As I sit here and think back to all the events that have impacted the profession of pharmacy, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds. The inevitable question that sits in the back of my mind is what’s next?
Think about everything that has been circling the profession and it’s hundreds of thousands of pharmacists in the United States in the previous couple of years. Things are moving fast and we’d better stay ahead of the change or we’re in real trouble.
First, there is healthcare reform. Our government stands to greatly increase it’s influence and control over our healthcare system in the near future. Are we ready for a more nationalized style of healthcare system?
Next, look at the average state board of pharmacy. They have been infiltrated by the large chains to the point where it’s hard to find a BOP without a representative from at least one of the large retail chains. And even if the BOP is free from chain membership, it doesn’t necessarily rule to protect public health or pharmacists. North Carolina proved that recently.
And then there are the national organizations. Groups striving to push the profession forward who are inevitably handicapped by a lack of widespread support and involvement. Pharmacists are more likely to be apathetic or critical of our national pharmacy organizations rather than join one of them. We don’t seem to grasp the concept of unity very well as a profession.
The Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering major changes to the way medications are classified in the U.S. including the addition of a third class of drugs controlled by pharmacists. But is our profession ready to stand up and lobby for our best interests and fight the opposition to this expansion of our responsibility?
Vaccinations are commonplace now in pharmacies across the country. But shouldn’t a service like administering flu shots be a bridge to new opportunities for pharmacists? A better question might be how do we find the time to do any expanded patient care services when even things like lunch or a bathroom break are so elusive for so many of us on the job?
But the more I thought about the question what’s next, the more I realized that the answer is an individual one. So many of us in this profession ask what an organization or someone else can do for us. We should be questioning our own ability to influence change.
Apathy, fear, or hopelessness might be holding many of us back from becoming more involved in our profession. It’s true we must protect our own jobs and livelihoods. It’s also true that if we don’t force the issue, we may be marginalized to the point of losing our jobs anyway.
While the end of the pharmacist shortage may have shifted power towards the employers, we aren’t completely handicapped from action. There are steps everyone can take that will help push our concerns to the forefront of the profession.
Take for example working conditions. If pharmacists were more diligent about documenting instances of violations while on the job, employers may be held accountable more often for the poor working conditions they create. Misfills have a direct connection to working conditions. We can show lawmakers and state boards this connection.
But in the end, pharmacists have to push their state boards into action. We must force politicians to pay attention to our concerns. We must ask our large umbrella organizations for help. We must be the leaders, not the followers.
So as I sit here and think to myself what’s next for the profession. What I really should be asking myself is what’s next for me. What can I do to move the profession forward? That is the real question facing all of us right now.
The Redheaded Pharmacist