of all the chain store outlets… and they are talking about up to 3000 WAGS/Rite Aid store closures and I look for 600 Target Rx dept. closing. That is another 7000 +/- RPH’s unemployed by the end of 2016-2017 on top of the 3000 +/- of excessive grads that are coming into the market place each year.
The colleges of pharmacy are only a very small part of a larger problem.
Steve Ariens writes on pharmacy and chronic pain issues. His blog can be seen here.