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At Your Service

When we started in this business, our bosses were the Directors of Pharmacy. That was nearly universal. There were some holdouts who still had Chief Pharmacist running the operation, but most hospital pharmacies were run by the Director of Pharmacy. Over the years the name went through changes, and planned or not, pharmacy departments were controlled by Director of Pharmacy Services, for a brief time Director of Pharmaceutical Care, then back to Director of Pharmacy Services, then for another short while there were complementary positions of Director of Clinical Pharmacy and Director of Pharmacy Operations, and now we’re mostly back to Director of Pharmacy. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean we have given up on the idea of service. Department mission statements are full of “deliver service to…” and “arrange for service to…” or “provide services for…” and it appears that service is characteristic of pharmacy operations. But just having the word around is no guarantee of service.


Lately we both had questionable service where service should have been expected if not outright assured. Diem recently had an installation service delayed for over a week because a required piece of hardware was not delivered with the appliance. The installation team did not have access to the needed pieces because they were the installation “service,” not the delivery “service.” Michael recently had a delivery go awry when a package entrusted to a delivery service (which coincidentally includes the word “service” as part of its name) to go from Point A to Point B was never seen at Point B. The cost of the contents was reimbursed as per their agreement but when questioned about a possible refund on the cost of the “service” he was told that was not part of the warranty.


“Service” is defined as the action of helping or doing work for someone. Merriam Webster goes a step further and adds “a helpful act.” We would argue that in neither of the above examples was help or work done. Others may say work was done. It was not especially helpful, but the definition does not specify the act of helping and doing, merely helping or doing. This is what we call qualified honesty.


Pharmacists as part of our professional obligation provide a service. When we took the Oath of a Pharmacist, we pledged, among other things, “I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients.” This could be stated “I will do work to help my patient.” Work and help. These are qualities of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists and are held in every field of pharmacy.


In an odd paradox, in a profession identified and reimbursed by its product, we are known by and valued for our service. Returning to Webster, a pharmacist is defined as, “a health-care professional licensed to engage in pharmacy with duties including dispensing prescription drugs, monitoring drug interactions, administering vaccines, and counseling patients regarding the effects and proper usage of drugs and dietary supplements.” Notice the verbs: dispense, monitor, administer, counsel. All manners of helpful work, otherwise known as service. Pharmacists’ actions touch every person in the medical community. On a regular basis we speak and serve doctors, physician extenders, nurses, administrators, respiratory therapists, dietitians, lab personnel, patients, and often patients’ families. Those are all opportunities to serve and to be remembered for your service.


Whether our workplaces are known as departments or services, pharmacies or dispensaries, stores or shoppes, we ply a trade that assures positive, optimal outcomes for our patients. We are professionals at dispensing service, and we do so with unqualified honesty.


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