Barriers in Pharmacy

There are plenty of pharmacists out there who do not hear as well as they did a few decades ago. But we better get it right.

The voice on the other end of the phone line seemed distracted. First, she had to finish up with a prior conversation before she could talk with me. I could tell that she was not holding the phone near her mouth.

When she finally got to me, she said, “I want to call in a prescription for mumble mumble mumble.”

“I’m sorry. I do not hear you very well.”

I am not alone. There are plenty of pharmacists out there who do not hear as well as they did a few decades ago. But get us on a conversation where the information imparted is critical to a patient, we better get it right.

This is what happened when I could not understand what this doctor was trying to order for a patient named mumble mumble mumble:

“I can’t hear you,” I repeated. “Please put the phone closer to your mouth.”

“I know how to use a telephone, honey.” Those words I heard very well. She DID put the phone closer to her mouth for the “honey” sentence, but the rest was mumble mumble mumble.

“Please, doctor. Cooperate with me. I want your patient to get exactly what you want, in the correct dose with the correct instructions. I can’t do that if I cannot understand what you are saying.”

“I’ll go slower,” she said with another sigh. “Mumble mumble mumble.”

“Slower doesn’t matter,” I said. “You just have to put the phone closer to your mouth.”

“I don’t HAVE to do anything. You HAVE to listen.”

“I’ll listen as best as I can. So far, I don’t even know who the patient is.”

“I told you twice.”

“But you did not have the phone near your mouth. I did not get the patient’s name.”

There was a silence. “Oh forget it,” she said and hung up.

Now, I do not know what happened next. Did she whine to the patient about the pharmacist and suggest a second pharmacy? Did she call back later WITH THE PHONE CLOSER TO HER MOUTH? Perhaps she called when I was at lunch and talked to a pharmacist with 50-something ears. Did the patient have to go without?

This was a young doctor and she was balanced precariously on the ego high wire. How long before she fell off with a thud?