Do You Have What It Takes to Play First String?

SEPTEMBER 08, 2016
Pharmacy has many excellent second-string pharmacists filling prescriptions and verifying orders all over the country, but what does it take to move up to the first string?

The fall of 1978 was the highlight of my football career. I was a sophomore in high school, playing for the junior varsity team. As a defensive back, I’d somehow come into my own that year with 5 interceptions, one of which I’d run back for a touchdown. I can remember how exciting it felt to be confident in my actions, ability, and performance. 
 
The following year, I moved up to varsity and it just wasn’t the same. After a couple weeks of practice, I was pretty much relegated to second-string receiver and special teams. For years, I’ve credited my junior- and senior-year poor football statistics to my small size; at 5' 8" and 150 pounds, I was no bigger than my buddy, the field goal kicker.
 
Now at age 53, I realize it had nothing to do with my size and everything to do with my lack of practice. The summer before the 1979 season, I did absolutely nothing to prepare myself for the upcoming season. One of my closest friends was the quarterback. I could’ve easily gone out and practiced running plays and drills with him. We could’ve built a trust so  when he threw the ball to me, he’d trust I’d be there to catch it.
 
I could’ve practiced my sprints to assure I’d have the speed necessary to get down the field, while also working on my endurance to make sure I’d be in top physical condition the entire game. The point is, it wasn’t my size that limited my game, it was my lack of passion.
 
I finally made it to the pros as a pharmacist, and after practicing for more than 30 years, only in the past 5 do I feel I might have a chance at playing first string. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve only recently found my passion for the game.
 
The pharmacy world is filled with second-string players—qualified, excellent performers with incredible attention to detail. Clinically, we prescribe appropriate follow-up in all scenarios and are comfortable with medication education discussions with medical and nursing staff. We understand that different patients require different levels of education and are fluid and dynamic enough to overcome individual patient barriers and provide the information necessary to complete a medication counseling session at the pharmacy counter.
 
As a pharmacist, there’s nothing wrong with being second string. Many pharmacists even work hard to pull their game up from third string to second. The second string is the backbone of America’s pharmacy, but if we don’t have some first-string players, the game will never advance.
 
Over the years, pharmacists have moved from behind the counter to where the patient is, providing needed medication counseling. We’ve moved from the basement of hospitals up to the patient floors, providing clinical education for medical and nursing staff and recommendations on patient care. Pharmacists now provide medication therapy management and vaccination services during house calls. In some facilities, pharmacists are regularly involved in patient rounds and visit patients at their bedside prior to discharge.
 
None of this advancement could’ve happened if it weren’t for those first-string pharmacists promoting and advocating for the profession. These pharmacists bring their passion home with them and live it 24 hours a day. Pharmacy isn’t just a job for them; it’s a calling to move the profession forward while providing a needed service.
 
I can’t define exactly where my passion came from. My feeling is it’s in us all along and just takes a situation or some certain awareness to surface. Once it’s sparked, it can easily burn out unless it’s identified and exercised on a daily basis. I feel confident that if I just keep practicing, running drills, and doing the leg work, I’ll be called up to the starting team. 
 
As I’ve said before, the administrators aren’t going to come looking for you unless you’ve done something wrong. Second-string pharmacists work hard, perform well, and are rarely visited by administrators. 
 
The question is, what are you doing to improve your game? What are you willing to do the leg work for and take to your administrator to show how it’ll change and affect patient outcomes in a positive way?


Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD, has been practicing both hospital and community pharmacy for over 30 years. He founded AudibleRx, in 2011, which provides Consumer Medication Information which is both Useful and Accessible. Content designed to meet health literacy guidelines. Format designed to "read along" with the audio presentation in a simple to use web application. More information at AudibleRx.org.
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