This past week, I went back to work at my pharmacy for the weekend. It’s something that felt so familiar, like muscle memory, riding a bike, nothing had changed. I clocked in, put my coffee on the counter and went to print my credentials.
The day started like always, chaotic at best. From the moment you walk in to the moment you leave, you’re running. Not like a marathon, where the pace is steady and constant, but more like 500m dash, sprinting from one task to another with no time for breaks. While your mind goes rampant thinking about all returns, cash loss reports, the 200 prescriptions that have yet to be inputted, Carol’s antibiotic reconstitute at pickup, the transfer that needs to be sent in from 3219, the 300 prescriptions that need to be processed, and the 28 totes full of medication that need to be sorted and organized, the phone rings for the 4th time in 8 minutes.
Each day is a constant reminder of the broken. The broken system that doesn’t look at people for what they are but as mere numbers in a report or a statistic. The broken people that are left behind with copays they can’t afford, restrictions and limitations from their own medications, and constant loops of people within the system that don’t provide them with resources, understanding, or even honesty, but rather push them along to the next “representative.” A broken set of doors that keep all aspects of healthcare professionals separated into their respective entities to further the disruption of information and care for the system was originally built for in the first place, the patient. The broken expectations that have allowed a place that was held for therapy, rehabilitation, and salvation of life into this abused, misinformed, cold setting to value points, yelp reviews, and dollar bills over honesty, trust, and safety of health, body, and mind.
A man walks in angry, confused, and impatient. He spoke rudely to my coworker and rather than take the wrong course of action or misspeak, she stepped aside so someone else could assist him. I as manager, am responsible for keeping things afloat and assisting any and every patient, regardless of their demeanor. I told myself that whatever he is dealing with must be terrible enough to account for his attitude and very kindly asked him what I could do for him. Our eyes met and he could see I truly wanted to help him. He explained to me the ordeals he was going through with his dying wife and living situation. He had also just moved here from across the country and had been trying to get his wife’s medication for weeks on his own. I went ahead and used my years of expertise to do as much as I could for him. In this day in age, insulin is sadly very limited and my hands were tied. But I could contact his doctor, give him a courtesy supply of her blood pressure medication to hold her over for a couple days, and listen to him as he spoke about his struggles. This man represents just one of many, many patients who fall between the cracks of this system. Not due to ignorance or not caring about his situation enough, but for the way “things are.”
Too many times, I’ve had to look people in the face and tell them their maintenance medication has shot up another 100 dollars. Too many times, I’ve had to tell people, that we need to go through a couple of weeks of authorizations, insurance approvals, and doctor consults to rectify medications or switch to a medication that the insurance deems “necessary.” Too many instances where patient’s go without medications due the fact that $300 per month isn’t enough, because the deductibles STILL haven’t been met so their medication is still not within that patient’s price range. So many patient’s who go through interviews, applications, and several weeks waiting for Medicaid and state funding to be active just to find out the things they need are not covered within their plan and in 3-4 weeks they’ll have to go through this system again for approval.
Most days have us on our feet, sick, pregnant, hungry, always shifting our focus on the patient. Putting ourselves in their shoes and placing every resource we have in front of them to mend whatever pieces we can. And as more patient’s come through and more assistance is needed, less coverage is distributed throughout the pharmacies. I mean, after all, its not like the staff does anything anyway. Nothing more than slapping labels on some bottles and calling it a day, right?
This is just one day at a pharmacy. One perspective of an entire network. One story of a man who represents so many walking in different shoes. The system is broken. More than I’d like to imagine, but while that may be, there’s people who still believe in the purpose of it. Who still have hope for the future. Those who know that there needs to be someone on the other side, fighting for someone. Anyone. Everyone.
Someone has to.