Pharmacy is a very educated profession. On the undergraduate level, pharmacists have a deep knowledge of the sciences. As they progress through school, their clinical expertise expands. Thus, giving them a true understanding of the field of medication.
On the graduate level, pharmacists are allowed to specialize in a variety of disciplines. Pharmacists may focus on business, management, or any other field which will allow them to become leaders in the pharmacy profession.
Residencies allow pharmacists to provide direct patient care. By combining compassion with clinical expertise, pharmacists will impart their knowledge and focus on their patients.
Continuing Education classes allowed pharmacy members to constantly diversify and expand their expertise. Pharmacy members may seek new experiences or simply build upon existing knowledge. But one thing is for certain, individuals in the pharmacy profession will not stagnate.
Even pharmacy technicians are becoming more knowledgeable in the day-to-day operation. Many pharmacies crave outstanding techs. They seek techs with a deep understanding of the medication process as well as a strong view of the task at hand.
Yet, with all the educational requirements, there are some programs that have fallen by the wayside. These are courses that are quite beneficial but often overlooked. I feel that many of my colleagues would profit from these programs.
Stress-related courses: I started my pharmacy career in the late 1970s. Back then I didn’t see any courses on stress-related problems. But these days, I know that pharmacy is a very stressful profession.
So, if I had known then about all the stresses of pharmacy…
- Would it have prevented me from going into pharmacy? [no]
- Would it have given me ideas on dealing with some of the things that I might encounter? [perhaps]
Recently, I’ve seen many articles on stress-related issues. Prominent magazines examined how to address burnout concerns. I sat through lectures and seminars (even my hospitals hosted sessions) that discussed how to cope with stress. Even ASHP developed Well-Being and Resilience tools to combat issues with stress, burnout, and depression.
Pharmacy is not unique. There are many stressful occupations and pharmacy stand with the best of them.“Let Pharmacy do it” has become our stressful mantra. I’m glad that these problems are finally recognized and that there are resources where people can get help.
Work ethic courses: I was an instructor in a career school. I taught courses on how to become a pharmacy tech. For the most part, my students were very good. Others simply amazed me.
Some students would walk into my class 30-45 minutes late on a regular basis. Some would need to leave early. Still, others missed classes at least once or twice a week.
And the excuses were mind-boggling. Did they really expect me to accept reasons such as traffic, minor illnesses, and doctor appointments as valid excuses?
But the thing that bothered me the most, was the students who paid for the program did not pay attention to what I was doing in class. Why were they even there? I’m not dealing with little kids, I’m dealing with adults who should know better.
I tried to discipline these students. I discussed the need to have a strong work ethic. I tried to explain the importance of school and how it translated to the workplace. But they just didn’t care.
Now I know that this was “school” and not “work”. But I marveled at their poor work ethic. How did these students expect to land and keep a job in today’s society?
When I was a Career Service Representative, I remember receiving a job as a pharmacy technician. It was at a pharmacy call center. The job listed the following parameters:
- Employees were expected to be at their desks at the start of their shift,
- Employees would receive a 15-minute break in the morning,
- Employees would receive a 1-hour lunch,
- Employees would receive a 15-minute break in the afternoon,
- Employees would leave at the end of their shift.
- Newly hired employees would be expected to log five phone calls each hour.
I did not think that these expectations were unreasonable. The employers expected their employees to arrive on time at the start of their shift and to remain until the end of their shift. They provided them with proper breaks and lunch periods. And they set goals that they expected the employee to achieve.
Several of my students interviewed for the position. Of those that were hired, some did not survive. They were terminated after the first few days. Not because they couldn’t do the work, but because they lacked the necessary discipline to succeed.
I truly felt bad for these students. Because their poor work ethic constantly impeded their efforts to be successful in today’s job market.
I wished there were more courses that taught morals and values. For it would truly have benefitted many of my students when it came to getting and keeping a job.
Career development courses. When it comes to hiring the right person for a job, employers hire on:
- How well the candidate dresses,
- How well the candidate answers canned interview questions,
- How well-crafted the candidate’s resume is and,
- The nice things that a candidate’s references said about them.
These are not the best factors to use when hiring an individual. Unfortunately, this is what today’s society dictates.
Long before I was a Career Services Representative, I was a Pharmacy Tech Instructor. As an instructor, I deviated from the usual pharmacy courses and focused on career development. I helped my students with their resumes, prepared them for an interview, and gave them insight about the hiring process. I provided them with samples of cover letters, thank you notes, and reference materials.
I was surprised to see how many of my students lacked career development skills. They were all adults! Yet, many stumbled through the hiring process. How could they ever expect to get a decent job?!
Career development courses should be a requirement, regardless of the discipline. These courses will help the individual secure a job in today’s society.
Dealing with people courses. Shortly after my first management job as an Assistant Director of Pharmacy, I was meeting with my boss and the Vice President of the pharmacy. It was a friendly meeting. There wasn’t any agenda or specific topics of discussion. Just a friendly conversation.
I remember my boss speaking about the pharmacy. He was talking about some plans and projects that he wanted to implement. I marveled at his ideas. Since I was a new manager, I remarked that I wanted to learn how to go about accomplishing them.
He smiled and said, “When it comes to setting up new programs and putting new procedures into practice— that’s easy. But when it comes to dealing with people— that’s the difficult thing. It’s something that everyone needs to learn and constantly work on.”
It’s true. My boss made a lot of sense. I worked with a lot of people in my hospital. I deal with doctors, nurses, administrators, hospital staff, and fellow pharmacy workers. I’m a very friendly person. I like people and enjoy talking to them.
But to be honest— I don’t like everybody. There are some people that I just can’t stand! And frankly, they probably don’t like me either!
Now, I’d never want to hang out with them socially. In fact, I don’t even want to talk to them. And I’d never go to lunch or dinner with them.
But I have to find a way to work with these people. I need to smile, act pleasant, and do what needs to be done. I must work with these individuals that I really don’t like. And develop procedures to implement projects.
Dealing with people is a challenging task to master. But it’s the only way I’ve found to be successful and to accomplish one’s goals.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.