Building Effective Physician-Pharmacist Communication

OCTOBER 05, 2016
One worry that many pharmacy students have when they get out of school concerns how to tell a physician that a mistake’s been made with a medication dose or frequency—and then how to explain the right course of action. You might initially feel afraid you won’t provide the right solution, or perhaps you feel insecure about how to express your concern. This is all normal, but you should master those fears and insecurities before they start affecting your performance at your workplace. Learning how to socialize and communicate with all members of the health care team takes time, especially if you’re an introvert, but with discipline and commitment, all these traits will eventually flow naturally.
 
For starters, approaching a physician with recommendations shows that you care for the patient under that physician’s care. Aside from that important fact, it’s a key moment for you to formally present yourself and willingly offer a hand if anything concerning medications arises. Politely expressing your desire to help may open additional opportunities to grow professionally in the future. However, not every physician will acknowledge you the way you expect, and some of them won’t even see you as an essential part of the health care team.
 
Nonetheless, documenting your interventions in spite of any uncomfortable interaction shows your commitment to your profession. Clearly, we’re medication experts, but behaving humbly and respectfully will speak volumes of your character and professionalism. Never brag about your degree, knowledge, or accomplishments because this will do nothing but damage your reputation at any workplace.
 
Additionally, learning to listen to what a physician may say about your recommendation is equally necessary. Paying attention can help you learn more about the patient’s medical history, diagnosis, and so forth. Building trust is another paramount attribute when interacting with physicians. Anytime you wish to give a suggestion or recommendation, always rely on your most trusted references and even go out of your way, and research primary literature if necessary. This guarantees that anything you suggest is clinically relevant and supported by references.
 
If a physician approaches you with a clinical question, everything mentioned here applies as well. If you don’t know the answer, just tell the truth. Inform the physician that you’ll verify your clinical resources and return with the answer before the end of the day. If you’ve built enough confidence, ask for an email or phone number so you can follow up.
 
Above all, continuing to build up work relationships requires engaging with your peers often. Most of what’s suggested in this article can be deployed with nurses, coworkers, and relevant supervisors. Remind yourself why you chose pharmacy as your profession—because being a committed professional will be expected of you. You’ll be chosen as the problem solver on many occasions, and knowing how to handle stressful situations is crucial when dealing with patients’ lives. Never let doubt take control; rather, seize every opportunity and demonstrate how significant our impact is within the health care team.

Orlando Alvarado-Rivera, PharmD, MS
Orlando Alvarado-Rivera, PharmD, MS
Orlando Alvarado-Rivera graduated from the Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy in May 2014 and then got licensed in Puerto Rico and Florida. He’s currently an emergency room pharmacist in the third largest acute care hospital in Puerto Rico. He is interested in exploring ways that pharmacists can narrow the gap between patient and physician, as well as striving to achieve provider status.
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