Friday, 6 February 2009

Come glide with me! Let's glide, let's glide away...!

So, I haven't ranted in a while, and I am sure this has caused much concern to my loyal readers. Why has the ranting stopped? Why isn't the writer angry, upset or dismayed by the human condition?

Well, let's just say life was going rather nicely the last few weeks - work was easy, the people I met and hung around with were friendly and I was earning more and stressing less. Until now.

So what has made me angry? An annoying co-worker? A racist slur? A washing machine malfunction? No, none of these. The thing which has been annoying me lately are the glide aways. Ok, so most of you back in Melbourne will be wondering...WTH are the "glide aways"? Let me explain.

In the dispensary of a normal hospital pharmacy (or any pharmacy for that matter), we have shelves. On these shelves we keep boxes and bottles of tablets and capsules. These are arranged in alphabetical order according to generic names. So, if you wanted to find a medication, all you would need to do was walk to the shelves, find the appropriate letter the drug begins with, look along the shelf alphabetically until you found the drug, then pick up the drug and stick a label on it. Simple - the system works.

But, no. Simplicity and commonsense don't apply at the dispensary here. No. We like a challenge. We like the thrill of searching for a drug as if it were the holy grail. Thus, like the Ancient Greeks had their Labirynth, we have our glide aways. The glide aways are a series of drawers that contain the drugs. They are basically used instead of shelves. The unit consists of four columns of twelve or so drawers stacked up ontop of one another. Each drawer is labelled with a range of letters (eg. Aba - Ami) to indicate the drugs which are meant to be in there. Sounds simple and straight forward right? Wrong.

First of all, half the labels on the drawers are wrong. Let's just say the person who wrote the labels wasn't the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary - ie, they don't really know their alphabet. Eg. If I wanted to look for Sodium Bicarbonate, which drawer would it be in? The "Sev - Sot" or the "Slo - Tes"? Yeah, and that's just the start of it.

Secondly, people put drugs in the wrong place. Some people do this because either the drawer label is misleading, they follow the brand name rather than the generic, they have no idea about anything or a combination of all three.

Thirdly, the drawers are exceedingly disorganised. Boxes of medication are crammed in together in no logical order. This is due mainly to the drawers being quite shallow and the alphabet ranges being rather odd. This leads to blister strips of meds spilling out of their cardboard containers further leading to confusion. Plus you'll be surprised (or not) by the number of empty containers in the drawers. Tip of the day: Throw out empty containers.

Thus, the glide aways are a mess. But not only are they a librarian's nightmare, they are also an occupational health and safety risk. Twelve drawers high, this monstrosity is just begging for a lawsuit to happen. There are two options in which to reach drugs from the topmost drawers:
1) Stand on a wheely stool (like the ones they have in the library)
2) Stand on the glide away's own "glide away" step - ie. a small plank of wood that slides out from the bottom of the glide aways and you step on.
I don't know if it's just me, but the words "wheely" and "slides" aren't the most comforting descriptions for things you're meant to stand on. I prefer the words "stable" and "safe". But that's just me. Believe it or not, I don't like fractured bones - they kind of hurt.
So there you have it: a disorganised, unpractical and unsafe storage system for drugs. I'm sure the Pharmacy Board would be proud. But it doesn't stop there. Nope.
What happens when you chuck a lowly pharmacy technician into this mix? You get a combination of confusion, irritation and stress. The foundations of a good rant.
So there I am, balancing on a plank of wood, searching desperately for seven tablets of a drug I can't even remember. The drawer is a jungle and your mind is constantly buzzing with the following questions: "Where is the medication?", "Did someone file it according to the brand name instead?", "Is that cardboard box that has split open spilling its contents everywhere the medication I want?", "Maybe the stock levels were wrong?", "Maybe someone put it into one of the drawers above or below because of the crappy labels on the drawers?", "Or maybe this is all a bad dream...perhaps I'll wake up soon and realise I'm not really a pharmacy technician balancing precariously on a plank of wood looking frantically for seven tablets of a drug of non-descript name or strength. Maybe I'll wake up and find I'm really a Tibetan monk, living humbly in a hut in the Himalayas and not searching for Enalapril, but for enlightenment. But why would a Tibetan monk dream about being a pharmacy technician?"
So these questions whirl through your head as you spend half an hour looking for your needed medication. As time rolls on, you become more annoyed, more desperate, more stressed. Your legs wobble from standing on tippy toes and you start to get pins and needles coursing their way up your limbs. Your fingers are sliced from paper cuts and shards of foil blister strips. Your eyes grow blurry, your back stiffens from the awkward posture and you develop a headache. You become weary and disheartened. You quesiton things - your life purpose and such. And then you finally give up. You step down from the glide away, defeated but relieved that the quest is over, that sweet surrender has acquitted you of such a horrible task. You stand there, clutching the labels you printed out but for which you have no medication to stick them on to. You stare intently at the glide aways, expecting to hear a triumphant, maniacal laughter. But instead there is nothing but a cold, metal silence.
You've won this round, glide aways.

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