MARCH 01, 2007
James C. McAllister III, MS, FASHP, Pharmacy Times Editor, Health-Systems Pharmacy Section

I have been thinking a lot about what brings pharmacists together and makes them effective groups or teams. I can always count on my staff when we are challenged by a significant event, such as when we have Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations surveyors, or when it snows and a limited number of staff are able to get to work. Everyone seems to pull together, becoming increasingly understanding and cooperative, and gets the job done. I have observed this same behavior routinely with our pharmacy residents, and I have noticed that one specific group of my staff exhibits this same behavior more frequently.

Camaraderie is a word derived from the French and means "goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends," according to the American Heritage Dictionary. I do not really think camaraderie requires people to be friends, but that is certainly the case many times. Friends usually have similar interests, and exhibit loyalty to each other, and the relationship often involves affection. Friends hang out with each other and have a tendency to spend time together socially.

Comrades who exhibit camaraderie have an affinity that draws them together in times of adversity or in pursuit of a common goal. They set aside their differences (while maintaining their individuality) to be part of a group or team that aspires to accomplish something that a single individual cannot accomplish alone. Camaraderie in this sense is characterized by loyalty, respect, support of each other, and a common understanding of their mutual interests.

As the leader of many pharmacists, I have been asking myself what I can do to encourage camaraderie among the staff. It must start by realizing that all pharmacists have a common bond in terms of our societal covenant, a profession that puts those we serve ahead of our own self-interests. We do not have to be friends and we are allowed to have different opinions on issues, but we must put the good of the profession as our first priority. At the department level, pharmacists must understand the common goals, the challenges we face together, and the value in supporting each other.

What should we do to encourage this sense of camaraderie? I am sure I do not have all the answers, but I know we need to spend more time together so that we appreciate the value each of us brings to the organization. We need to agree on certain common goals and encourage colleagues to contribute to the achievement of these goals. It may even be helpful to discuss the "common enemy" of the challenges we need to overcome.

Take a moment to reflect on groups that exhibit camaraderie and their effectiveness. Have you watched a group of residents collaborate? Have you ever been a part of a governing board of a professional association? What brings them together? Finally, what can you do to engender camaraderie as commonplace in your organization?

Mr. McAllister is director of pharmacy at University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals and Clinics and associate dean for clinical affairs at UNC School of Pharmacy, Chapel Hill.

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