Business Skills for the New Pharmacist


A study published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education conducted focus groups of pharmacy preceptors to discuss desired business-related skills.

A peek at recent professional and scientific journals in pharmacy will find research results demonstrating the importance of collegiality and so-called “soft skills” in pharmacist hire preferences. While the results of such studies usually corroborate one another, we could use even more evidence.

A study published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education conducted focus groups of pharmacy preceptors to discuss desired business-related skills. Focus groups usually consist of a small number of persons from a geographically small, or constrained area; however, very rich, detailed, and nuanced data can be derived from their use.

In this research, the first theme derived from the focus group data was in regard to communication skills. It was emphasized that both oral and written communication skills are increasingly important. Moreover, pharmacists have to be able to speak effectively with a range of different persons, and the same strategies advocated for use in communication with patients (e.g. active listening, empathy, assertiveness) should also be used in communicating with all other pharmacy stakeholders.

The second theme detailed business skills needed, including interpreting profit-loss statements, budgets, organizational structure, and culture knowledge, such as mission, vision, and business planning. Human resources (HR) management skills also are needed.

The third theme described decision-making and time management skills, including the process of gathering and selecting information to solve problems, as well as the ability to delegate to achieve efficiency, and to empower others.

The fourth theme centered around conflict resolution, requiring that pharmacy graduates be humble and realize that not all decisions are personal.

The fifth theme concerned leadership and professionalism, which emphasized creative thinking but also that the term ‘professionalism’ encompasses role modeling, and thus far more than things like appearance and promptness.

These 5 themes culminated in the sixth and final theme, which was managing and directing others. Effectiveness in this regard was observed in how well teams function under the direction of a pharmacist, and the attitudes and behaviors of team members when that pharmacist is not present.

Management skills are needed for effective pharmacy practice in today’s health care environment. Pharmacists demonstrating these skills will do well for their patients, and also well for themselves, career-wise.

Effective pharmacy managers will role model appropriate behaviors for recently hired pharmacists and make the time investment to help develop young talent in these areas. The time invested will be recouped many times over.

The poor manager is one who is either insecure of others eventually taking their job or who lacks enough faith in other people to make that small investment of time.

Additional information about medication therapy management and management functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. You or your institution can subscribe to AccessPharmacy to access the textbook.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California. He is author of Chapter 1: The “Management” in Medication Therapy Management and Management Functions in the textbook Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.


Augustine J, Slack M, Cooley J, et al. Identification of key business and management skills needed for pharmacy graduates. Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82: Article 6364.

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