Dear Pharmacy Technician,
I wish this was a letter to praise you on great customer service, but it’s not. I have drafted this letter over 5 times, and each time it ends the same way. No matter how nice I start it, the letter quickly goes down hill. Now, before you get all nervous and stop reading, let me say that this is not a grievance letter either. The purpose of this letter is actually make you aware of your insulting and blatantly disrespectful behavior, and give you the opportunity to change it going forward. A sort of “maybe you weren’t aware” type letter, if you will. But, in full disclosure, there will be no niceties.
I recently visited your pharmacy a few weeks ago, and your assistance left much to be desired. I know, you see hundreds of people each day so it is probably virtually impossible for you to recall who I am. Well, I wish the same could be said for you. You, dear Pharmacy Technician, will be impossible for me to ever forget. See, our interaction just a few short weeks ago has left you forever etched in my brain. I am certain that I will never forget how you teated me during our brief interaction. Initially I thought this was a horrible thing, but I have now found the positive. Once I calmed down and took in the magnitude of your actions, a intense fire was lit inside of me. So, congratulations.
Approximately two weeks ago, on rainy Friday evening around 11pm, I came into your pharmacy wearing pink polka dot pajama pants, a white tank top, one green flip flop and one pink one, and a pink bath rob. I saw you standing at one of the shelves near the pharmacy checkout counter, and slowly walked up to ask for assistance. Despite horrendous pain, I slowly put one foot in front of the other to make my way over to you…periodically dragging one foot because it hurt too much to completely lift it. Visibly in pain, in fact shaking from horrible stomach and joint pain that rendered me unable to stand up straight, I scraped together my last piece of strength to quietly ask “excuse me, can you tell me where I would find the 1ml insulin syringes?” You acknowledged that I spoke to you, in fact you looked me square in the eyes, but walked off without answering my question. Actually, you walked off without saying anything to me. Fighting back tears, I slowly followed you over to the pharmacy check out counter. Is the interaction coming back now? No? Don’t worry, I’ll continue.
After we both reached the pharmacy counter, with tears in my eyes at this point, I asked again “excuse me, can you tell me where I would find the 1ml insulin syringes?” Before I could finish my question, you sharply replied “I heard you the first time, that’s why I had you come over here to the counter”. Confused at your agitation, but determined to get what I needed, I disregarded your unprofessional and blatantly disrespectful tone. You then continued, “I need your name, the exact size of the syringe, and the reason for the syringe.” As you requested, I gave you my name, stated I needed a 27 1 1/2 gauge syringe, and that I needed it to administer my weekly methotrexate injection at a dose of 1ml. Despite the fact that I provided you the information you requested, you asked me the same questions 3 additional times. Fully aware of the redundancy, I nonetheless answered your questions. After speaking with me for over 10 minutes about the size syringe I needed and the reason it was needed, along with checking my name in your system to see if I had an outstanding prescription that would warrant needing syringes (even though I told you I normally use the hospital pharmacy rather than a chain), you stated that “we do not sell that kind” and told me I needed to check another pharmacy.
As you recommended, I traveled across town 20 minutes in the rain to find another pharmacy that carried the syringes I needed. Fortunately, unlike you, the pharmacy technician I encountered saw the medical need for the syringes and did not stereotype me. Yes, Ms. Pharmacy Technician, you read that correctly…you stereotyped me. As I type this today, I am still in disbelief. See, when speaking with you, I didn’t realize that “we do not sell that kind” was actually code for “I am not selling you syringes because I believe you are a drug user”. The nerve of you.
As I type this letter and replay our interaction in my mind, I am physically sick to my stomach. On a rainy night just a few short weeks ago, you stood between me and the supplies I needed to administer critical medication. Rather than use your position as a “go between” for good, you served as interference and a waste of my precious energy. Yes, dear Pharmacy Technician, rather than help or assist, you interfered. While you likely thought you were “protecting” your company from assisting a drug abuser, you actually interfered with a chronically ill woman’s ability to timely administer her much needed medication. Congratulations you arrogant, ignorant, small minded tyrant. Prepare to have your mind blown.
The drug abuser you thought you saw on that rainy Friday evening, is actually a mother of two, wife of a deacon, woman with two degrees, one of which is an advanced degree, but more important an individual that battles with chronic illness and pain. BOOM! See, the night you saw me I had been released from the hospital less than 12 hours before. I was in the middle of a horrible crohn’s flare that had completely deformed a piece of my small intestine and caused a bleeding ulcer, and cut off blood flow to an area of my small bowel. Given your background, you of all people can appreciate the pain associated with what I just described. But, assuming those issues were not enough to explain my visible pain, I was also experiencing a flare of my rheumatoid arthritis which caused my fingers to swell like sausages and burn. In fact, my fingers were so swollen that I drove to your pharmacy in tears because simply holding my steering wheel caused pain worse than childbirth.
Now, I am sure you are reading this thinking “well, I was justified in my assumption given the time, your outfit, and how you were limping around”. Honestly, that thought is as ridiculous as your actions. But, to destroy the mental safe haven you think you have to justify your actions, allow me to give you the background around my outfit. Prior to arriving at your pharmacy, I had spent 2 hours preparing to give myself my weekly injection. I had applied ice to my fingers to remove the severe swelling so I could give myself my injection, spent 30 minutes getting the energy required to get out of bed to drag myself down 15 stairs to sit on the couch near my meds and supplies, and 45 minutes changing into comfortable clothes…which happened to be the pajama pants you saw and the ones I wore during my 6 day hospital stay just one day before. Once I was finally set up, I attempted to do my injection but my last syringe broke as I struggled to maneuver it with my swollen fingers. As I put on shoes to head to your pharmacy for additional syringes, I realized that my feet were entirely too swollen to successfully fit into any of my closed toes shoes…which left flip flops as the only option. I literally only own two pairs of flip flops and could not find the match to either, so I decided mismatch would have to suffice. On my way out the door in my pajama pants, tank top, and mix matched flip flops, I realized I needed I jacket but was physically unable to climb the stairs in my house a second time, so decided to wear my robe.
I give you all this backdrop to say that you should never judge a book by its cover. The very nature of your role requires you to cross paths with people NEEDING your help. As a pharmacy technician, it is VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE that you will not come across someone seriously ill and in chronic pain. Given this, it would seem to me that the better approach would be assume the people that approach you genuinely need help or need supplies for medical reasons, rather than a sinister purpose. Listen, I do not live in fairytale land. I know this world is full of evil people and people that are addicted to drugs that will do whatever they can to get the drugs and supplies they seek. But, knowledge of evil and drug addiction, CANNOT make you see the entire world through a jaded lens. If it does, the harm you inflict on those that cross your path, will be no different than the harm you sought to prevent in the first place.
It is my hope that you are reading this with tears in your eyes, but more importantly with remorse in your heart. Ms. Pharmacy Technician, you never know what a person has been through before they reach you. You had no way of knowing the conditions I had, the fact that I had been hospitalized for 6 days less than 12 hours before our interaction, or the horrific pain I endured to get dressed enough to leave my house. But, what you should have known was that I was sick, needed your help, and regardless of what my background was, I was worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. See, EVEN IF you were right about me, you actions were still inappropriate. EVERYONE that crosses your path MUST be treated with dignity and respect.