Lifelong Skills You Didn't Learn in School

Pharmacy Careers, Spring 2022, Volume 16, Issue 1

With additional responsibilities and a wider scope of services comes the need for more effective and efficient delegation.

The Pandemic Brings Broad Pharmacist Authorities

As a result of emergency orders written in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 220 million vaccines, millions of tests, and thousands of infusions have been administered during the past several months under the direction of pharmacists. These population-level services have been delivered accurately and punctually—but disproportionately—by pharmacies. Pharmacies have become essential public health infrastructure for pandemic and infectious disease responses. In addition, pharmacists have widely adopted scheduling systems, obtained Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) waivers, developed more services, and now are preparing to expand postpandemic delivery of care, such as flu and strep testing and the administration of other vaccines.

With New Services Come New Pharmacy Demands and Personnel Roles

The traditional personnel model—pharmacist, technician, and cashier—may have been enough for a product-oriented business but it is not enough for services-oriented ones. Workflows for scheduling patients, identifying gaps in care (such as nonadherence or lack of required therapies), administering medical billing, and adopting clinical documentation are becoming more commonplace and necessary. With those workflows come new roles, responsibilities, and titles, such as medication synchronization coordinator, health coach, practice manager, web presence lead, and referral coordinator. Expecting pharmacists to do all those jobs is not just infeasible, but foolhardy.

Delegation and Coordination of Lead Roles

The new generation of pharmacists is entering a workforce that will require training, delegation, and team-building across a variety of roles, and in which subordinate members of staff will often be subject matter experts and have more expertise than their supervisor. The communication, management, and leadership skills needed to take on a CEO-like role, rather than the “follow my lead” approach, will be in high demand. It will also be difficult for pharmacists already in the workforce to gain these skills and adjust their management style after working for many years in what is increasingly becoming an obsolete business model.

Look to Business School and Management Materials for Further Skill Development

There are a host of books, articles, podcasts, and social media streams to help pharmacists develop effective management skills. Pharmacists are members, and often leaders, of teams that need someone who can delegate effectively and supervise those individuals who impact the efficiency of the entire care team. You may not be a corporate executive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to learn and practice solid team-building and management basics.

Here is some advice that I have found useful:

  • If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely measures bring objectivity and focus to team members and their activities. Team and individual measures are needed to evaluate individual and team performance.
  • Every person is their own person. We can have common goals and follow the same policies and workflows, but each person brings different training, experiences, and motivations to the job. Maintaining a professional but personable work relationship can support the needs of your pharmacy and will optimize its performance and productivity.
  • It's OK not to be the smartest person in the room. As health care professionals we struggle with this idea because we grew up in a competitive educational track where being right all the time was praiseworthy. The truth is, your team needs to do some things better than you do and know things you don’t know, or you will suffer as a team.
  • You must let people struggle and fail so that they can grow. All biological systems grow as a result of stress. The key for a manager is to assign tasks that allow for growth, but not so many that they will result in injury. Too many stimuli or too much responsibility too soon will lead to failure and a toxic work environment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Troy Trygstad, PharmD, PhD, MBA, is the executive director of CPESN USA, a clinically integrated network of more than 3500 community pharmacies. He received a PharmD and an MBA from Drake University and a PhD in pharmaceutical outcomes and policy from the University of North Carolina. He recently served on the board of directors of the Pharmacy Quality Alliance and the American Pharmacists Association Foundation.