Pharmacy is always wrong. I’ve noticed that. No matter who Pharmacy fights with— whether it’s doctors, patients, nurses, administrators, or other department managers. No matter how logical we are. Or no matter how well we follow the rules. They are right and Pharmacy is wrong!
Even if one of the parties has to concede or compromise— it’s always Pharmacy. If one of the parties has to take on extra tasks— it’s Pharmacy. And if one of the parties has to do more with less— it’s Pharmacy.
Battling With A Doctor
It seemed that physicians were always Pharmacy’s biggest foil. And it wasn’t just Pharmacy. Most physicians ruled the roost. These doctors got whatever they wanted and did whatever they wanted. This was regardless of any procedures or rules that were ever in place. If a physician screamed and the other side didn’t concede, it was certain that the doctor would go over your head and get what they wanted
One afternoon, I received a call from a doctor. He wanted a specific brand of cough syrup for his patient. A brand that the pharmacy did not carry.
First of all, the pharmacy had a closed formulary. That meant that the pharmacy did not carry every medication available. The pharmacy did have about five or six other brands of cough syrup. They were all very similar and quite effective. I suggested that the physician write for one of the brands that the pharmacy carried.
Second, there was a procedure in place in our hospital. If a physician wanted a particular medication for a one-time use situation, the doctor could fill out an emergency request form. Then, the pharmacy would make every attempt to obtain the medication.
Personally, I did not consider that a particular brand of cough syrup fell into an emergency request category. But I was willing to obtain the medication, if the physician filled out the form.
The physician knew that we had several other brands of cough syrup. He was well aware of the emergency request form procedure. He became irate. And started to yell and scream over the phone. And eventually he hung up the phone on me.
I held my ground, but I knew what the outcome was going to be. And about ten minutes later, I received a call from the Vice President of Medical Affairs. It seemed that the physician had called the vice president, demanding the particular brand of cough syrup that he wanted. And now the vice president was calling and ordering me to obtain this particular brand of cough syrup for this physician’s patient.
Practicing My Mantra
I really never like arguing with someone. It’s not fun. And whereas somebody else might enjoy going one-on-one with a doctor, or nurse, or colleague— I don’t.
My goal therefore is simple. Whenever I find myself in an argument with someone, I always remember my mantra:
“Do I want to reach a resolution with the person or do I want to win the argument?”
Because if I want to win the argument, then I just keep battling until I win or until there’s a stalemate with the other person.
However if I want to reach a resolution, then I take a different tactic. I try to diffuse the argument and minimize the fighting when I find myself in a confrontation with someone. Here are the four principles that I employ:
1) Whenever I find myself in an argument, my goal is to reach a consensus and not try to win the argument. When two people argue and they both try to win the argument, one of two things happens (a) one person wins the argument while the other person loses the argument, or (b) there is a standoff and neither party wins the argument (in this case, quite often, an outside party decides the “winner”). In both of these cases either one or both parties are not happy because they did not win the argument.
Thus, whenever I argue, I try to reach a consensus where both myself and the other person can be satisfied with the outcome. I may have to give up a few things, and (hopefully) they will give up a few things as well. But I feel it’s important to compromise, resolve the issue, and keep both people happy.
2) The person that yells and screams loses the argument. And it doesn’t have to be the “first” person that yells and screams. It can be either person, at any time during the argument. Suppose there are two people arguing. I don’t know what the argument is about. I do not know who is more knowledgeable about the topic or who is making better key points. However, let’s suppose I see one person yelling and screaming. They are very animated. They are frantically waving their arms. And they are hurling insults at the other person, while calling them names. It is in my opinion that this person has lost the argument, regardless of the intelligence of their remarks.
3) I speak very softly when I argue. This is practically the opposite of point #2. When arguing, I talk very quietly. Sometimes I even whisper. I do this for several reasons: (a) it allows me to remain calm and better collect my thoughts, (b) I watch what I say. By speaking quietly, I am less likely to make inappropriate comments, (c)I’m not viewed by others as an unprofessional individual or a raving lunatic, and (d) by my speaking softly, it sometimes forces the other person to pause and listen to what I’m saying. This in turn, diffuses the argument and allows the other person and me to work together to resolve the issue.
4) I hang up on myself. Obviously, this one only works when I’m arguing on the phone. Remember, the goal of any argument. It’s to stop the argument and have both sides work to reach a consensus. Thus, when I am arguing over the phone, I wait until I am the one speaking. Then I hang up on myself. This generally catches the other person off guard. But it breaks the argument and gives both the person and me a chance to calm down. I generally wait a minute or two. Then I call the person back and say:
“Hi, I was in the middle of speaking and the phone call was disconnected. I don’t want to continue butting heads with you, because this argument is going nowhere! So how about if I do X,Y, and Z and you do A, B,and C, then we can resolve this issue and stop fighting?”
Most times, the other person is receptive. However, even if the person isn’t willing to do A, B,and C, at least this tactic stops the back and forth bickering. It creates a dialogue and encourages both sides to reach an agreement.
In closing, I always try to stand up for myself. And always attempt to get what I want. I also want to do what’s right. But fighting with others never accomplishes anything. I try to avoid it whenever I can.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.