Directly Speaking - Give it away, sell it, recycle it or worst case, throw it out!

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
June 14, 2016

If you’ve read my columns over the past six issues, you know my father passed away last January at the age of 89. What I haven’t shared is that my 90 year old mother, God bless her, is still with us and within a month of my Dad’s passing, decided she needed to move into an assisted living facility. She loves it there and is doing very well. What I also haven’t shared until now is that my brother (my only sibling) and I have been spending much of our free time getting my parent’s home ready for sale. And really, why would I share it with you because it has nothing to do with pharmacy or ICHP? But there is a lesson that I’m learning that can carry over to your pharmacy practice, to ICHP and to your personal life.

Since we began our mission to get the house sales worthy, my brother and I have hauled over 1¼ tons of metal and metal containing materials to an area recycler. While our ROI on time spent sorting this stuff is less than minimal (just over $200 for our Mom’s cash flow), we have the peace of mind to know that we kept three Dodge Ram truckloads of junk out of the landfill! In addition, we may have found a retirement vocation for both of us as we worked together well and actually got better at it as we went along. But again, not to the lesson yet.

We also discovered that our Dad was a very organized hoarder. Or if not a very organized hoarder, he was a person who never threw away anything he might be able to use someday regardless of whether it worked or not. We found appliances with no electric cords, electric cords with no appliance attached. We found nuts, bolts, screws, nails, hinges, door plates, door knobs, door locks, drawer handles, and every other kind of hardware, some as old as me! We found three electric mixers, two toasters (one still in the original box), multiple lights including indicator lights for electric panels, spotlights for theatrical performances and enough electric timers that had he put them to use, he would have never had to flip a light switch on again! But Dad was the ultimate tinker. He loved to build things and he was good at it because he was a certified airplane mechanic, certified school bus mechanic and head of plant maintenance for a large Rockford manufacturer during his career! In fact, we still have a couple of his tinkering projects to dismantle so that when someone buys the house they will be able to get the garage door open without extra complexity, the garage light to go off when they want it to, and the main living room light to work when needed rather than only between the hours of 5:00 and 10:00 pm.

I believe that his plan was eventually to get rid of a lot of the stuff that was stored neatly here and there including in the rafters in the basement ceiling, behind the built-in desk in the den and in every nook and cranny of his workshop. But sometimes life, or in his case death, messes up those plans. On the other hand, he may have been thinking, the boys might need this stuff one day, so I need to keep it for them. He was always quick to offer assistance and resources if he had them when something at our house broke. Until a couple of years ago, he would be the one to fix things at my house. Fortunately my brother picked up a lot of my Dad’s talents while I landed my Mom’s valuable social skills. Anyway, he was prepared for a lot, and if he bought something once and it worked, when it died and he couldn’t fix it, he bought the same item again and stored the old item for parts for the next break down. 

Here’s the lesson that has slowly seeped into my head as we have cleaned out all this accumulation of pieces and parts and duplicates and triplicates of things we may someday need: “If you haven’t used it in a year and don’t see yourself using it in the next year, give it away, sell it, recycle it or worst case, throw it out! But you probably won’t need it and eventually somebody else is going to have to get rid of it if you don’t.”

In pharmacy, it may be expired products. We know that not only Joint Commission and the other accrediting bodies frown on expired products on the shelf, but it’s a violation of the Pharmacy Practice Act too, so obviously it’s important to stay on top of clearing off the shelves. So far not rocket surgery! But the same can be said for old references. If the IDFPR staff get the compounding rules completed this year, you’re going to have to have to keep a new and current version of the USP/NF compounding reference on your shelves or accessible in your computers in order to be compliant. Go through your references, keep what is current, recycle what isn’t or is no longer required but get your book shelves current and uncluttered. The same is true for old equipment. If it is full of metal, get permission to take to a metal recycler and use the cash for your party during Pharmacy Month! If you’re not using it, get rid of it.

The same philosophy can work for processes in your department that don’t work or could be improved. When is the last time you sat down with key staff members and determined where improvements could be easily made? Listen for moments when you hear someone say, “We’ve always done it that way!” That may mean someone is questioning why the process follows a particular pattern or they think there might be a better way to do things. Whenever you hear the “We’ve always done it that way,” ask whoever the person speaking said it to, “What did you just ask?”, and see if you might be able to throw out an antiquated process and replace it with one that works much better!

This process is currently being considered by ICHP as we consider getting rid of our House of Delegates. For the last several years, the House has met during the Annual Meeting but has produced a limited number of delegate recommendations and not much more. Granted the House approves a dozen or two position statements each year brought to them by the Division of Professional Affairs, but they do it with little debate or modification. The Division of Professional Affairs is good, but are they that good that there’s no need for improvement on their work? That certainly isn’t the case with ASHP’s Councils and what their House of Delegates does to their position statements annually! The ICHP Board of Directors and the Division of Organizational Affairs have implemented several new processes that have improved communications with members and gather even more input than the processes of the House. While ICHPchat, ICHP’s online community with multiple forums and discussion topics has not yet caught on like we had hoped, eventually it will, and even more enhanced communications can occur.

The ICHP Town Hall Meetings at the Spring and Annual Meetings have produced a variety of improvements in services for members and the level of communication during those sessions has been found valuable to many. The ICHP website recently underwent more than a facelift and a rather a complete reconstruction, and ICHP’s Facebook page now has more than 1,100 likes. An ICHP LinkedIn account is on the horizon, and there are other efforts underway to enhance and expand the communications and information our members receive.

My hope is that at this year’s House of Delegates, the delegates will finally decide that its days are over and new processes are in place that make it no longer needed. I doubt that we will be able to generate any cash from recycling it, and I’m sure it won’t take up any landfill space. I suspect that like many family traditions, it will remain a warm memory of when it worked, which will only take up space in our collective minds.

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