I recently had the unexpected opportunity to travel to the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.
The trip to Scotland was a first for me, and it was unexpected because it was the direct result of a networking effort I initiated four years ago in Michigan. Fast forward to earlier this year’s American Pharmacists Association midyear meeting when I ran into the same contact in a food court during the conference.
She introduced me to the team responsible for marketing the conference, and I landed myself a trip to Scotland to attend the conference and write about the experience.
In all honesty, at the time the opportunity presented itself, I wasn’t even sure I remembered ever hearing about FIP before.
The trip connected me with pharmacists from all over the world, and it taught me some things I’ll carry with me in my own career.
The pharmacy industry in the United States is rather segregated. We have different organizations representing different specialties, and we’re rather divided in our efforts.
Hospital pharmacists join the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists while community pharmacists join the APhA.
Instead of multiple groups with different agendas, we should function as one group with different niches supporting our industry as a whole.
The segregation isn’t helping our cause.
FIP, on the other hand, has many subgroups in its organizations, and I found an interesting one related to academia that supported my work with students and pharmacists.
I had the distinct pleasure to meet Dr. Ruth Miller, following an email conversation with her several years ago. I learned a lot from her and I had a chance to share our work at The Happy PharmD.
As a result, we’re in talks to make The Happy PharmD an international business that will provide career coaching and consulting to pharmacists in the U.S. as well as Canada, Ireland, the U.K., and across Europe.
If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Miller, I highly recommend you check out her blog, The Swan Doctor, where she recently shared some of the painful experiences she has had as a pharmacist.
Pharmacy Workforce Trends
The Pharmacy Workforce Intelligence Global Trends Report is a large report that shows the trends in our industry across the entire world.
The large report may not generate must interest in the U.S. because we generally believe the pharmacy industry is saturated. Though this report didn’t address that factor, it did highlight some other interesting trends.
- The number of female pharmacists is increasing. Researchers anticipate that 72 percent of pharmacists will be female by 2032.
- Higher income countries have more pharmacists per capita, which likely doesn’t surprise anyone.
Generally speaking, the public doesn’t understand the true value of pharmacists.
I heard an interesting perspective from a European pharmacist at FIP:
“Until the public demands their local pharmacist be an integral part of the healthcare team, little change will happen.”
While the view is pessimistic, I understand what he meant.
Several friends from different national organizations have shared stories about meeting with their legislators, and most of them ended the same way. Legislators tell us that until pharmacists unify their message about the things they want in their profession, changes won’t likely happen.
The public sees pharmacists behind the counter taking way too long to fill their medications, and they don’t understand what we do. They think we simply count pills.
Until we change the perception and convince the public to change its view of our profession, we won’t likely improve working conditions or standards.
The public won’t demand change until we can unify our message.
American pharmacists are among the most fortunate of all the pharmacists in the world.
Although there isn’t extensive research to prove it, I spoke with pharmacists from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and other countries around the world, and I learned that we are, on average, the highest paid by simple comparison.
The starting U.K. pharmacists will make around £40,000. As of this writing in September of 2018, that translates to $52,697. It’s a small portion of what we make in the U.S.
Though American pharmacists have debt and we have work stress and we have frustrations, and those challenges are real and important, we do earn a good living.
Education outside the U.S. is significantly cheaper.
Anyone can Google this, and I suspected this prior to visiting FIP, but I heard first-hand how much less students are paying for their education elsewhere.
I met a student from Glasgow University who goes to university for free.
Many in the U.S. would like to see us offer the same benefits, but there are tradeoffs for such an arrangement. Someone has to pay those costs, so European taxes are much higher.
I’m not suggesting that either option is right or wrong; simply that a tradeoff exists.
Although visitors can’t take advantage of those programs, the education available there costs far less than in the U.S. One pharmacy student told me that her education will cost her about £60,000 for four years and that she will complete her pharmacy requirements within that four-year window.
It sounds contradictory, but the U.S. is both ahead, and behind, in pharmacy innovation.
After visiting a few clinical sessions and reviewing poster presentations, I found instances where innovation was lacking and others where it was evident.
I found myself comparing the American pharmacy industry to other nations, and I found myself appreciating the FIP and its mission to advance the industry.
By sharing what other people in other countries are doing, the FIP makes it easier for everyone to grow together.
One of my favorite sayings about abundance is this one:
“The rising tide raises all ships.”
If we can copy the innovative work of smart people, why innovate twice? The more innovation we share, the more everyone can advance.
FIP makes the pharmacy industry even smaller.
I met pharmacists from other countries who were born in America but who decided they wanted to live abroad and travel. They used their FIP connections to find an entirely different career path in a completely different country.
Networking at this level is next-game activity for your career, and if you have any aspirations of traveling or working abroad, I recommend you attend FIP.
Many Scots and Brits describe Americans as emotionally charismatic leaders, and I suspect that American TV has something to do with it.
Most said the Americans they know are “stand-up people.”
I entertained myself asking people with foreign accents to imitate the American accent, and I determined that we use the word awesome quite a bit.
If you’re attending for the right reasons, I highly recommend the FIP Congress. FIP provides a unique opportunity to connect with global influencers.
You can make connections there that will lead to a new job.
I met a pharmacist from Australia who was originally from the U.S. but who attended the FIP, met people in her field, and landed a job working in Australia.
Don’t go simply to get continuing education. Don’t go if you only wish to do international travel, because you’ll likely focus too much on the fun parts and not enough on the important connections you could make.
- If you’d like to practice pharmacy on another level, go to FIP.
- If you’d like to live in another country, go to FIP.
- If you believe in advancing the pharmacy profession, go to FIP.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.