Training Reinforcements

Author: James C. McAllister III, MS, FASHP, Editor, Health-Systems Pharmacy Section

Summer is an exciting time because the reinforcements arrive. Of course, I am referring to new graduates and pharmacists who have completed residency programs and graduate programs who become pharmacy colleagues. They renew the ranks with their optimism and enthusiasm, but their confidence is questionable, and most have not practiced independently. Once they have satisfied licensure requirements and begin practicing independently, they realize their responsibility and what is at stake.

This is a critically important time for new pharmacists because they are quite vulnerable and impressionable. During their first months of practice, they become "imprinted," based on their early experiences as well as their interactions with peers, their leaders, and the organizations they join (along with both their employer and their professional associates).

New colleagues will rapidly develop a professional attitude and begin to prioritize practice philosophies. I have had the good fortune to participate in leadership seminars by retired Gen James L. Anderson, who has 2 business cards, each with different messages. Each message begins with, "Attitudes are contagious." One message concludes, "Yours is worth catching!" and the other concludes, "Is yours worth catching?" You can imagine to whom he distributes these business cards. I agree with General Anderson's philosophy, and I fervently appeal to everyone to align new colleagues with practitioners who have a positive, optimistic, and caring attitude.

All of these new colleagues need a mentor?an advisor they can trust, someone to be a resource and a professional guide. Their mentor should supplement their formal orientation and training with the softer element of joining a group of providers by introducing them to other staff members, taking them to lunch or dinner, and helping them anticipate situations and their role in matters they never learned about in their formal education and training.

I suggest that we as pharmacists consider our responsibility for making these reinforcements as good as they can be by being sensitive to their vulnerability and anxieties, and by following a few rules:

  1. Make them feel wanted and important.
  2. Be friendly and caring.
  3. Do not put them in situations that might make them feel ignorant.
  4. Validate their most valued behaviors.
  5. Be patient.
  6. Give them time to learn in an organized training program.
  7. Offer to help if they have questions. Most of us know that investing a little more time in the beginning of their employment will pay off for years to come.

Most of us know that investing a little more time in the beginning of their employment will pay off for years to come. As far as a message to the "reinforcements" is concerned, I suggest that the following be considered:

  1. Be patient with us. Some of you are so well prepared that we are intimidated.
  2. Do not accept the status quo. There may be valid reasons why things are the way they are, but most of us welcome a fresh perspective and new ideas.
  3. Strive to make a difference every day.
  4. Think of all patients (aka customers) as members of your family, and fulfill your responsibilities as if they were.
  5. Be collegial and team-oriented. Our strength and effectiveness are shored up when we work together.

I hope that you are excited and invigorated by your newest colleagues. Please join me in welcoming them to the ranks!