Chapter Three: Behind the emotions
Note from Tom: The following is the third edition of APhA President Brad Tice's monthly guest blog.
June was a month filled with the first APhA Board meeting of my presidency year; opportunities to meet with pharmacists in Washington, Iowa, and Tennessee; and the release of new membership models by APhA designed to meet people where they are and make it easier to connect with pharmacists across the country. While I would love to go into more details on those experiences, other events that occurred recently necessitate going in a different direction.
With the painful layoffs that occurred in community pharmacy at the end of June and following a fair amount of urging from some in the profession, I ventured out more into the social media space. My goal was to try to connect with those in the profession who are not engaged with APhA. I wanted to understand what is keeping people away as well as try to understand some of the negative comments I was seeing, especially as I was preparing for a consensus conference on workplace issues APhA is holding later this week.
What I experienced was honestly beyond my expectations. I’ll admit to stepping in a bit naively, and I learned a few hard lessons. As I said in my remarks at the Annual Meeting, we need to share our stories, stories filled with emotion, and make people see and feel APhA’s impact in their lives.
I was certainly on the receiving end of a good bit of emotion and fell into a bit of my own. I was also able to see how easily misinterpreted words on social media can be. For those who feel abandoned and that APhA has not been speaking loudly enough for them, words will not be given the benefit of the doubt.
For anyone who may feel my words were hurtful, they were certainly not intended that way, and I apologize if they came across that way.
I also thank you for your interaction. Negative or supportive, you provided a lot of insight that I hope will help in developing meaningful action. Emotions do belong in discussions like these. It’s heartbreaking to hear the ways people describe their work environments. In some cases, it’s described as “going into battle!”
We got into this profession to help people stay healthy and to have enjoyable careers, not to fight a bleary-eyed war to meet metrics where working conditions are sometimes more like working on an assembly line rather than engaging with people to improve their lives.
It is also frustrating to hear that as we have worked so hard to advance practice through new services like immunizations and MTM, many pharmacists’ work life has only become more difficult. Too many pharmacists are unfulfilled, stressed, and struggling to balance work and life.
Another part of what I learned is how much is misunderstood about how APhA works and the actions it takes. Some of my favorite exchanges were simply to provide more insight and clarity so that hopefully people can understand how to engage in their profession and make their lives better. There is clearly a lot more work to do in this area.
I hope this can be just the beginning. While APhA tries mightily to support pharmacists, and there are many pharmacists working for and through APhA, it’s clear many don’t feel supported. Given the state of the profession, they (you) are entitled to feel that way.
I hope you will also see the opportunity. APhA is the pharmacist organization for the profession. It is driven by volunteer leadership of pharmacists putting their voices into the fray to guide and shape their profession. If you need help, want something said more loudly or want more action taken, get involved. So many pharmacists I know have said, “I get more from being involved than I will ever give.” A part of that is from being connected to other pharmacists, seeing the opportunities that are out there and being able to work through issues. And yes, sometimes it is frustrating and messy, change does not happen as fast as you would like, and the results are not always what you would want.
In one story I heard, a pharmacist got a call from a classmate from 20 years ago who was one of the pharmacists whose career was disrupted. She was looking for help in finding a new job and said she had no one else to reach out to. The pharmacist she called, who had been an involved and engaged member of APhA, had a long list of people her classmate could contact.
Once she explained this, the pharmacist looking for help was able to see a different angle on the value of membership. In addition to giving your profession a stronger voice, being involved with others in the profession will give you a stronger ability to bounce back and will help you see opportunities to create the place in the profession that works for you.
Pharmacists’ quality of life
We also know that we must address the issues of today. So, as we speak, we’re spooling up two big projects on pharmacist well-being that have been in the works and are underway now. Both were created to better meet the needs of the pharmacy professionals who do crucially important work under demanding circumstances.
This week APhA is launching the Well-Being Index for Pharmacists. This is a validated screening tool invented by the Mayo Clinic to evaluate fatigue, depression, burnout, anxiety, and both mental and physical quality of life. It has measured physician, nurse and other healthcare employee burnout, as many other health care providers are experiencing the same burnout issues pharmacists are. This survey, just for pharmacists, takes just a few moments to complete and is anonymous. You will receive immediate individualized feedback on how your well-being stacks up to that of your peers and whether you could be at risk for consequences at work or home. It is available to all pharmacists, regardless of whether they are members of APhA.
Through this survey, you’ll be connected to tools and resources that address individual well-being, and you can retake the survey to monitor your results over time. Participants’ results will be aggregated, analyzed, and released later this year. Follow APhA on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the Well-Being Index and take the survey as soon as it goes live. We will also “come to you” and post updates where we can hopefully reach you and make them more visible.
You might say, “A survey, so what?” But we believe gathering this baseline info and giving you a tool for your own analysis will be valuable for you individually and will add to the well-being initiative, as it will provide an ability to objectively communicate pharmacists’ mental and physical state.
Resources are also available to help people work through burnout. The results will be compared across health professions and be used to establish an objective measure of pharmacist well-being that can be leveraged as a voice for change.
Conversations with industry stakeholders
APhA is also convening a consensus conference July 17–19 where pharmacists, employers—including representatives from chains, independents, pharmacy organizations, regulators, and pharmacy schools—will work together to identify opportunities to enhance the well-being and resilience of the pharmacy workforce. The conference is aimed at coming to grips with the realities facing today’s pharmacy professionals and pushing forward to foster well-being and resilience while accounting for the needs of all stakeholders.
Together, attendees will develop specific, solution-based recommendations that will be used as a guidepost going forward. We expect the consensus report to be available a few weeks after the conference ends.
This conference has been in the works for the better part of a year and was announced at the APhA Annual Meeting in Seattle in March. We cannot solve all the problems in one conference, but it is a starting point. It has been developed by a steering committee of practicing pharmacists with no predetermined outcome, where only those involved in the real-life day-to-day system are invited to participate.
Disconnected, disgruntled, ignored
While thousands of pharmacists use APhA’s Engage platform and Special Interest Groups to stay connected, we know that thousands more feel disconnected, disgruntled, or ignored. To meet those concerns, we are redoubling our efforts to let you know what’s happening on the issue—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Watch this space for my next guest blog in a few weeks, and feel free to reach out to me personally any time. I posted my personal e-mail and phone number on social media knowing the risk I was taking and sincerely wanting to hear from pharmacists and be a resource to help. Here they are again: firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 574-9638. Text first so that I know it is not a robocall!
I commit to you that this is only the beginning.