Stuck on the Sidelines

As the industry faces sweeping changes, there should be one big strong voice defending and supporting pharmacists.

It is time for a change. The profession of pharmacy has many among its ranks that are content with sitting on the sidelines and letting the profession go by way of the whims of outside forces. And that is our big problem.

There is no reason for a profession of highly educated people to be so passive and reactionary to events and developments that directly impact our livelihoods and scope of practice. We’re too determined to simply get by on our own and worry about ourselves. There is no fight. Why?

I’ve seen negative development after development happen to the profession of pharmacy over the last several years without as much as one swing of resistance from the pharmacy community. We always seem to be stuck on the sidelines and unwilling or unable to directly impact our own direction. It’s like we can’t fight for our own behalf.

I’ve always complained that the world of pharmacy needs our own equivalent of the American Medical Association. I don’t care if you are working as a retail pharmacist, a clinical pharmacist, and industry pharmacist, a consultant, or whatever other practice setting that encompasses our great profession. There should be one big strong voice defending us and supporting us.

We need doers rather than spectators. It is time to put yourself in the game instead of watching the home team lose another game or give up another touchdown. People that want to sit on their hands while our profession changes for the worse and then complain about it later should check their white coats at the door and just leave.

It sounds harsh to say. Almost like I am ignoring how helpless we can feel as individual practitioners in a field being driven by forces much bigger than us. We need our jobs to support our families and pay off student loans right? The employers have the power don’t they? Well, only if we give it to them.

From the retail perspective, the chains are collectively getting bigger and stronger. Soon there will be a short list of large chains that completely dominate community pharmacy. And the pharmacy benefit management business is also consolidating. So basically either big distribution businesses or big insurance entities will drive the direction of our profession. But pharmacists somehow have been eliminated from the decision making process.

Look at CVS and their new deal to offer a drug plan with Aetna according to this article. And don’t forget the big Express Scripts-Medco planned merger. Forces are joining together as if there is a war coming. But individual pharmacists aren’t being invited to the war room for the all important negotiations and decision making.

I’m worried about our future as pharmacists. I’m worried about what happens to pharmacy technicians. And what about pharmacy students who may have major developments impact their chosen career path before they can even graduate from school and start working?

We are all in big trouble if some board room business meetings are driving our profession. If people who have never filled a prescription or don’t understand what it means to have other people’s lives in their hands are calling the shots then all is lost. Most people don’t even know or understand what we do. How can outsiders really guide our profession where it needs to go?

One of the most frustrating things about pharmacists is that as a group we are passive. We allow negative things to happen to us while absorbing the consequences of those actions. While I admire our resilience, I can’t help but think we’d be better served being active in fighting for ourselves and the profession.

But what is it going to take before the leaders among our ranks finally say enough is enough? Will all retail prescriptions be outsourced to mail order pharmacies? Will robots completely replace hospital pharmacists? Will the industry have to be completely destroyed? But wait, then it will be too late!

Well, I’ve had it. I’m ready for action. And I don’t even know what that means exactly yet, but I can’t sit around and watch the destruction of the profession of pharmacy happen any longer. I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore.

What if some pharmacists became politically active and support us? What if we could write our board of pharmacies letters and tell them about the problems we all face? What if we challenge employers who implement policies that are clearly against the best interests of the profession of pharmacy? Even a simple act like a phone call or email might make a difference!

I think the profession of pharmacy has many pharmacists who are stuck on the sidelines. Passive people who would rather make do with however things are going to be instead of being driven to influence the reality we will face. It eliminates the risk of losing your job. It is the safe play for us to simply accept what we don’t like. But without action we could all lose our jobs anyway.

The price for inaction is extinction. The penalty for being passive is irrelevance. The reality of letting others decide your fate is to lose control. Power is not static. It is either gained or lost.

So find some way to get off the sidelines. Do it for yourself. Do it for other pharmacists. Do it for future pharmacists. And do it for the patients whose lives depend on us. We’ve lost a lot being on the sidelines. But it’s nothing like what we have yet to lose if we don’t act now! Are you ready to get off the sidelines? I know I am!