I participated in many meetings as a hospital pharmacy manager. Every month, my pharmacy department held a staff meeting. At these meetings, both my pharmacists and pharmacy technicians expressed what was right and wrong about the department and the hospital. Sometimes, we worked out our problems and provided possible solutions. Other times, everyone just vented. My staff always felt that these meetings were quite productive.
I also attended the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Meeting (P&T). I was just a participant— an innocent bystander. My boss, the Director of Pharmacy, was the secretary. He took the minutes while one of the doctors was the president. (But my boss ran the meeting.)
At this meeting, the participants reviewed medications and guidelines that were used at my hospital. A great deal of preparation went into this meeting. The clinical pharmacist presented many detailed pages of data in which medications and their therapies were compared.
My boss and I were also members of our hospital’s Investigational Review Board (IRB). Their meetings were held quarterly. I didn’t know why the IRB even had meetings. Most times, the committee members discussed patient studies at these meetings for new drugs. The committee would discuss blind drug studies. In almost every case, the study drug far exceeded the benefits over a placebo. This didn’t surprise me at all.
But what I found interesting was when the committee reviewed an emergency where a patient (usually a child) needed to be airlifted to our hospital. In those cases, the patient needed to be treated with some investigational drug or protocol to aid the patient. It was fascinating to hear about these emergencies at our meetings.
Meetings That Waste Time
I’ve attended many meetings as the pharmacy manager. In many cases, the person who is planning the meeting is also the one who is running the meeting. I’ve noticed something when it comes to other people planning and running a meeting. These people expect to just show up and have the meeting run smoothly. They have a nonchalant attitude and they invest little effort into planning the meeting. And it shows.
I’m not stupid when I attend these disastrous meetings. They are not productive at all! I may not express it at the meeting or tell the person who’s running it, but many times I’ve come out of these meetings thinking, “That was a waste of my time.”
Running My Pharmacy Meetings
In planning and running my meetings at the hospital, I always consider the following key points:
- Start on time. There is nothing more annoying than scheduling a meeting and having some people arrive on time, while others stagger in 10-15 minutes late. It’s even more annoying to waste time telling these latecomers what they missed. It’s not fair to the meeting participants who arrived on time! My meetings start on time and I do not rehash things for those that arrive late.
- Make an agenda. Before my meetings, I send out an agenda via email. This tells everyone what I hope to accomplish at my meeting. I go in order and stick to the topics on the agenda. However, if a key agenda item is dependent on a particular person, (and they are not present), I usually skip the agenda item.
- Be a timekeeper. Since I run the meeting, I keep an eye on the clock. My meetings end at a specific time since the meeting participants have other obligations. On my agenda, I allot a specific time frame (5 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.) to discuss each topic. I also stopped the discussion when I felt it was no longer productive.
- Minutes are a must. Minutes are a record of what was said and accomplished at meetings. My meeting’s minutes were a springboard of what happened at the last meeting and what I wanted to do at this meeting. In the absence of an appointed secretary, I usually get a volunteer to take the minutes.
- Allow everyone to speak. Sometimes the quietest person at a meeting has the best ideas. However, that person may be too nervous or intimidated to contribute. Thus, it’s my job to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to speak. I generally go around the room allowing everyone the chance to speak about a topic. Then I open the meeting up to general discussion, which allows those present a second chance to talk.
Adding Drugs To The Formulary
The four hospitals that I worked for all had a devoted medical staff. Their doctors had privileges at the hospitals. They admitted their patients who were provided with. Exceptional treatments.
Our hospital had a vast formulary or list of medications that the physician could choose from to treat his/her patients. Thus, the formulary was considered “closed” since only those drugs listed could be used in our hospital. If a physician wanted to use a drug not listed on the formulary (like a brand new drug), the physician had to attend a future P&T meeting. At that time, the physician would be required to explain to the P&T committee members what the benefits of the new drug were and why it should be put on the formulary.
Most of the time, there was a need for new drugs to be added to the hospital’s formulary. They were simply better than the existing medications on the formulary. In these situations, it was quite clear as to why the drug needed to be added to the hospital’s formulary.
I do remember one time, though, it was obvious that the physician was just being manipulated by the sales rep to get a drug added to the formulary. The physician came to the P&T meeting with a glossy and colorful brochure which was probably used in the drug company’s advertising campaign.
The physician did not explain the merits of the new drug. Instead, he read the brochure from front cover to cover. He then gave out pens with the drug company’s name on them. Needless to say, the P&T committee members did not add the drug to the formulary.
I always view disastrous meetings as a learning experience. If I came out of a meeting where I felt I had wasted my time— I’d figure out what went wrong. I’d also determine what the meeting leader could have done differently.
Thus, I learned from someone else’s mistakes. Furthermore, I’d try not to make these errors at the meetings that I needed to conduct.
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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.