Today, the focus of pharmacy practice has shifted from direct personal preparation of medicinal compounds to clinical services such as interpretation of laboratory results or administration of vaccines. Pharmacists also have to deal with many personnel management functions. Emerging societal health issues, such as obesity, teen pregnancy, and abuse of narcotics have added to their tasks.

Interestingly, pharmacy in practice is distinct from other professions, in that it encompasses a significant involvement of business and economics. Pharmacy practice entails a high degree of entrepreneurship and business competition. For a pharmacy to run successfully and profitably, the human resource component must be carefully harnessed and effectively managed to ensure optimum productivity.

The human resources challenge

The area of human resources has emerged as a distinct area of challenge in community pharmacy practice. Consider the roles of pharmacy support staffers and the need for pharmacists to effectively monitor them in the workplace. The health of the pharmacist, customer relations, productivity, and the image of the organization all depend on these employees.

During my years of experience as a relief pharmacist, I have observed that in some establishments, it is not uncommon to discover that the high volume of prescription errors occurring in the pharmacy, whether at the hospital or retail level, can be traced to the poor quality of technician support.

Again, in my experience, I have noted that most independent pharmacies have few employees, who are often under the direct watch of the pharmacists, and they are dedicated and committed personnel. Conversely, chain-store pharmacies are run purely for profit, and staff turnover is high. In these envirionments, employees often show poor understanding and scant commitment to the purpose for which the organization exists, and few can say what their career prospects are. Typically, morale is low, and many employees are underqualified, undertrained, and potentially hazardous in their conduct toward the pharmacist and even toward patients.

The pharmacist serving in the chain store, despite his or her highest intentions to encourage staffers, often meets with frustration from an uncouth, ill-motivated, and unprofessional workforce. Some pharmacists in chain stores have little if any control over the remuneration of support staff or decisions made by headquarters. In these settings, support staff often have poor knowledge of their jobs and show disdain and indecorum in the workplace.

Excellent professional service, careful planning, sufficient resources for inventory, plus an efficient operating procedure cannot and may not guarantee profitability in practice if the personnel in the pharmacy have a poor work ethic, are disoriented, unconcerned, and potentially subversive of high goals.

Change is needed

What to do? Perhaps there should be some minimum uniform entry requirements nationally for those seeking to work as support staff in pharmacies. Certain states already have some form of regulation stipulating minimum standards of entry and certification for those who wish to work as pharmacy technicians. There must also be a process for sanctioning irresponsible behavior and preventing subversive activities so commonly seen in the conduct of support staff. Also needed is some form of ranking and grade levels for those with qualification, experience, and good referrals. Some type of non-pharmacist wage hierarchy also should exist.

Currently, there is unimaginable confusion, ambiguity, and nepotism in the hiring and designation of “technicians” and other support staff in many chain store pharmacies. Five years of active practice in chain-store pharmacies in the Philadelphia area have convinced me that employee conduct may result in the downfall of many chain-store pharmacies in this location. Worse yet, the licenses of many pharmacists have been jeopardized by accidental or deliberate errors emanating from support staff.

Pharmacists, whether in independent practices or chain stores, need to share their experiences in personnel management. They need to share how they motivate staff, encourage commitment and hard work, guide staff into career advancements, and recruit “good” technicians. Please add your voice and pen to the campaign for professional conduct and occupational sanity.

Oluwole Williams is a relief pharmacist who lives and works near Philadelphia, Pa.



This article on pharmacy human resources management was culled from Drug Topic in Modern Medicine Network. You can view the article at the link below

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