This is the hardest year we’ve ever experienced.
Frozen wages and pay cuts. Massive lay-offs and restructuring.
Pharmacist overlap eliminated and corporate targets increasing simultaneously.
Job saturation plagues us, and pharmacy schools remain unsympathetic to the job market.
PBM’s claw back every penny and reduce reimbursements.
Independents and big corporations alike closing shop.
Automation, digital enhancements, verification sharing, numeric waiting bin, and updated phone IVR systems roll out.
All supposed to make our jobs easier, but why does it feel 100 times harder?
What in the world is going on with Retail Pharmacy?
There’s much speculation and debate about who’s responsible for the mess that we’re in as a profession.
Some say it’s natural economics; we hit our peak, and now we’re deep in the troughs.
But who’s to blame? Who has the biggest impact on our circumstances?
When I was a pharmacy student, tuition was $50,000+ a year and increased every year without fail.
Education was an investment, but I also had expectations to make a reasonable living and pay off my debt.
Now, students graduate with an average of $200,000 in debt, with full-time jobs being taken away from them.
We are making less in Retail Pharmacy with each passing day, and are even less prepared to succeed in our jobs upon graduation.
Pharmacy schools are too busy marketing to fill seats than actually helping their students market themselves and get jobs.
Competitive job markets are nothing new, but it’s always the responsibility of the schools to maintain their brand, reputation, and partnerships.
Students should feel proud to graduate from their alma mater and feel confident that their affiliation, education, and network can help them start their career successfully.
But unfortunately, schools are too preoccupied now to think of their students.
Every year, they are too worried about their attrition rates instead of the students’ well-being and success.
Students drop out due to lack of motivation or proficiency, yet they promote conferences and pharmacy organizations in response.
Instead of focusing on the root causes, some schools go for the low-hanging fruit.
They give second chances and lower the bell curve rather than teaching differently or investing more in the curriculum.
Instead of selecting the best and the brightest and raising the bar, they lower the admission criteria and increase their marketing.
Snatch the golden egg, but strangle the goose.
Quick fixes and shortcuts at the expense of long-term success is all too familiar for some poorly-led corporations.
Terrible working conditions and poor leadership have always plagued our profession.
But in this climate of declining reimbursements, corporations opt to invest in automation and technology instead of the raw talent: its people.
Every few months, new enhancements roll out that enable pharmacy teams to do more with less.
It’s a smart move, for sure; people cost way more than computers software and are far less reliable.
You can’t scale and automate people, but the pharmacies with the best technology will survive this new era of retail.
But it’s no secret.
Every pharmacy business would benefit from having more human resources.
Patient safety would improve and morale would increase.
Productivity and profit would increase.
But all the businesses who fail to optimize resources end up going out of business because of our convoluted payer system.
Every business is affected negatively by this, but big box corporations have the capital to weather through the storm.
While independents close shop, the pharmacy power-houses buy their patients and infrastructure.
The grow bigger and stronger ever year, but even big box chains aren’t safe.
Consolidation, market cannibalism, and fortification are all happening in response to even bigger threats from the likes of Amazon.
What we’re experiencing is a power struggle, and everyone on the ground is caught in the cross-fire.
Lastly, the biggest root cause for our current predicament lies solely with the lone pharmacist.
The renegade practitioner who looks out for number one.
The power-house work horse making six figures, putting in the over time to pay off debt faster.
It’s a race to the end, burning through fuel with the lighter in hand and sacrificing body parts for short-term gain.
With no thought or care for the future or the profession as a whole, the average retail pharmacist advocates for nothing but selfish gains.
They want more pay, better working conditions, better work/life balance, more tech hours, and most of all, respect for their white coat.
And they deserve it, for all the blood, sweat, and tears they pour into their jobs and their patients’ well-being.
Yet, they do nothing as a whole when adversity manifests.
They complain as individuals flocking together on online forums, massaging one another’s hearts.
They had no reason to plan ahead, no reason to doubt their financial engine’s longevity.
But here we are, accepting lower pay, less hours, and an uncertain, unstable career path.
All the while, pharmacy schools and big corporations operate just the same, tossing around human capital like the expendable resources we are.
They have no problem filling seats and hiring candidates.
But here’s what they’re really getting: a pool of unmotivated, uninspiring next-generation pharmacists.
The profession as we know it is slowly becoming diluted with the disheartened, dispassionate, and disloyal practitioners.
This has to end.
Circle of Influence
So, what can we do about it?
Seems like all the forces are up against us.
We’re just one person, one voice in a sea of many who are drowning.
We’re one passenger in a plane that’s nosediving to it’s demise.
First step is to put your oxygen mask on before trying to help others.
We must demonstrate proficiency in an evolving profession.
What may have been sufficient to practice pharmacy a decade ago will not be enough in today’s demands.
In a changing landscape, adapting and evolving are our only choices.
We have to be more clinically skilled, more business oriented, and even more leadership focused.
These 3 areas are a few things that automation and technology simply cannot touch.
You cannot replicate and scale years of clinical prowess, experience, and intuition.
You cannot use a computer to run a business or prevent litigation and liability created by humans.
Lastly, you cannot inspire large groups of people to mobilize without a highly engaged, high-touch leader.
The more we focus on developing ourselves in new areas, the more recession-proof we will be.
The better we can fulfill our personal missions and follow our path to keep the Pharmacist’s Oath.
Whatever your heart tells you to follow, pursue it with fervor.
Combine it with your PharmD and unique skills so that you can make a real, measurable difference.
The white coat is just the kevlar/armor, but the soldier/warrior underneath is the one they make legends out of.
Sharpen yourself and those skills; every day is a battle, and we need to be prepared.
Once we have the foundation of skills, the next step is helping those around us.
Whether it’s a patient who has been stepped on and mistreated, or a fellow PharmD who struggles to maintain motivation.
Your skills as a clinician, business owner, leader, or […] will fill a void and create something revolutionary: synergy.
When you add value to another person or institution, it’s like watering a plant.
In the moment, the water (value) nourishes, revitalizes, and saves a naturally decaying life.
But the end product isn’t just water and a seed/stalk.
You give the plant the opportunity to thrive, blossom, and reproduce.
Your small act of service can become an entire garden or field of flowers.
The value you add to others using your skills grows exponentially when channeled through another person.
It teaches them that more is possible and to think differently then they currently are.
For patients, that means hope and appreciation for the Pharmacy profession and the white coats that serve them.
For fellow PharmD’s you help, they see more than just doom and gloom, but an opportunity to rise up and do good.
Even for our next generation intern pharmacists, the example we set and the mentorship we provide literally carves out the future of our profession.
With abundance mindset, we can all do way more than we originally anticipate.
And when our efforts are combined, one plus one no longer equals two.
Two pharmacists with Growth Mindsets can achieve much more than just two ordinary people.
They can save thousands of patients and inspire teams of white coats to move mountains.
Find ways to lend a helping hand using your heart and your two hands.
Eventually, building your skills and helping others will become second nature to you.
But the next step in saving the pharmacy profession requires a greater source of power: influence.
Influence is priceless and will scale your efforts as a leader.
Like it or not, but if you are highly-skilled and help others around you; you will be called upon to lead sooner or later.
I recommend you accept this idea early, and work on impacting the greater good.
Forget the accolades, the titles, the pay scale.
When you help enough people, you build credibility, rapport, and trust.
And with trust, you can mobilize the masses and move mountains.
Is it so far-fetched to think that your voice and opinions could ever matter on a large scale?
With influence, your reach extends far beyond the four walls of your pharmacy.
Once you help enough people, your next responsibility is to influence higher level leaders and other “influencers” in our profession.
These people aren’t just the ones with formal titles and long CV’s.
Pharmacy leaders and influencers are people just like you and me.
Those unhappy with the current state and wanting more and better for ourselves and others.
Those looking to serve people, impact the greater good, and make a difference in our profession.
This is the only way to change the current state of Retail Pharmacy.
You must rise up in order to save thousands and move mountains.
Summary: It Would Be Nice If..
We all deserve much more than we’re ever given.
Retail Pharmacy is pure chaos, resembling post-apocalyptic worlds.
The average clinician shouldn’t have to experience such mental and physical adversity.
As humans, we have God-given rights and entitled to certain things.
But don’t mistake rights with privileges.
We choose where we work and what we allow to happen to us.
It’s really just perspective that confuses us.
Most of us are given two hands and a heart.
Those are all that you need to build skills, add value to others, and influence someone for the greater good.
With skills, we can solve problems and prevent crisis.
Helping others do the same enables others to protect themselves from demise.
Influencing others positively can change the future for many people and generations.
So don’t wait for someone else to change things for you.
You will never be happy with the outcome.
If you ever thought to yourself, “I could make things happen if only I had […],” then don’t wait.
Go after what you need.
Partner with others who think like you.
Research and collect all the resources available to make it happen.
Take that next step, and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that open up to you.
If you start to think, “It would be nice if […],” I challenge you to squash that thought.
Get rid of the victim mindset, and focus on the things you can control.
Find a way to make it happen.
Your patients and fellow PharmD’s all need your strength and leadership.
-Mr. Corporate Pharmacist