5 Benefits of Penning in Pharmacy Practice: Writing Your Way to a Great Career

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers May 2016

Great communication skills both oral and written are a must-have for pharmacists today.

Ever since I was little, even before I had my eureka moment in high school chemistry class of becoming a pharmacist, I loved to read. My library card was, and is to this day, a magical passport to learn about other ideas, other worlds, and other lives.

My love of reading is also one of the reasons I chose to attend Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (BU COPHS). (Full disclosure: I work here currently.) Butler has a great pharmacy school, certainly, but it also offered me something that was equally important—a strong core liberal arts and sciences program. I sought a school that could train and challenge me both in pharmacy and in reading and writing basics. It was important for me to explore and develop both skill sets during my college experience, and I believe strongly that both have enhanced my career.

Great communication skills—both oral and written—are a must-have for pharmacists today. Pharmacists who write and publish are leaders in the profession. They can clearly articulate new and better ideas to grow our profession in a positive direction and, most importantly, they can challenge all of us to rethink why we do what we do as pharmacists, which ultimately improves patient care.

Now that I am a professor, I continually look for ways to share my writing and pharmacy passions with my students. One of the best ways I can do this is by creating potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to write and publish before pharmacy school graduation.

This spring at Butler and moving into next academic year, we have several exciting projects that will help students hone both their writing and pharmacy skills: 2 children’s book projects, an open-access student-driven health care journal called BU Well, and a brand new pharmacy-driven writing fellowship. These projects help students polish their writing and editing skills, but they also do something more: I would argue they improve leadership skills (Table.)

What is BU Well?

BU Well is an open-access, multimedia, student-driven interprofessional health care journal started in 2015 by Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences through a Butler University Innovation Grant. The inaugural issue will be published online in May 2016. Log on to the website at http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/buwell/ for more details. All professionals are welcome to submit articles that fit the theme of this journal! During the 2016—17 academic year, the theme of the journal is the future of health care.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I say it’s also a great way to maximize one’s career in pharmacy practice, at least for those of us who love to write. If you share this passion, read on to learn how to enhance both your career and your purse strings via writing. With the help of 2 current Butler COPHS pharmacy majors who also love writing and are graduating this spring— Katie Kieffer and Nichole Szczerbowski—following are 5 major reasons why I think writing will benefit you and your pharmacy career:

1) Creativity

Writing makes pharmacists more creative. Szczerbowski said her first writing project in elementary school was like being given a hardcover book that was completely blank.

“I was always so excited when we received that book because I knew it was a blank canvas through which I could tell and illustrate any story I wanted,” Szczerbowski said.

Kieffer stated that she became excited and involved in writing projects around BU COPHS because she was “attracted to the idea of starting something from scratch.”

Personally, I just began writing fictional children’s books in 2014, and it has helped me think in ways I had never considered! I have no doubt that writing increases one’s creativity.

2) Leadership

Both students remarked that they became interested in our student-driven health care journal project at Butler, BU Well, because of its potential to improve their leadership skills.

As head of the policy team for BU Well, Kieffer talked about stretching her leadership skills:

“[BU Well] taught me the importance not only of providing autonomy to team members, but also of laying down a framework and guidelines at the beginning of a project.”

Szczerbowski, who headed the first semester bylaws and sustainability team for BU Well, was also able to explore her leadership skills.

“I was able to try different methods of management and organization and tailor those skills based on feedback and outcomes,” she said. “I learned the importance of being a leader who is passionate, open-minded, and receptive, and who works alongside colleagues to accomplish goals.”

3) Precision

In our busy, information-overloaded world, not only do writers need to be strong technically, but they also need to get to the point quickly.

“No one wants to read a 5-page email,” Kieffer said. “In today’s world, where most communication is done electronically, the ability to convey a message accurately and concisely is important.”

4) Career satisfaction

Szczerbowski believes that better writing skills will get her to the career level she aspires to attain: involvement in academia.

“Medical writing has been shown to have many benefits for pharmacists, such as satisfaction with the profession, more support for research, and the ability to teach graduate level courses,” she said. “As a future pharmacist who is interested in academia, I believe writing is a vital skill that will enable me to become a more effective educator.”

I love to write because it helps me think through ideas on how to teach better. It also leads me to other networks and professions. Other professions have great ideas that I can bring back to pharmacy and implement in order to make the profession more exciting.

Part of good writing is also learning ruthless editing. Strong editing skills can lead to concise, solidly written art.

5) Something from nothing

Starting things from scratch is difficult. Some of the best-implemented ideas begin with a well-written plan. Both students mentioned that they were intrigued by the blank canvas concept of building something from scratch, and writing scratched this itch for them both.

In fact, Szczerbowski and Kieffer have taken their passion for writing and are working together on their senior pharmacy school project, which centers on the writing skills and courses being offered at all 130 schools of pharmacy in the United States. In doing this project, they are also building a plan to offer even more writing opportunities for students on the BU campus.

These students have inspired me to help codevelop the first BU fellowship program in drug pricing, academia, and writing (PAW) to engage and enhance the opportunities for postgraduate pharmacy students to expand their writing horizons.

We will continue to build more opportunities for writing for pharmacists and other health care professionals. In the meantime, pick up your pen and start writing! The benefits are waiting for you.

Dr. Erin Albert is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and a health outcomes pharmacist with Myers and Stauffer LC. She has also penned 11 books of her own and mentored several teams of students to publish their own public health works prior to graduation. To see more of her work, visit www.erinalbert.com.

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