Students' Engagement Key to Making an Rximpact for Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers February 2016

We know that the future of pharmacy rests in large part in the hands of pharmacy students.

We have officially entered an election year—nationally, and at the state and local levels. We will be selecting the people who will have tremendous power over health care policy, and pharmacy has and will continue to play a significant role in the ever-important political arena.

As pharmacists continue to work collaboratively with other health care professionals and providers, we know that pharmacy is already playing a pivotal role in the future of health care. We also know that the future of pharmacy rests—in large part—in the hands of pharmacy students.

As pharmacy continues to evolve amid the changing health care landscape, there are both incredible opportunities and significant challenges on the horizon. To meet these challenges, we need to create a culture in which the pharmacist becomes a pharmacist advocate. Not only is a pharmacist advocate armed with the practical knowledge and expertise to counsel patients on taking their medications properly, but this individual also understands the industry’s challenges and can communicate them to their elected officials.

One of the best ways for students to engage and become pharmacist advocates is through the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) RxIMPACT program. The purpose of RxIMPACT is to engage pharmacy advocates to become more involved in public policy on behalf of pharmacy. NACDS established this grassroots advocacy program in 2009, and the initiative has since grown exponentially, with a number of components designed to advance pro-patient, pro-pharmacy issues.

Earlier this year, NACDS announced its 2016 RxIMPACT Votes program, which is the get-out-the-vote arm of our initiative. This program is designed to help pharmacist advocates engage even more completely in the electoral process—according to their own candidate and party preferences—for the purpose of demonstrating the political activism of NACDS members. The program will help pharmacist advocates learn more about volunteering on campaigns, registering to vote, and helping to get out the vote on election day.

The annual NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill aligns pharmacy students with pharmacy executives, state pharmacy association leaders, white-coated pharmacists, and others to promote pro-pharmacy legislation on Capitol Hill.

The popularity of this program among students is on the rise. This year’s RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill will take place March 16—17, 2016, and will include more than 50 students from 44 schools and colleges of pharmacy nationwide—a 5% increase over schools represented in 2015. In total, more than 450 congressional meetings are expected to be conducted during this annual 2-day advocacy event.

During the event, students will have an opportunity to participate in the NACDS RxIMPACT “U” Academy to train to become part of the next generation of pharmacy leaders and advocates and to drive home the pro-patient, pro-pharmacy message during congressional meetings. The academy provides student pharmacists with a half-day of training with experienced advocates 1 day before going “up to the Hill.” This interactive education reviews the policymaking process, the role of congressional committees in policymaking, how to use strategic communications to influence policy outcomes, the power of networking and relationship building, key pharmacy issues, and incorporation of advocacy into pharmacy practice.

Students who are unable to attend the event in Washington and those looking for year-round training will find other important resources within the NACDS RxIMPACT program.

In addition, the RxIMPACT Training Program brings grassroots training to pharmacy schools. This year, training will include challenges to inspire on-campus NACDS RxIMPACT vote activities, such as voter registration and other opportunities to encourage others to vote.

Social media is also an incredibly important way to share your message about pharmacy. We urge students to join the NACDS RxIMPACT Pharmacy Advocates group on LinkedIn. This exclusive online network of pharmacy advocates has access to the latest information on policy issues impacting pharmacy, as well as the inside scoop on the effects of advocacy in politics. Action is necessary when critical issues arise in Congress, in the administration, or in the states, and NACDS will reach out to this group to help get pro-pharmacy, pro-patient messages to lawmakers.

Students are naturally motivated and empowered to make a difference. That energy is contagious; it motivates and inspires others to get involved, including those who have been involved in the pharmacy profession for decades. This is a great time to be joining the ranks of America’s pharmacy community.

We look forward to seeing you in your white coat next month, and for many years to come, at a future NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill, because together we will position pharmacy for the future.

Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, is the CEO and president of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

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