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Pharmacists/employers need to be on same side

Picture of people in office attire pulling a piece of rope in their direction - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Pharmacists/employers need to be on same side

JANUARY 2017 – Tensions are mounting between pharmacists and their employers—and both sides need to step back and take stock if they are to make it through a remarkable period of transition in the profession, stated panelists at the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s Pharmacy Forum held in November 2016.

“There is a lot of friction right now between many pharmacists and their employers in terms of expectations,” said Jen Baker, co-chair of the Ontario Pharmacists Association Staff Pharmacists Caucus and a pharmacist in Kingston, Ontario. “The economic pressures put on the owner are put on the pharmacists, but pharmacists have no control and this sometimes precludes them from providing the best patient care. We need to rebuild their relationship so the two can work together as a team.”

To start, it’s important to keep things in perspective. “We are in a state of transition. Technology and technicians will help, but they haven’t had a huge impact yet,” noted John Papastergiou, associate-owner of two Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies in Toronto, Ontario.

“It’s worth acknowledging that we wouldn’t be facing many of the stresses today without the changing landscape,” agreed Margaret Wing, CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association. But it’s time to move the conversation beyond concerns about pharmacists having to do more for less. “This is not about doing more for less – this is about doing something different. This is about caring for patients. If pharmacists are being pushed into a workload capacity they can’t manage in a distribution model type of practice they have to be able to say, ‘Stop: is this something that technology can do or technicians can do?’ We need to help them transition into more of an autonomous role.”

While employers are responsible for ensuring any workflow barriers are addressed, pharmacists may have to ask themselves if they’re personally ready to provide services, or if they’d prefer to stay in more of a dispensing role, said Sean Simpson, owner of four independent pharmacies in the Niagara Region of Ontario, who shared some of his challenges when hiring or training pharmacists to provide expanded services. “There is a certain degree of apathy and entitlement that we have to overcome. We have to decide if we’re healthcare professionals or just paid to do a job.”

Both Simpson and Papastergiou agreed that clinical services should be part of the job description, with individual goals set for each pharmacist. “Owners have to communicate their expectations. If pharmacists don’t do the services expected, they won’t be employed,” said Papastergiou. Both owners also believe in leading by example, and that professional fulfillment is as strong a motivator as changes to workflow or financial rewards. “This is not so much about financials as it is about empowerment,” said Simpson.

“Intrinsic motivation is more sustaining,” confirmed Baker. On a practical note, she emphasized the importance of delegation to non-pharmacist staff. “There are ways we can be creative in training, or we can hire someone else to sell or market services. The happiest pharmacists have supportive teams.”

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