The Worst Terms in Retail Pharmacy

A few months ago I stepped back into the world of retail pharmacy, taking a management position with a large chain company and resuming my life as a full time retail pharmacist.  I have been working retail since 2006 and have worked my way up from tech, intern, staff pharmacist, and now pharmacy manager.  Along the way I have worked for several large chains, big box, and independent pharmacies and learned that no matter who you are working for there is always some terminology that everyone in the field uses.  In my opinion these are some of the worst terms in the field of retail pharmacy.


  • What it means: A pharmacist who does not have a home store, and covers shifts throughout a district when people need time off.
  • Why I hate it: It seriously sounds like a turd.  Couldn’t we as a profession filled with learned doctors put our heads together to find a better term?  Sometimes that description is fitting though because the floater pool is often filled with people who are either too inexperienced to be placed in a store or are unable to handle the rigors of working in a store consistently, which is a shame.  I personally love floating to different stores and enjoy the challenge of working with a new staff and an unfamiliar patient base every day, and have used that position to be a boots on the ground resource for my district managers.  Whenever field leadership is in the store people are on their best behavior, it is best to observe how they treat strangers, and after a few days in the store I can find the best aspects of each pharmacy and identify opportunities for improvement, but unfortunately most floaters are just there trying to survive the day before getting the paycheck.


  • What It means: The other pharmacist who works in the store.  Generally works opposite shifts resulting in 2 pharmacists who technically work together but mostly know each other from hastily scribbled notes left on scrap paper.
  • Why I hate it: Partner is a good term, but it can be confusing explaining it to strangers.  I once was covering a store and said “My partner is going to Disney next week so I am picking up a lot of overtime” and the tech said “That is so sad that he is not taking you with him.”  I then had to explain that it was my work partner, not a man who I was in a relationship with.  I have no problem with people thinking that I am gay, but I have a serious issue with the fact that she would think that I would ever date the type of monster who would go on vacation to Disney without me.

Prior Authorization

  • What it means: The insurance required the doctor to call them in order to approve payment for a medication that is not on their formulary because it is over a certain price threshold or has a cheaper alternative
  • Why I hate it: The number one thing I get when I try to explain it to a patient is “But my doctor already approved it, that is why he wrote the prescription.”  The patient doesn’t realize that the doctor is ignorant of what medications are covered, and even the most on the ball prescribers can’t stay up to date on the changes to thousands of insurance formularies.  But because the patient is ignorant of what the doctor is ignorant of the pharmacy staff becomes the people who are sworn at because all the patient wants is to be handed a medication and we can’t do that.  When people tend to shoot the messenger it sucks to be the messenger, the least that the insurance can do is come up with a term that is less confusing.


  • What it means: Computer training
  • Why I hate it: Every company has to have their own set of nifty terminology in order to feel special.  Since we already work in a world awash in acronyms they need to further confuse some of the basic company issued training that everyone is supposed to do.  It is hard enough to keep on top of the situation where “HW is as 84YO M with HTN, DM, and BPH and allergies to PCN and MTX.  He presents to the pharmacy with complaints of HA and a dry cough possibly due to ACEI use that he has been treating with DXM,” but then once you get done you have to do your CBT or else your PDM will yell at you, since as PIC you need to set an example for the rest of your staff.

Community Pharmacy

  • What it means: Retail pharmacy
  • Why I hate it:  Just 10 years ago it was respectable to work retail pharmacy.  Back before mandatory doctorates and expanded residency training people could work retail and be an important part of the field, but all of a sudden things changed.  Schools started developing a clinical focus which turns out higher quality pharmacists and helps to further the profession, but it left retail behind.  Despite the changing clinical outcomes that many chains are promoting it is still a numbers game where you are expected to fill more scripts in less time with less staff.  In order to combat the language of students saying that they were going to work “Just retail” some do gooder professor who had clearly never worked in a retail pharmacy coined the term “Community pharmacy.”  It is an overly aggrandized term intended to shine shit in order for everyone to feel more accomplished no matter what branch of the profession they work in.  Unfortunately we are all pretty smart people, and we see community pharmacy for the BS term that it is, especially since there are very few pharmacies or pharmacists who live up to the standard of serving their community.  I have worked retail pharmacy for most of the past decade, mostly in small towns in rural areas and I don’t feel that I have ever been able to serve the community in the way that a true community pharmacist would.  This term is actually insulting because it says “You are doing the same thing that you have always done, but I think that we should call you something different because it looks better” and it is endemic of many of the problems found in the profession of pharmacy.  As a whole we are like the kid wearing his dad’s suit, we are puffed up and trying to act like we belong but since we spend so much time trying to project an image there is no substance behind it and all the other medical professions are laughing at us.  We as a profession will never grow if we are more worried about image than about substance.

While I have been negative about many of these terms I would like to leave you with my favorite pharmacy term.

Secundum Artum

  • What it means: Latin signa that translates to “By the Arts”
  • Why I love it: Who doesn’t love latin sayings, dead languages make everything more fun.  This was originally a sig used for compounded medications that allowed the pharmacist to use extra emulsifiers or tricks of the trade when compounding.  It in essence means, do what you need to do via the methods that only your profession knows.  This was the original license to step outside the lick stick and fill dispensing model that any trained monkey can do.  Having special knowledge and skills in compounding lead to immunizations, MTM, and the many opportunities that we have today. Beyond that I think that it takes a certain type of person with certain skills to become a pharmacist, and secundum artum is a good way to describe many of the things that we deal with every day.  From working long shifts, to making clinical decisions, to dealing with irate patients, to placating doctors, to compounding medications we can do that all based on the important skills that we have learned along our journey, and we can do it all by the arts.

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