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I used to work at a Rite Aid, and when someone from the pharmacy was out sick, I would fill in.  The pharmacists worked along, busily filling prescriptions and ringing up diapers,  sneaking snacks of hard-boiled white’n’yolk, pulled clandestinely from green and purple soft lunch boxes.   It wasn’t one of them eating so many eggs, I noticed, but a pack of Gastons, all four or five on the staff greedily munching whenever time allowed. For me it became a fact of life: pharmacists eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs, and secretly.

Take a quick look at a student doctor forum, and you’ll find out that this is true.  Or, at least, there are reasons why, if a certain pharmacist was inclined to eat eggs at all, they might choose to hard-boil them and eat them so furtively.   Pharmacists often don’t get lunch breaks, sometimes working shifts ten to twelve hours long, all on foot, with nothing to eat but that what you cram in while the coast is clear.  One pharmacist writes, “Practically speaking it is often easier to bring finger food and easily snarfed snacks to the work station and take short breaks as the opportunity arises. In a very busy store this may not happen for 6-7-8 hours. ”  Eggs are a perfect choice in that situation, but I’d rather they got to eat  a meal.

A pharmacist (above) waits for a customer to leave so that he can nibble on some hard-boiled eggs

Pharmacists in the retail setting seem to be in a gray area of classification.  Employers can list them as salaried management, making the guidelines different than a photo technician or a register clerk like I was, doing nothing but smoke and steal Fun Dip.    Some places allow their pharmacist a break- Sam’s Club, CVS and Walgreens among them.  A 2011 labor decision in California ensured thirty minute breaks for UPS workers and pharmacists.  In Virginia, however, state labor laws do not uphold this right, allowing chains like Kroger to ask their pharmacy staff to work long hours with no breaks for food, egg or otherwise.

Pharmacists aren’t any better workers when they’re hungry.  In fact, some of them stop eating and working altogether.  Raj Bhat, a former MEDCO pharmacist, went on a 28 week hunger strike in the fall of 2010, protesting his company’s policy of requiring pharmacists to fill fifty prescriptions an hour.   The strike was suspended for a glass of orange juice, but this was only so that Mr. Bhat could “start afresh the second stage of this non-violent peaceful protest,”  which, as his blog has not been updated since January 17th, 2011, may have continued in some form to this day.

Mr. Bhat states that,  “When a Company like Medco is allowed to get away with these criminal acts, other rogue companies in this competitive health care industry follow suit.  This will undoubtedly cause irreparable damage to the practice of Pharmacy profession, the next generation of pharmacists, and the patients at large; it will also leave the whole system in shambles.”

MEDCO, Kroger, and the Rite Aid at which I worked show in their policies to pharmacists a general trend in heightening the workload and maintaining a poor human rights track record. The mistakes made out of human fatigue could be mistakes with pills. Lawsuits can cost the company millions, so why not- literally- give them a break.  They could use it to put all those hard-boiled eggs into an egg salad, put it between some bread, and sit down to eat it, like the rest of us.