Is your pharmacy an outpost?

Recently, I received an e-mail from a new practitioner whose family I’ve known a long time. This young pharmacist was frank enough to share the following observation with me:

About ways to improve my chain pharmacy, I think one of the main components that is missing is professional connection. I think a lot of pharmacists like me feel isolated out in the field, with no one to bounce ideas off of except your partner. Maybe my chain could hold continuing education programs or meetings within the market to discuss pharmacy issues so that the pharmacist has the opportunity to build relationships with other pharmacists who do the same job. I think that hospital pharmacists get this already because they are in daily contact with health care staff, whereas the community pharmacist usually works solo.

Here’s what I shared with this new practitioner:

I hear your comments about feeling isolated as aspirational—you aren’t complaining, but rather aspiring to find a better way, and you’ve got some ideas about how that could happen. Your view is your own, and you are entitled to it. As you consider how you might lead change within your organization, acknowledge other perspectives too. It makes your own opinions more influential. But you don’t need a title to lead. With the right approach, and if others feel the same way, you can make a difference.

Also, when I was in chain practice, and for that matter when I practiced by myself in my Medicine Shoppe, I found my connection to my peers when I was in practice first through my local (Huntington) association, the Southern West Virginia Pharmacists Association, through the West Virginia Pharmacists Association, and through volunteer groups. From there, I got involved in APhA and have really enjoyed all aspects of our profession through those venues.

As I’ve thought more about my response to this new practitioner, I might have also shared that I recognize how busy folks are just living—raising a family, having a life outside of work, paying new bills or a mortgage, or helping aging parents. I hear from many that their employer doesn’t give them time off or pay their way to meetings. Clearly, in my role today, I’m a fan of employer-supported professional activities. However, there is room for another way of thinking. I submit that not having employer support is not a reason to drop out of or not participate in the profession. Every networking opportunity can teach things that may help in a career or may help in the care of patients. Local association meetings, state association meetings, and our own APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition are tremendous ways to learn (or teach) how others’ experiences can help you grow as a professional. There are also tremendous networking opportunities on the Internet. You can find many of them at

I’ve also seen major growth in the professional opportunities available to pharmacists, often through their employers, for certificate programs or other ways to differentiate oneself in an increasingly competitive job market. We at APhA try to do our part to create those opportunities. While it’s not always possible or available, we get industry support for these programs when we can to help pharmacists lower their costs of participation.

On Tuesday of this week, I had the privilege of participating in the Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony in Pittsburgh. I gave a speech to 2010 first professional year pharmacy students and their families. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to feed off their energy, and hopefully I helped Dean [Dr. J. Douglas] Bricker and his team at Duquesne launch a new generation of professionals in the right way. During a faculty and leadership dinner, I also gained some insights into programs that the school is engaged in. I invited some folks to write to me about their experiences so I could share them. I hope they took me seriously.

Finally, I also looked this week at the lineup of educational sessions being planned for the 2011 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle this coming March. Thanks to the many volunteers who have worked with our staff to develop what I can only describe as a phenomenal array of opportunities. I truly hope you will join us as you continue on your own professional path. You won’t be sorry.