Guest Post: Breeds of Pharmacists by Candy Sartan


In over a decade of working in pharmacy I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of pharmacists. Just as David Attenborough lives in the jungles of south America and gets to learn which breed Of lizard or spider is which, I have learned the different types of pharmacist, and can even spot a pharmacist out of their own habitat-the pharmacy. MALE OF THE SPECIES. There are three groups. The briefcase, the rucksack and the carrier bag. these are self explanatory but have specific breed ‘standards’ if you like particular to each type.

Type 1. The briefcase guy.

This type of pharmacist arrives either on time or early, wearing a suit and with clean shoes. He will be in a BMW car of any age but it will be clean. He may come from a multi car household though so if he does show up in a Citroen c2, don’t be fooled, his wife will have had to borrow the Beemer and he will be forced to drive her car. But you will be unaware of this as he will park it four streets away to avoid being spotted.

On opening the leather briefcase there will be a plethora of pharmaceutical gubbins. His own bnf, often with pages marked with highlighter or a post it hanging out to mark where he’s up to. Another tome to be found in the good ole briefcase could be the mep, always a tantalising read over lunch in the consultation room. A common item in this pharmacist’s briefcase is a responsible pharmacist certificate IN COLOUR and perhaps even, yes, laminated. (a far cry from the black and white printable ones on our computer) This pharmacist will bring his own pen. Not just a rep pen or a bic biro. Oh no. We could be looking at a staedler or Parker pen, often in its own case or in a set with a matching mechanical pencil.

Now, the briefcase guy can be any age but the older ‘BG’ will have a well thumbed copy of the mims from as far back as 2003 in case he is checking a nursing home or mds tray. Along with his mims he may carry (and I have seen this) his own pair of plastic tweezers for fishing around in blister packs. this next item never varies. Sandwiches. Wrapped in foil or cling film BG doesn’t mind but he has to have sandwiches for lunch and he has to have had them made that morning and placed into an airtight container for later consumption. He may have a yoghurt (shape is very common as mrs BG does the weekly shop and buys the bumper pack) BG will bring his own spoon. He is a well prepared chap who doesn’t like to chance it that the pharmacy he will be going to will have zero cutlery.

BG will sign in without prompting and have his posh certificate on display before you have got the kettle on. He will have any cd deliveries and supplies written up if not as they go out by the end of his shift. He will help any colleague with training whether it be their OTC training, the technician course or a pre-reg needing some guidance. He will have any information in that briefcase and if not he will have found it in the pharmacy within five minutes.

BG has a tidy diary with colour coded entries and an easy reference filing system of useful information. He knows where he is at any given day and knows distances, opening and closing times of every shop he’s ever worked in.

Lastly the locum claim form. He will have a pressed copy of this in his ‘locum forms’ section and remove it in due course and it will be perfectly filled in and dealt with by the most responsible looking person in that day.

Type 2. The rucksack guy.

This happy go lucky pharmacist will be smart looking but without the constraints of a tie. Perhaps he will be wearing a jumper over just a shirt. Elbow pads will not be out of the question. The footwear is a giveaway of RG. Although I can spot him a mile off I don’t quite understand the temperature requirements RG has with regards to his footwear. He wears socks with sandals. Now, I am not sure whether the sandals are on first, but it’s a little nippy so he puts the socks on to stop the frost or whether the socks are on first, but in case of overheating he just wears sandals. It may even be a fashion statement I admit I’m baffled by this.

Rucksack guy will be just to say on time. He may even fly through the door dead on opening time. No time will be lost though as he has no jacket to remove, no responsible pharmacist sign to unpack and no formalities like shaking hands. You will just know who he is. He has the rucksack.

You may have to ask him to sign in as he is too busy finding the kettle and making himself at home to be bothered with such trifles.

RG will bring his own pen, usually a free rep pen pilfered from the last locum shift or a plain old bic, hell, it may be from the bookies, he isn’t fussy in the pen department (or any other department actually). This pen he arrives with will be left in your pharmacy when he leaves. He’s a fly by night pen collector.

RG has a diary. It is shoved full of bits of paper with phone number and bookings, even expenses receipts. He is slightly disorganised but with a little guidance he will have settled in by lunchtime.

His lunch, incidentally is practically all that is in the rucksack. He will have brought a drink, usually a can of coke (iron bru in Scotland), a packet of crisps, a pre packed sandwich he got at the tesco petrol station on the way in and perhaps some dairylea dunkers. RG isn’t afraid of being in touch with his inner schoolboy, in fact now you come to mention it this could be the hidden meaning behind his style.

He will ask you for a claim form, he won’t have one with him, the only other thing in the rucksack is probably a John Grisham book to read at lunchtime if he gets bored.

Type 3. Carrier bag guy.

Where to start with CBG. We have all worked with one, he is firstly obviously a CBG by his notable absence ten minutes after his shift was due to start.

Not even organised enough to have noted down the phone number of the branch and call to say he’s late you know you’re going to be in for a day of total chaos.

CBG may appear any time after he is expected so be on the lookout. He will breeze through the door past disgruntled patients waiting outside looking daggers and remain oblivious to the awkward conversations we’ve had to have. “but my prescription is only there, I brought it in yesterday. I can practically see it on the shelf” then as if some magic force field has been lifted, people can now be given what was only 6 feet away from them all the time.

CBG could be wearing anything. Usually however whatever he is wearing he will have worn yesterday, and possibly the day before that. His hair will be messy, but not in the stylish “just stepped out of the salon” way, in the “I only got out of bed 20 minutes ago” way.

CBG has brought very little with him. No pen, no lunch, no certificate, no claim form and no diary. He may not even have a diary. I have worked with a CBG who literally had everything he needed to know written on scraps of paper. CBG’s mind is total chaos. He will drive a banger. If you were to look in the car you would find a representation of CBG’s brain. Empty wrappers, old newspapers, maybe the odd hobo that sneaked in there. This is your fly by the seat of your pants kind of pharmacist. Lunchtime comes and he asks directions to the nearest shop, gathers all the loose change from his pockets (probably found on the floor of old betsy the car) and nips out for what he promises will be 10 minutes. 35 minutes later he still has not returned. CBG of course doesn’t wear a watch.

The end of the day approaches and he still hasn’t signed in and there’s a pile of cd scripts and invoices to enter. He probably won’t ask you for a claim form because he forgets, he still hasn’t submitted last months ones yet. Obviously new pharmacists are produced every year from the production line and over the years, what with GM crops and natural selection some variances may occur but these are your three basic types of male pharmacist. No offence is meant to any pharmacist whether he be a straight laced BG or a flighty CBG. These are just my observations over the years. But boy, are they accurate!

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7 thoughts on “Guest Post: Breeds of Pharmacists by Candy Sartan

  1. Absolutely brilliant. I have worked with them all over the last 25 years, could even name a few of them. How about the women next?

  2. This is an example of what I mean about being over the top. There reaches a point where personal attacks on people’s behaviour is made because it is supposed to be funny, but when it is not funny, if we continue to publish it , we lose credibility. We need to remember that we are professionals and although sharp, witty observations are great , character assassinations are not.

    1. Thanks for your comment Caroline. It’s not a character assassination at all or a personal attack on people’s behaviour. Some of my blogs and guest blogs are serious and some are light hearted. This clearly was not serious and the author is not being unprofessional. The blog is clearly funny.

  3. Fabulously humorous post! Have net many BGs but am afraid they are a bit of a dying breed these days! You have reminded me how much I miss my old Parker pen too! All in good jest 🙂

  4. As an agency girl, I’m probably known as a female version of all three types! Some days I’ve got it all together even if the job is 200 miles away and some days not so much, especially when I’ve traveled 200 miles to a job.

    I was embarrassed to show up at one shop because it was within 10 miles of my house. After I started out, I realized I had forgotten its location on the south side of town, and ended up talking to policemen and other drivers at stoplights. When I arrived, I found that the pharmacy key was in a lockbox for which I hadn’t been told the combination. However, the techs did not complain that i was like the pharmacist before me, ‘sitting on my duff’ all shift. I did overhear comments about being more fussy than the others, and thus too slow.

    I like being the rucksuck woman the best, as I leave the place on time and more relaxed than briefcase woman. She inevitably wears Red Cross or other more ‘sensible’ heels with her support hosiery and her feet are killing her by the end of the day. Carrier bag pharmacist may start out with the wrong shoes, but inevitably will either find a pair of inserts in the bag, or remove shoes entirely.

  5. What about Laptop (Notebook) Guy?

    Possibly similar to BG but a little more 21st Century. Still smart and professional in dress but who keeps his records in an electronic and readily accessible from. Someone who has the staff qualifications from his last visit. A pharmacist who meets the statutory requirements of being the RP, records what is required but who doesn’t have to shuffle papers and has time to engage with the staff.

    Often mistrusted by the staff. “Why does he need to know my qualifications?” and shunned by companies as they know he/she maintains records of activities in the Pharmacy, records near misses and follows SOPs.

    Great humour in your post. There is certainly a small part of all of them lurking inside me and I suspect in all Locums. My only comment is about the pen classifications. It is a well know fact (i.e. My opinion) that all pharmacy staff are Stylocleptomaniacs and the chances of leaving with your own pen are slim at the very best.

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