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A chemist’s idea of Utopia — to a tee

By Fintan Moore - 02nd Dec 2023

Fintan Moore dreams of pharmacy heaven where he has a back-up generator, everybody knows how to make a nice cup of tea, nobody eats tuna sandwiches for lunch, and Q102 is off air

It has always been a fact of progress in human society that as new innovations and technologies emerge we eventually lose the ‘old’ knowledge that we had. Our smartphones do so much for us nowadays that many of us can’t function without them. For instance, I used to be able to recall from memory at least a couple of dozen phone numbers for friends and family but now I can only manage a fraction of that because they’re all stored in my smartphone.

One downside of the dependence on technology is the vulnerability that it introduces. Nowadays the majority of people carry little or no cash, so their ability to pay relies on a retailer having a working card machine, which in turn relies on both the electricity supply being uninterrupted, and the card payments company operating normally. In the event of either of those essentials being out of action, then the retail world will stop dead in its tracks. Personally, I always keep cash in my wallet for a worst-case scenario but I think I’m rapidly becoming a minority in doing so.

To allow the pharmacy to trade in the event of a power cut I know I should invest in a small back-up generator but I keep procrastinating on actually buying one. I’ll do it someday, probably after a bad power cut actually happens!

Lucky Break

When it comes to reliance on technology the modern pharmacy’s requirement to have working internet and email leaves it like a house of cards waiting for a toddler to knock it over. I was away on holiday recently and my pharmacy’s broadband stopped working. This meant that health mails couldn’t get through, the high-tech hub was inaccessible, no orders could be placed to the wholesaler’s website, and patient eligibility couldn’t be checked. The Vodafone helpdesk seemed unfazed about the urgency of the problem and said we might be operating again in about three working days!

Where we got lucky was that by sheer chance I was due to change EPOS system when I got back from holidays, and the new system required a 5G wireless modem because my fixed-line broadband speed is too poor. So the wireless modem had already arrived and was in a box ready to be used, and a friendly tech guy was able to get it up and running in jig time which got the pharmacy back online. Sometimes you get lucky with timing.

SOP Please

Nowadays every pharmacy has a lengthy list of SOPs covering everything from storage of controlled drugs to which way round a toilet roll should hang on its holder. I might have made up the second one, but there is a need for new SOPs to be created to improve the quality of life for dispensary pharmacists. The following SOPs should be made mandatory:

  • SOP for the Making of a Nice Cup of Tea;
  • Purpose – to ensure that tea made in the dispensary is of a drinkable standard;
  • Scope – to cover the tea-making process;
  • Responsibility – all staff involved in making cups of tea for other staff, (which is a lovely thing to do but let’s have it done right if you’re going to do it).

The key points are:

  • Ensure that the teabag is steeped in the cup long enough to achieve a medium brown colour, but not so long as to resemble coal tar;
  • Carefully gauge the required level of milk desired by the recipient. There is a series of critical points in the milk-adding process during which the tea changes in appearance from 1. Black to 2. Mahogany, to 3. A visually pleasing brown colour signifying a tasty, refreshing beverage at which point the staff member should cease pouring, to 4. Milky ditchwater;
  • It is important for people who enjoy a Nice Cup of Tea to be tolerant of people who take excessive amounts of milk – it may be due to the culture in which they were reared, so sensitivity is required. (Mandatory detention and re-education is against some UN convention or other – I checked.)

SOP for Selection of a Radio Station to play in the Dispensary

Purpose – to ensure that dispensary staff (especially me) have a radio station that doesn’t make the listener (still me) claw off their ears to stop the pain.

Scope – to cover the Radio Station Selection Process

Responsibility – Me (when I’m allowed)

The key points are:

  • Music radio is better than talk radio;
  • If hell exists and has piped music, the station picked by Satan is Q102;
  • Radio presenters trying to be really witty with sketches, banter and desperately laughing at each other’s jokes before 10am are banned;
  • Stations that play pop tracks by singers that sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks with a computerised backing track are not acceptable;
  • Pharmacies are kind-of-democratic so, unfortunately, the radio purist does not always win. The dispensary pharmacist’s continuing professional development includes learning Zen-like techniques to filter out the noise of imperfect radio stations and to remain calm.
  • SOP for the Eating of Tuna Salad in the Workplace;
  • Purpose – to ensure that the existence of tuna is minimised in the pharmacy’s eating area;
  • Scope – to cover the storage, serving and eating of tuna; and the disposal of anything tuna-contaminated afterwards;
  • Responsibility – anybody who eats the stuff.

The key point is:

  • Tuna is best eaten anywhere except in a workplace, preferably by cats;
  • Refer to above point. 

Fintan Moore graduated as a pharmacist in 1990 from TCD and currently runs a pharmacy in Clondalkin. His email address is: greenparkpharmacy @gmail.com.

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