5 Keys to Successfully Hiring a Specialty Clinical Pharmacist


Pharmacists most frequently become the formal and informal leaders for the specialty pharmacies they work in.

The ability to attract, hire, and retain high quality employees in any industry is important.

It is especially important in the health care industry, where there are significant resources used to source, train, and develop key employees in your organization. Pharmacists most frequently become the formal and informal leaders for the specialty pharmacies they work in.

Therefore, it is extremely important to successfully hire pharmacists who have the skillsets necessary to lead your organization. However, because many specialty pharmacies operate drastically different from the traditional work environments and roles pharmacists have been accustomed to, managers are posed with a difficult challenge to hire individuals for their organization.

The key to successfully hiring talent for a specialty pharmacy may lie with a number of criteria.

1. Shares in company’s vision

Determining if a pharmacist shares in the overall mission, vision, and values of your specialty pharmacy is the most important trait you should look for when hiring a pharmacist. During your interview with candidates, take time to review what are your company values.

Stress the importance of the company’s vision. This gives you an opportunity to express what your company’s focus is, and allows you to gauge interest and fit of prospective employees. Strong candidates will most likely come prepared and have an understanding of the company’s vision.

Attempt to have the potential candidates articulate what it is about your organization they find attractive. Are they able to identify with your organization’s passion? If so, keep these candidates part of your evaluation process. According to Simon Sinek’s golden circle, people who identify with why you do something can always be instructed on the how and the what behind your organization’s efforts.

2. Adaptable

Pharmacists who have worked in other practice settings prior to joining a specialty pharmacy will need to adapt to the new workflows and processes specific to specialty pharmacy.

These may include conducting prior authorization reviews, coordinating with HUBs, knowledgeable and actionable supply chain management of specialty products, and potentially in-depth disease state management of rare and ultra-rare orphan diseases. Pharmacists who will be most successful taking positions working for a specialty pharmacy will quickly adapt and learn how to perform these services.

3. Strong communication skills

Strong communication skills are required for specialty pharmacists. Arguably, specialty pharmacists must communicate with a wider variety of individuals and groups than pharmacists in other health care settings. In addition to communicating with physicians and patients, specialty pharmacists often communicate with health plans, manufacturers, and hub support programs.

In each scenario, specialty pharmacists must tailor the level of product and disease state knowledge for each audience. They must be able to convey, often in a brief timeframe, the need for costly therapies to insurers.

Similarly, they must be able to efficiently provide education to not only patients about their disease state and prescribed therapy, but also serve as a valuable resource to prescribers. Aiding in the prescriptive process for rare therapies that the physician may not be familiar with is a routine requirement for many specialty pharmacists.

Lastly, they may need to communicate with hub services and have in depth-knowledge of the reimbursement model for a variety of products under different payer arrangements. In all circumstances, strong communication skills, both written and oral, are essential.

4. Advanced degrees or certifications

As specialty pharmacies continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves in a rapidly expanding market, employing pharmacists with a unique variety of advanced degrees is becoming a key differentiator. Pharmacists who have gone on to receive the Certified Specialty Pharmacist designation (CSP) have demonstrated that they have an advanced level of experience and knowledge in the specialty pharmacy sector.

Some manufacturers have even started to inquire if pharmacists who work for the organization hold a CSP designation during the RFP process. Additionally, pharmacists may consider acquiring advanced training in disease states such as HIV, hepatitis, organ transplant, and oncology.

Certifications documenting expertise in these areas will make not only the pharmacists themselves more marketable, but specialty pharmacies should also promote this as a key point of difference.

Furthermore, as channel strategies and reimbursement models quickly evolve, specialty pharmacies will benefit from employing pharmacists with advanced degrees in business, such as MBAs and the Masters of Science in Pharmacy Business Administration.

5. Company support and training

Support from the specialty pharmacy during onboarding of new pharmacists and continuing throughout their employment is crucial to success. Specialty pharmacies need to have scheduled 1-on-1 conversations with their staff to ensure they are being challenged and getting personal satisfaction from the role they serve.

Involving human resources and having engaging, open managers within the organization is key. Also as important is the quality improvement and education for growth of employees. Providing timely and constructive feedback to all staff is paramount to success.

Pharmacists who enjoy rapid change and are open to learning about new products and services are best positioned to succeed in the specialty pharmacy segment. Having advanced degrees and certifications, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders will set pharmacists apart from their peers if they are seeking employment with a specialty pharmacy.

Above all else, a shared vision between the pharmacist and the specialty pharmacy will lead to success for both parties, and most importantly, the patients they serve.


Sinek, Simon. "TED: Simon Sinek - "The Golden Circle" Clip." YouTube. YouTube, 09 May 2012. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.

About the Author

Justin Smerker earned his PharmD degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. He is currently a clinical pharmacist for PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy. He has experience in the implementation and delivery of high-touch patient care services as well as in clinical management, persistency, and adherence programs. Justin also has participated in assisting with the successful launch of newly FDA approved medications. He has served as an adjunct clinical instructor for experiential education at Duquesne University. Prior to working in the specialty pharmacy sector, Justin successfully managed high volume retail pharmacies. He is currently enrolled in the Masters of Science in Pharmacy Business Administration (MSPBA) program at the University of Pittsburgh, a 12-month, executive-style graduate education program designed for working professionals striving to be tomorrow’s leaders in the business of medicines.

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