Think Bigger

       It’s amazing how your perception of the profession of pharmacy changes as you gain experience.  You start to see things you didn’t notice before.  Or maybe, you notice things you just didn’t want to see before? 

       I remember earlier in my career.  When I first became a licensed pharmacist, the job would occasionally keep me up at night. 

       Today the stresses of community pharmacy can still cause me sleepless nights.  But the root causes of those fits of insomnia have expanded. 

       When I first started checking prescriptions as a licensed pharmacist my focus was very internal.  I was so worried about making a misfill or harming a patient.  A couple of times I actually called back to work just to verify some little detail with a particular prescription was correct. 

       The funny thing about that admission is the fact that the veteran pharmacist I worked with at the time understood.  I wasn’t treated as if I was some kind of anomaly.  What I was going through was expected as a new practitioner. 

       For me, it was so easy to put on my blinders and think about my own little pharmacy world.  I rarely expanded my focus to anything bigger than my own career.   I was happy to be employed and to experience positive cash flow!

       When I first started working I didn’t much consider all of the outside forces that could impact my ability to do my job.  You could call it the delusion of control.  I only needed to make sure my prescriptions were correct and that my pharmacy wasn’t making mistakes.  My patients were doing fine so wasn’t the whole profession OK?  

       It was so easy to get caught up in the work of being a pharmacist that I forgot about what it meant to be one in the first place.  I didn’t see the bigger picture.  I didn’t think bigger than myself. 

       The good news is that after you get some experience, some of the anxiety about making mistakes subsides.  You gain confidence in your abilities and knowledge.  Misfills seem more likely a result of carelessness as much as a personal inability or shortcoming.  You start to question the factors that could result in a mistake or even encourage them.

       And then you realize there is a bigger picture to the profession.  You realize that forces much bigger than yourself are working in ways you never dreamed or feared to influence your ability and even desire to do your job. 

       It is this realization that has made me think a little differently now.  I pay attention to the news more than before.  I try to stay informed and even dare to contribute in some small ways.  I see the connections that things can have with my ability to do my job.  And it’s because I bother to look.

       That’s really one of the only pieces of advice I can give to pharmacy students.  Learn to look at the profession with lenses bigger than yourself.  It will serve you well as the forces of change impact your pharmacy career. 

       I think we’d all be better served thinking a little bigger than ourselves.  The issues and challenges we face will be much easier to tackle as a group project rather than a bunch of independent studies. 

       It’s time to see the forest AND the trees.  It’s time to think big, and then think bigger. 

The Redheaded Pharmacist

4 Comments to “Think Bigger”

  1. By Pharmaciststeve, July 7, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

    We were never “taught” to be big thinkers.. just know what is in the book.. and just follow the book and not think outside of the box.. and our corporate employers don’t want us to think… they will do that for us.. until something goes wrong and then we are “professionals” and should have known that what you were doing was not right… and could harm a pt… It is hard to see the forest or the trees .. if you always have your head down.

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  2. By bra_she, July 8, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    I think that this is an important reminder.
    As a current student, I think that there is a great draw to focusing in on the tasks at hand, boosting the process and protocol with no eyes for the greater environment of our operations.
    There are forces at working our mindsets to a very narrow worldview, and as many people enter into the profession with little to no experience considering anything other than the activities of a pharmacy, the inclination to stay up to date on the events of the world is little felt and less heeded.

    I hope that all pharmacists, and students as well, take heed and remain vigilant. Not all the world hinges on the knowledge of drug therapy and fitness to work, there are other factors that shape fate. And not just regulatory hurdles!

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  3. By Garrick Dee, August 7, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

    I think applies to all professions, as employers we have to empower our employees to think for themselves not merely act like robots and follow orders, as employees we have to strive to be the best at what we do and broaden our horizons that way we’ll grow and move along in our careers.

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  4. By Chris, February 14, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    Bear with me (there’s a point I’ll make here). I’m currently between jobs. I entered the pharmacy world seven years ago for a second career, after working 18 years as an engineer. Why? I love math and science, love helping people improve their health and the RPh gig seemed secure and very schedule and location-flexible at the time. After 7 years as a retail pharmacist, I’m looking for an alternative gig. I’ve applied to the few retail jobs in my area, just the same, and have had a few interviews. With the current way a chain pharmacy operates, why would they hire me, a pharmacist with almost 30 years professional experience and a mind for bigger ideas, over a recent graduate with the same license? Chain pharmacies hire licenses today, not individuals. Employers are chiefly still only looking for dispensing machines with licenses. One of my recent gigs was handling patient calls at a call center for one of the major pharmacy chains. We all know there is huge patient demand for our knowledge and expertise, and yes, there is also tremendous potential impact we can make to public health. The frustration most of us feel is the importance our employer places on prescription volume. Customer satisfaction seems only a priority after some type of screw-up, and not as a general way of doing business. Does anyone honestly think our patients are happy with the service they’re getting? Most customers, I believe, see how hard the pharmacy staff works and are sympathetic and would welcome change. If all these predictions about healthcare becoming more outcomes-focused and less line-item-focused (eg prescriptions) come to fruition, and if pharmacists are enabled to perform MTM independently, they’ll be a giant sucking sound from all the good pharmacists leaving the chains to counsel patients the right way (ie, not in 2 minute sessions with our minds on 5 or 6 other things going on). I’m a dreamer, I know. It pains me, knowing how much I learned in school I’m not applying in practice. 7 years in to this profession and things are quite stagnant. It ain’t right!

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