The masses will ponder, “Why do pharmacists make so much money?”
“What do they really do?” they ask, as they sit and Google about the pharmacist’s roles and responsibilities.
Inevitably, they land on the Retail Pharmacy Manager’s annual salary. Whoa, six figures and annual bonus for sales compensation. Cha-ching.
For those that are motivated by money, they start googling what a Pharmacy Manager earns per year. A quick web search paints our resumes as being responsible for inventory, staff, prescriptions, counseling, immunizations, laws, etc.
Some people will think, “That doesn’t seem that hard. I could probably do this.” Unfortunately, many people mistaken the roles, responsibilities, and skills required of a successful retail pharmacy manager.
The serious investigators actually get to peruse the educational requirements. They see that it takes 4 years of undergraduate education plus another 4 years of Pharmacy School to obtain a doctorate.
That’s a lot of school and debt! About $200,000 give or take. Say hello to your 1st mortgage.
On top of that, what most people don’t realize is that classroom education only brushes the surface of preparing us to be successful pharmacists. All those endless nights without sleep, a six-figure debt, and our hands-on education doesn’t even include business knowledge!
Hence, some of us choose to get an MBA in addition to the PharmD, hoping it will adequately prepare us newbies to operate and lead a multi-million dollar business.
But here’s what the Google research doesn’t tell you: retail pharmacy requires yet an additional 4-year degree: Corporate Pharmacy Training Grounds.
Here’s a quick summary of things you can’t Google. I’m going to break down what Corporate Retail Pharmacy Management looks like from the inside out.
So, what do Pharmacy Managers actually go through?
You Will Be Responsible for Everything
Being the only person with the white coat on comes at a price. All of a sudden, you are in charge handling of all health information coming into and leaving the pharmacy.
You have to listen to everything pertaining to people’s protected health information like their disease states, their preferences, sometimes even secrets their spouses don’t know about.
You must handle every single OTC question and immunization encounter. Between every conversation your technicians and the patients have, you must play spectator or mediator hundreds of times per day.
Whenever someone is unhappy, they want to speak to the manager. Regardless if that’s your title, you must wear that hat.
When someone takes medicine the wrong way or gets the wrong medicine, you are completely liable, both personally and professionally. Even if you weren’t working that day. Even if you weren’t negligent in any way.
If someone gets a paper cut or if a drop of blood spills, you are responsible. The same goes when that super sensitive patient wants to sue over misspelled directions or false advertising.
When the computer servers or phones shut down, you’re in charge of fixing it. Even when you leave the pharmacy, you’re still responsible for the safety of the inventory. You, the Pharmacist AKA Leader On Duty, are the point person for every problem.
- Business Tip: Become the subject matter expert on everything from operations and regulatory compliance to loss prevention and HR. If you don’t prepare for crisis, you will learn during it. Learning from trial by fire creates too much unnecessary risk.
You Will Fail Over and Over Again
Being a new pharmacist or pharmacy manager requires you to continually learn. Every day, healthcare is changing, and new evidence causes us to practice in different ways. Some clinical guidelines merely update, others become obsolete. What you learn in school isn’t enough for the real world.
Every week, you will discover a new drug, a new update to guidelines, or something that you must change in your behavior or attitude as a pharmacist. Every day, you will discover that choosing not to adapt will lead to failing your patients and their health outcomes.
Likewise, the same goes for retail pharmacy business. Corporate initiatives change every day in order for us to stay relevant in the healthcare space.
One month you may focus on delivering immunizations or scheduling flu clinics. The next month, you may try to save patients money on their prescription copays using a brand-new system.
Furthermore, you will get emails from corporate on an hourly basis telling you how to change your behavior, the language you speak to your team, and even the medicine you dispense. Shortly after, you may have to remodel the entire pharmacy and prepare to roll out prescription delivery services at a moment’s notice.
Every single day, you no longer are considered the subject matter expert, and will have to start from ground zero all over again.
- Business Tip: Always lead by example, and be the first to trek into unknown territory. Be the first to say, “I don’t know, but let me figure it out.” Influencing and inspiring your team requires you to establish credibility first. The cycle repeats over and over, and embracing this will enable you to adapt much quicker.
You Will Need to Be Everywhere at Once
Patients in the OTC aisles that may buy baby aspirin for their infant. Technicians that unknowingly counsel patients on their medicine and answer clinical questions.
Patients that leave the pharmacy without being counseled on how to take their medicine appropriately. Fraudulent prescriptions being dropped off and phoned in. Drug diversion and illegal street transactions happening right in your parking lots.
Unstable patients and emotionally compromised staff creating potential risk to the pharmacy brand. Possible intruders, social engineering schemers, or even government agencies can cause us undue stress and tax our mental capacities.
Pharmacy is a risky business because there is so much opportunity for harm via misinformation. You have to look up from the hundreds of prescriptions you verify in order to minimize risk in every situation mentioned above.
You have to break your attention every 2 minutes in order to listen in, intervene, and save the day. But really, you have to step outside of workflow to ensure you and your company don’t get sued for gross acts of negligence.
- Business Tip: Use every moment of broken attention to teach your team protocols, best practices, and the purpose behind doing things a certain way. The more time you spend in the moment, the less fires you have to extinguish later.
You Will Be Tested By Colleagues and Patients
Every day, you will be harassed by people problems left and right. These can range from arguments between patients and colleagues to miscommunication between technicians.
Regardless of the situation, emotions get in the way of productivity. In a world of decreasing budgets and overly demanding patients, any second wasted leads to more work for the pharmacist.
Patients will want to take advantage of return policies, threatening profit and inventory control budgets. They will barrage you with early requests for narcotics, threatening regulatory risk and liability. Patients will coerce you into enabling bad healthcare, and threaten to sue over every little grievance.
All throughout the day, patients will demand your time and attention, whether healthcare related or not. Your productivity and and ability to manage your workload and responsibilities go down the drain, along with your longevity.
Colleagues will show up late and call out sick, causing distress to the business and patient satisfaction. They will enact mini-rebellions or acts of insubordination in order to promote their own autonomy. There will always be some form of resistance when you try to improve or change the pharmacy.
Therefore, you will need to practice teaching common sense principles, and sometimes you’ll feel like you are instructing children. Many times, you must witness child-like behavior in front of patients and must address it accordingly.
Other times, you must show resilience when presented with shenanigans. Soon after, you must motivate and inspire your team in the face of immaturity and drama. You constantly have to shift from strict to pleasant for different situations. Wearing too many hats can be exhausting.
- Business Tip: Learn how to wear the Human Resources Hat above all otheres. Verbal De-escalation and conflict resolution are the best skills to learn, but nothing beats plain old emotional management.
You Will Deal With A Lot of Negativity and Cynicism
Every day, you will hear complaints that demoralize your spirits. Patients complaining about medicine not being ready in 5 minutes. Doctors complaining about your systems and protocols and questioning your aptitude. Technicians complaining about patients and corporate initiatives.
All the while, you are tempted to give in to the pointless banter. Misery loves company, but you aren’t being paid to breed discontentment. Your job is to simultaneously save lives while making a profit. Negativity and cynicism are your worst enemies to this agenda.
Negativity, or a poor attitude, decreases productivity and makes work more stressful. Imagine that every time you try to accomplish a task, you face resistance and have to argue with someone because they don’t agree with policy or politics. You are responsible for aligning them to corporate values.
In the short run, negativity in your face prevents you from being an effective healthcare provider. It is impossible to be the best for your patients when you’re not on the same page with your team. Their insubordination will ruin you.
On the other hand, cynicism is much more subtle. Sometimes disguised as sarcasm, cynicism represents negative perceptions of others’ intentions. For example, your patients may treat you like inferior professionals (“pharmacists aren’t doctors”).
Or, your technicians may think poorly of patients and treat them accordingly. It’s easy to let cynicism slide, but doing so threatens our personal longevity and long-term success. Imagine the effect of seeing every single patient as an enemy while working with a team full of jaded, cynical colleagues.
This is something you must fight against every day.
- Business Tip: Praise your team often, using at least a 3-1 ratio of recognition to coaching. Work on your own emotional management so you can positively affect service and culture. The steady state energy of the leader disseminates to the rest of the pharmacy work environment.
You Will Hear a Lot About Metrics and Reporting
Not only are you responsible for patients’ lives and their healthcare, you will also be in charge of running a profitable business. The basic requirement of having a PharmD means you are a pharmacology expert. Being a Corporate PharmD means you are a business owner and leader on top of that.
In turn, you will be held accountable for meeting budgets, increasing sales, and executing on important corporate initiatives. You will have deadlines, numbers and scorecards to analyze, and endless information to cascade to your teams every day.
Sometimes, the voices from above will terrorize your inner clinician. Often, you will question what’s more important: practicing healthcare effectively, or performing corporately in order to keep your job?
Balancing these two requires alignment, and this is something you will have to incorporate into your daily thinking and overall strategy. For example, you will need to master analyzing a Profit and Loss statement which shows you, line by line, the dollars and cents going in and out of your pharmacy business.
Other diagnostic tools like customer satisfaction, immunization reporting, and operational excellence will portray your long-term growth potential and that your business is growing in alignment with company values. Everything is important, but no one thing is more important than the other.
But even though you will learn to master reporting and root cause analysis, your greatest burden is that you will never be #1 at everything. Budgets are designed to taunt your temporary success. As soon as you achieve success, the old tried and true methods used to get there become obsolete.
Success becomes the steady state, which means that you never get a break. You must do more with less, every single day until you can’t think of any more resources to tap into. And that is your primary job as a Corporate Pharmacy Manager.
- Business Tip: Balance both healthcare and business, but always align your team back to purpose. Have a growth mindset and continually look to increase your personal development, lift those around you, and do things for the greater good.
If you read through all this and feel a bit rattled, that’s okay. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. This is why Corporate Pharmacists get paid so much. It’s not easy, and you will earn every penny you get paid.
Unless you’ve worked in upper management for a big company or led large teams of people, you will not have much experience to help guide you through managing your first retail pharmacy.
However, if you find a way to clarify your purpose and choose Corporate Retail Pharmacy as your career path, you will be rewarded with relentless challenge and tremendous trial by fire.
The demands are great, the opportunities are abundant, and the turnover and burnout rate of our profession is the highest ever.
But from the ashes, you will rise brand new and unstoppable. This job is not meant for the weak, the lazy, or the even the mediocre.
You have to decide to be strong, beastly, and strive to succeed in order to be a Corporate Pharmacist. Are you ready?