The pharmacy profession is moving on...with or without you

The pharmacy profession is moving on...with or without you

In my former life (pre-pharmacy school), I was a manager for a chain drug store. For the purposes of this article, I will affectionately refer to it as "Globo Gym." 

I was in this role during a pivotal moment in pharmacy practice--the year that pharmacists gained the widespread ability to administer vaccines.

It's so commonplace now, I actually have a hard time remembering that pharmacists didn't always immunize.

And this wasn't that long ago; it wasn't until 2009 that all 50 states were on board with the pharmacist immunization train.

Being one of those meddling members of middle management, I noticed a lot of resistance to this added "responsibility."

There were some valid complaints about staffing/manpower. If you don't have enough tech/pharmacist help, how are you ever going to be able to provide this new service?

However, the most common complaint wasn't about the logistics. It was simply that many pharmacists didn't want to do it. You'd get things like "I went to pharmacy school to get away from needles" or "My job is to dispense medication, not run around being a nurse."

I didn't really think more about this until I was in The Struggle. I was in that starry-eyed phase where I saw the potential of the profession. I was an idealist who admired his professors and had pharmacy role models.

I'd get worked up hearing the proclamation that "C's get degrees!" Or when people would whine that they didn't need to learn biostats because they already had a job lined up for Globo Gym. It's like it was a race to the bottom.

In hindsight, I can admit that my viewpoint was pretty arrogant (or Asian).

But I care about my profession. I want to see it advance. And celebrating mediocrity does not do the world of pharmacy any favors.

Eventually, I thought back to my management days, and saw parallels with the resistance to giving immunizations.

There were pharmacists in those days that flat out refused to immunize. They just would not do it. And thinking back, it makes me sad when I think of their eventual fate. 

Simply put, they were phased out. They lost hours until eventually, they had none. New graduates entered the workforce, already trained to administer vaccines. There was a lot of griping about how the company was just "getting younger" and phasing out the old timers...

But I don't think that's true.

The profession grew, and those that didn't grow with it were left behind.

Though I'd now consider myself more of an "optimistic realist" compared to my former self, my thoughts on professional growth are the same. And I'd like to use the remainder of this post to convince you to always invest in your own professional growth. 

 

Professional Growth as a Pharmacist

I'll start with the obvious idealistic reasons. A pharmacist invested in her own learning is a better pharmacist. Better pharmacists provide better care, cost savings, and improved outcomes for patients.

You'll have these reasons force fed to you in pharmacy school and by every professional pharmacy organization. And they're true.

But maybe you don't care about idealistic reasons. You're in this for yourself and for the prestige and income that comes with being a pharmacist. After all, you've got bills to pay and a family to feed. 

And hey, that's cool too. Those are considerations I have as well. We all do. But let's have some "real talk." There are practical reasons to grow and to always enhance your skill set.

The profession of pharmacy owes you nothing. You are not entitled to a job. The second it is more profitable for your employer to reduce your hours (or replace you altogether) with a robot, they will. You can see the Globo Gym press release now...

Your future robot overlord, or Globo Gym receptionist. But really, this is actually a real robot.

Your future robot overlord, or Globo Gym receptionist. But really, this is actually a real robot.

"We believe that the RoboRx 20X6 will enable us to reduce wait times and enhance patient experience while cutting costs by lessening the staffing requirements of each pharmacy. We will give those savings right back to the shareholders and the patients." 

 

Pharmacy is a profession. But it's also a business. And businesses must make money or they die. The pharmacy business has found that it can make money by offering services. MTM, immunizations, blood pressure/glucose/cholesterol testing, and minute clinics. 

And although they're an added responsibility, these new services create value for the patient (your customer).

That value creation is what gives you a paycheck. As long as the service is profitable, your employer is going to continue offering it no matter how much you complain about it.

New graduates will come out of school knowing the new services. And if you resist them, you run the risk of eventually getting phased out by the "young people" who are motivated and excited to do the job. 

I'm not warning of a 1984-style bow down before Big Brother and bask in the warm glow of the imperial mother-ship scenario. I'm not advising to "just accept it" without voicing your opinion. Or not to engage in constructive feedback with your employer.

I'm trying to persuade you to take ownership and responsibility for your own future. 

I know there are implementation problems. I know there are staffing issues. You don't have enough tech hours. You don't get breaks. Initiating new services without the appropriate manpower compromises the safety of the dispensing process for all patients.

I've been on both sides of this, and I completely agree. I feel your pain here. 

But that's an argument for another day (perhaps another rant?). You have to focus and take action on the things that you can control. Until you control the number of tech hours assigned to your pharmacy, that's outside your sphere of influence.

What you can control is how valuable you are to your employer.

The more you know, the more valuable you become. You want to be irreplaceable. You can be irreplaceable by prioritizing patient care. By developing your knowledge base and skills. By challenging yourself to grow.

Celebrating the entirety of Michael Bolton's music career. Image

Celebrating the entirety of Michael Bolton's music career. Image

And, importantly, by being adaptable and open to changes and improvements.

You don't want to be in a situation where you're in your 50's, you have a mortgage, student loans, a Mercedes payment, and kids in college when your employer calls you into their office to discuss "corporate budget cuts."

And again, most of these new services also happen to advance the pharmacy profession (not to mention public health).

By being open to developing new skills, you're really doing the best thing for everyone.

It's best for you, the patient, the profession of pharmacy, and for health care in general. Everybody wins when you're an outstanding pharmacist.

 

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