To Err is Human – Unless you’re a pharmacist

I was at an event recently where the hypothetical question was asked – “if you could have any superhuman power – what would it be?”

Of course, the typical ones came to mind – invisibility, mind reading, super strength or the elastic arms like Mrs Incredible (love that dinner table scene in the movie). But when I really thought about it, I realised that on a daily basis I am already displaying and expected to display a super human power. 100% perfection.

As pharmacists we spend our day looking for mistakes. We, quite rightly, are expected to dispense a prescription and give advice to 100% accuracy every time. This is what we are trained for, and we know it is part of the job; so we always come to work knowing that we have to get it right.

Some prescriptions are more complex than others and therefore can take time to check through. We are making sure that everything with the medicine is safe and appropriate for the person, considering such things as interactions with other medicines, age, weight, physical ability and current medical conditions. We are not just putting tablets in to bottles, labelling them and hoping for the best.

Sometimes this is a quick process and sometimes it is not. Waiting times at pharmacies can vary, but invariably the pharmacist is taking the time to invoke their superhuman 100% accuracy power. We don’t want you to wait too long, however we don’t want to stuff it up either – the consequences can be too scary for that.

Unfortunately, mistakes can and do happen and sometimes these can end in tragedy (for everyone). A tiny lapse in concentration, a distraction, long hours, or a mind buzzing with personal problems can dent that super power for a small amount of time and the mistake can happen.

Pharmacies have processes in place to handle dispensing incidents and complaints, and these can also be handled through the Health and Disability commission to censure a pharmacist. “Learning from your mistakes” is an understatement in pharmacy – we most certainly do.

So when you drop off your prescription and see the pharmacist working away, allow them that space for them to invoke their super power. We are doing our utmost to make it a speedy and efficient process, but the 100% accuracy has to be the focus.

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Angelique Arnauld.

 

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