From resident to management: First months of life lessons

Career Manager By Scott Brewster, PharmD

Since becoming a pharmacy manager in July, I have been challenging myself to implement lessons learned on leadership, management, human relations, and business planning to better my pharmacy, staff, and myself. Many of the shared thoughts below come from mentors, coaches, teachers, and friends who have had, and continue to have, an impact on my life.

Meet with the current pharmacy manager
Transitioning into the new role of pharmacy manager will create major changes for the current staff. Being aware of leadership and communication styles of the current pharmacy manager will help identify and create healthy change within the pharmacy. The current pharmacy manager may be continuing pharmacist duties—having their support is crucial for patient care transitions, pharmacy staff buy-in, and starting of new services. Having this support is vital, especially with patients who value their connection to an independent pharmacist, like in my case.

Meet with your supervisors to establish job expectations
Knowing the ins and outs of the pharmacy will help create a smooth transition. What are they doing well? What are the visions and expectations of your supervisors/company ownership? And, how do those align with your own vision for services and business developments? For me, this all equates to how I will be measured and evaluated for new services created and implemented through my position.

Assess your current team
Having a working knowledge of your team’s strengths and weaknesses, whether you know individuals on your team or not, is beneficial in determining team dynamics, pairing teams for work schedules, and identifying champions of projects. For example, I am implementing Medication Synchronization, driven by an adherence technician. Prior to my arrival at the pharmacy, these words might as well have been a foreign language for all but one of my technicians. Her knowledge of the concept has given me a foundation in which to build.

Whether intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, you can work to pair your team’s training needs with their personalities to create higher functioning work processes.

Appreciate your staff
In all honesty, this should be first. Much of pharmacy work can be thankless—from clerks to technicians, and even pharmacists. Having your staff know their value, in everything they do, will create stronger team support and allow for people to work harder for a purpose they know will be appreciated.

Appreciation comes publicly and privately. Simple things like a high-five after a busy rush of patients or a thumbs up and a “thank you” after managing an insurance issue can be quick ways to keep everyone engaged and show your appreciation to the team. More formal appreciation could be celebrating employees of the month or even thanking someone in front of others at a meeting.

Develop a wish list from your team
As a new manager eager to make positive change, you have a million ideas in mind. Your ability to gain support and trust, while simultaneously prioritizing high need issues, can be found by allowing your staff to fill out a wish list. This was an eye-opener. From issues like the break room, a fresh coat of paint, or certain decorations, I am more motivated to provide my staff with a space in which they are happy to come to work every day. This is vitally important for patient care programs, too!

Hold meetings
Whether before opening or after closing, scheduling meetings can often be difficult. But don’t let scheduling negate the importance of meetings. Finding a common time on the calendar, carving it out, and making this an expectation of everyone ensures meeting success.

For Brookside Pharmacy, our meeting time has become the third Friday morning of every month, where we brainstorm shared goals, identify and implement new points of emphasis, and build trust by team building exercises. At each meeting, I ask my staff, “How did YOU keep someone out of the hospital this week?” I am hopeful to convey the value in our work and give them a moment to be proud with our team.

Stay current and think outside the box
Staying “plugged in” to developments in your company, state, and health care landscape is a necessity for the modern-day practitioner and manager. Being up-to-date not only shows your commitment to patients in your community but also your pharmacy staff. From your understanding of the developments around your team, you can pivot and develop new projects, rework previous outreach efforts, and engage partners in new ways. Being creative will break work stagnation and engage new payment opportunities.

Make sustainable changes slowly
Making multiple changes every day will only create confusion and frustration on your staff. Working up slowly, one or two small changes paired with one large change at a time will ensure staff mastery and execution with a new concept.

Last, welcoming feedback and being adaptable as these changes occur is a must!