If we stay the same, we stay the same.
Trying to rally pharmacy professionals has proved to be an extremely difficult task. The only thing preventing the entire profession from becoming empowered healthcare providers, who are the decision-makers in their practice, is the attitude of the culture. The attitude of the culture is formed by majority attitude with each pharmacist, technician and intern contributing to the whole.
Overall, the profession bears the attitude and energy of the Grumpy Old Man.
The only way to change this around is to change the attitude and energy of our culture. Of course, our patterns follow that of all segments in time where the younger generation comes in with new, fresh ideas and energy, and the older generations waggle them and stay stuck in cynicism. This is a larger dynamic of society, not just our profession.
I’d like to suggest the answer is FEAR. It may be that everything comes back to this. Fear has always been the human motivator. It’s not that pharmacy workers are victims exactly, so taking the role of victim will not inspire change. We’re already doing that. We have to switch into more empowered roles like warrior, healer, and leader.
We are the licensed professionals in our profession, yet the leaders of our profession are mostly CEOs who are not licensed pharmacists. There are a few pharmacist leaders in organizations like APhA, yet we lack any sort of empowered support when we are directly serving patients. It feels as if we are not in charge of our own practice of patient care. It feels like we are not in charge of our practice setting. It feels like we are an employee who works for an employer who doesn’t understand the practical application of quality patient care, and who only focuses on metrics and systems that show and generate profits.
Complaining has gotten us almost nowhere. It’s proven useful when gathered by way of polling for some entities, albeit very few, who have formed action committees or agendas based on the poll results of the professionals who work in pharmacies in the communities they serve. There’s a ripple and some momentum happening now. Our news page, activism page and blog have highlighted why the use of polls and surveys is a very unbiased way to gather a collective voice and analyze what the majority are experiencing. Despite overwhelming data that pharmacies are understaffed and pharmacists are overwhelmed and distracted by the pressure to meet dozens of metrics, this environment has existed in our profession going back 3 decades or more.
WE NEED ACTION AND A CHANGE OF ATTITUDE.
Why are we afraid to become the warriors, the healers, and the leaders in our profession? What is the real and tangible fear?
The answer is most likely, most of us are afraid to lose our job, we’re afraid of getting black balled if we speak out, and ultimately it boils down to the same fear that probably drives most of the workforce – we are afraid to be without. We are afraid that another person has power over us to the degree that they can take away all of our ability to sustain and be financially healthy.
The pandemic brought many of us to a breaking point where some retired, some changed careers, and some are in a state of limbo, trying to figure out where the peace of mind is really at in the workforce. So many of us never stopped working, worked more hours during the pandemic, and saw the media focus on the nurses working in the ICUs and overrun hospitals while highlighting a pharmacist that was arrested for destroying COVID vaccine. The media hasn’t really given voice to pharmacists and the very real struggles the pandemic has placed upon an already worn and torn profession.
It may seem like there are plenty of us out there to serve our communities, with colleges pumping out pharmacists like they are on a factory assembly line. It leads to a snowball effect with the dysfunction of our economy – the cost of tuition put students in debt to the degree that their student loan is the size of a mortgage payment. In the age of a pandemic and shifting generational ideologies, the students that don’t work as a licensed pharmacists end up financially burdened and psychologically demoralized.
If we want to work in our profession as empowered decision makers and respected healthcare providers, we simply have to behave as such. Making that shift isn’t as hard as you might think. If you have a career in pharmacy and want to stay the course, move forward as a leader. The more who do, the more power shifts back to the licensed professional. Each individual person can do this without joining a union.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF LEADERSHIP WILL SHIFT THE CULTURE.
If you have earned a license to practice pharmacy, you are already an empowered leader in your profession. We’re used to being trusted by the public, while being largely ignored by the healthcare industry and society at large.
Most educated adults in the United States who have had their own prescriptions filled, have no idea “why it takes so long” to fill a prescription. Most adults who are patients don’t understand the healthcare system, and it’s probably that even those who work in healthcare full time are regularly baffled by it. The providers/leaders and their patients should be the decision makers in the healthcare system.
How will we get others to see us as the leaders of our profession?
We have to apply some tangible actions in our daily journey as a healthcare provider.
Step 1: Always come from the place of healthcare provider and decision maker at your place of employment. Follow pharmacy law. Do not complain about the company you work for to the company you work for. The kind of decision maker you are is the one with the duty to report – you report to your BOP or any other appropriate regulatory department.
Step 2: Remember who your real boss is. Mostly, you are your own boss. If you “get in trouble” it’s because you allow yourself to be in the position of employee and you have made decisions that have had consequences. You are still the decision maker. No one fires you, you fire yourself. Other than you always being the boss of you, your State Board of Pharmacy is also your boss. They are the entity that issues your license and ensures compliance.
Step 3: Remember who the real adversary is. It’s not your direct supervisor. It’s so easy to internally, or even outwardly, resent the person that seems to have control over your employment. Yet, you’re very rarely talking to the CEO, or any other corporate executive, the President, or the owner, when you’re asking for support or engaging in feedback. And even if you’re working local, and you can talk to the owner, it’s very probable they are doing their best to work within limits of the typical small business owner.
The real Adversary is the system that keeps treating us like overcompensated employees. If we don’t want to be viewed as such – we have to stop acting like we will stay quiet, stay unempowered, because we are paid well. We can be paid well for being leaders and decision makers, as well as licensed professionals and providers.
Step 4: Do something. So many of us work full time, have families to manage, and there’s nearly always a celebration or a crisis that requires our immediate attention. So many of us are exhausted and don’t have time and energy to do much.
Two things we can all do to take a small action that makes a HUGE difference:
1. Spend a few minutes a week to take polls at www.unitedpharmacistsassociation.org/weekly-polls or click here.
2. Donate to any pharmacy cause that does something transformative for the profession. A small amount of money, like $25 can go a long way, it helps a lot, and donating is easy.
Step 5: Support every single pharmacy professional in your market. Insulting one another, posturing, competing with one another, and being jealous of each other is not going to inspire empowerment in the profession.
Coming together and supporting one another is imperative to shifting our dynamic of pharmacy professionals as leaders and decision-makers. Keeping each other down keeps the whole profession down. Sometimes this means calling out the bad apples. Mostly it means focusing on and empowering all the good apples.
WE CAN DO THIS.
TOGETHER, WE ARE PHARMACY.
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!