Tag Archives: Locum

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!


The Book

I have a dream. It’s not quite as powerful as Mr King’s but it’s important to me. I want to write a book about life in pharmacy. There is too much doom and gloom surrounding pharmacy and I want it to make people laugh.

A similar book was published recently. I have not read it but I believe with the help of social media, we could create something special. I need your help.

I want people to send in anecdotes and jokes about pharmacy. I would love to hear from community pharmacists, pre-regs, technicians, dispensers and counter staff. Also hospital, primary care, prison, academics, pharmacy journalists, students, GPs and even GP receptionists. I will add in some of my blogs too. I have no idea how I will publish it but that will be part of the adventure.

You can reply to this blog, via email mrdispenser@hotmail.co.uk, or Twitter @mrdispenser

I look forward to hearing from you and will keep you updated!

Tell your friends too!

Just Say No

I really should learn to say no once in a while. It’s actually quicker and easier than a yes. I got asked to work on Saturday morning for four hours and said yes. I had not been to this pharmacy in a few years but remembered it to be a pleasant one.

I thought I knew how to get there so I did not use my Sat Nav. When it got to 8.55am and I was lost, I pulled over and turned on the Sat Nav. It was 7 minutes away. I arrived at 9.02am very embarrassed and apologised profusely.

I was greeted with scenes similar to this:


[Pictures by @impure3]


I sent a cheeky tweet detailing my findings before getting down to the task at hand. Twenty minutes later, the locum agency rang and said that there was a mix-up and that I had to go to another branch 20 miles away!

I looked at the baskets and weighed it up against the car journey and decided to move branches. I was told not to wait for my replacement. The lady from the locum agency told me that there was already someone at the next pharmacy waiting for me to get there so not to worry about getting there ASAP. So I stopped for a McDonalds breakfast! I jest!

The next pharmacy was 45 minutes away according to the Sat Nav. I started driving and decided to ring them to let them know how long it would take me. Whilst on the phone, I heard police sirens behind me rapidly approaching. Thankfully they had a more important matter to attend to and did not punish my stupidity.

The pharmacy was the scene of my ‘Locums deserve respect’ post https://mrdispenser.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/locums-deserve-respect/ Thankfully it was a lot nicer this time and less problematic. However, I wish I had said no and stayed in bed.



The effect of medicines on the olfactory system

The effect of medicines on the olfactory system


Olfaction is the sense of smell. A pharmaceutical drug, also referred to as medicine, medication or medicament, can be loosely defined as any chemical substance intended for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease.


The aim is to find smelly drugs


A closed leading question was sent as a tweet was sent to 370 people that follow @MrDispenser asking to tell me about drugs that smell good or bad. No financial inducement was given. Ethics approval was not obtained. An application for funding was made and denied by the National Lottery. Consent was obtained via direct message for tweets to appear in this report.


30 people replied.

Table 1: Table to show gender of people that replied

Gender Number
Male 7
Female 21
Unable to work out as name is ambiguous and profile pic is not a face pic 2

My tweet was retweeted once. Two people did not give consent for their tweets to appear. Two did not reply so consent was given on their behalf

Selection of tweets

@zams123: depakote does smell like cannabis.

@L1ttlepetal: my dispenser ex bar manager said it smells like stale beer



This was very popular and my personal favourite too!

@josephbush cannot beat Neo-Mercazole

@indisangar neo-mercazole smells like strawberry milkshake

@susieminney carbimazole smell of milkshake



Another popular choice

@laura_anne182  prefer Celevac. Serial tub-sniffer

@JustHelenYeah Celevac has to be the best for smell and colour

@Mushypea Celevac… just like strawberry milkshake


Bendroflumethiazide 2.5mg

This is the ronseal of tablets

@laura_anne182 Bendro 2.5mg (tubs of 500) smells like a chair in an old folks home.

@indisangar bendro smells like p**s, kind of appropriate, isn’t it?

@jommcmillan bendros smell like what they do

@cathrynjbrown Bad = bendro,

@susieminney bendroflumethiazide smells like stale wee. Ironic really.

@zams123 I like the musky smell of bendros! Weird I know!



Also popular

@catrionabrodie: Nabumetone (especially Relifex) smells like butterscotch

@alkemist 1912: Relifex smell of butterscotch

@Mushypea:  Relifex was like butterscotch

@cathrynjbrown good: relifex


Vitamin B

Controversial tablet

@PatelSuk  Can’t believe no one’s mentioned Vitamin B compound. Weirdly addictive

@Anj17 I don’t like vitamin B. ewww smell.

@susieminney I love the smell of vitamin B in any shape or form

Vitamin caps BPC

Another controversial one

@laura_anne182 Funny how the smells can grow on you. I am now quite fond of the stinky vitamin caps

@lilygidley vitamin caps like Bovril

@JoMyattL I love vitamin caps BPC

@zams123 vitamin bpc caps smell horrible.

@josephbush vit caps = Bovril-y goodness

@NeelmSaina vitamin bpc capsules… Marmite smell?

@cathrynjbrown  Bad:  vitamin caps bpc



Strong views on these common drugs

@Anj17 the banana amox.. yummy

@NeelmSaina bad = cephalexin caps

@Sairah_Banu flucloxacillin smells of the 1p sherberts

@Mushypea: fluclox caps are suphur like

@cathrynjbrown:  Bad:  flucloxacillin caps

@laura_anne182: Ciproxin susp smells like barrats fruit salads

@adamplum love the smell of fluclox mixture

@clareylang yes I agree. The liquid is completely the opposite of the caps

@cathrynbrown  Oh yes, the waft of amoxil or distaclor powder as you pour the water in

@clareylang Augmentin Duo smells well nice

@susieminney cephalosporins smell of cat wee

@becky_ross_23 Co-danthramer suspension smells exactly like tinned peaches



The smell is explained with science!

@zams123 Aspirin 75mg disp smells of salt and vinegar crisps

@clareylang aspirin really does smell like that

@adamplum cos acetyl-salicylic acid breaks down to acetic acid



Smells like toothpaste

@EmmTurner spironolactone smells like menthol

@Pillmanuk spironolactone used to smell of minty wee



@tinaallsup: Neoral smells very strongly of beer. No complaints

@pakili1981: lamotrigine smells like lollies

@Sareenuh Vicks VapoRub Mmmmmm@mgcmitchell capol yum yum

@mgcmitchell pabrinex, TPN, and coal tar are bad

@Sairah_Banu: fentanyl patches smell really weird as well

@jommcmillan: Anybody remember Junifen? Used to smell like lemon puff biscuits

@pillmanuk NEVER smell heminevrin liquid

@misspill never break a full bottle in the dispensary either

Two people have said that Mecysteine smells horrible!

27 drugs were mentioned.


Drugs smell. Vitamin caps BPC was the most commented drug. Relifex and Celevac were the best smelling drugs. Bendroflumethiazde was the worst smelling drug.

Future research

Use facebook too


MURs will never be boring again



Dress to impress

Pharmacists are professionals and should dress as such. I have only come across a couple of pharmacists that still wear white lab coats at work. The majority wear smart attire.

We are told that it is important for us to look professional so that the patient will be more likely to listen and accept our advice. However, I have seen two GPs who wear jeans in their surgery and the patients don’t seem to mind.  Whilst I was a student I saw one locum pharmacist wear jeans and another wear a skirt and flip flops.

Some companies make their pharmacist wear a uniform e.g.  Tesco.  Some hospitals have a no tie and long sleeve shirt policy or a uniform. This is to minimise infections.

I rarely wear a tie at work and the only people that seem to care are my parents. The quality of my clothes is directly proportional to the amount of food that I spill on me at lunch. Be it Armani or Primani, yoghurt stains on black trousers are hard to explain.

Tell me what you think about our dress code.

Waiting or calling back

A comment from @L1ttlepetal on twitter got me thinking about an extremely difficult question that we all ask patients numerous times an hour…….”Are you waiting or calling back (CB)”

You would think the only answers would be, ‘are you waiting’ or ‘CB’. Maybe so in a perfect world, but no, that would be too easy. Sometimes it is a confusing yes, making me repeat the question.

Here is a community pharmacy definition of waiting: sit down shut up and entertain yourself.

The term CB is most often ambiguous. Stepping out to the shop next door and coming straight back does not qualify as CB but it is the sign of an inpatient waiter.

It seems in pharmacy there are two extremes within the CB group. One being the few who nip out and come back impatiently assuming a quick exit can magically speed up the process of checking & dispensing.

RESULT:  *rolling eyes*

The second group, return only to sit down quietly and they have already missed the calls of some pharmacists checking and shouting their name before placing the medicine away and half an hour later, the patient impatiently queries how long its going to be. Half of this second group will wait and wait and dare not ask how long its going to be until will ask them.

RESULT: *rolling eyes*

I must give an honourable mention to those who are waiting but wait in the car.
For those with young kids, I am happy to bring the prescription out to them. For those who are parked illegally, thir prescription seems to take longer for us to do. I have no idea why ; )

Some strange people ask not to wait but want it delivered. I try to persuade them to take ten minutes out of their daytime tv, I mean busy schedule and wait for it.

Others ask for deliveries but pop in for it instead. They ask where their medication is. We say its with the driver. They ask where the driver is. We say that he’s probably at your house love. ( I personally adore deliveries. See last blog for more information).

Placing the CB or waiting script in the correct basket is the crucial step to avoid A SYSTEM COLLAPSE!!

Different pharmacies have their own systems, different coloured baskets, or hanging scripts in order, with further variations in filing for deliveries and DDS ,this can be confusing for locums or even a technician with a hangover.

Other ways of reaching a “A SYSTEM COLLAPSE” is placing the baskets in incorrect areas of the dispensary for the pharmacist to check.   The worst case scenario is filing a prescriptions away before dispensing, causing a prescription hunt upon the arrival of the patient.

RESULT: *panic at the pharmacy*

The final problem is when you haven’t written the time the prescription was handed in. Resulting in queue jumpers and providing perfect opportunities for grumpy people to be…grumpy!

RESULT: *panic at the pharmacy*

This made me remember how at university, I once handed in my prescription to the local pharmacy and said that I would call back the next day. The girl on the counter seemed annoyed and asked, ‘Why can’t you wait?’ The pharmacist looked at her in anger and asked ‘Don’t you think I’m busy enough???’ and said to me that he would see me tomorrow.

Even if you are waiting or CB, its never dull in pharmacy!