You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

In July I was invited to attend and participate in the following conference, “Enhancing Well-Being and Resilience Among the Pharmacist Workforce: A National Consensus Conference.”

These are the 2 things you need to hear:

  1. Your story, told by a brave practicing pharmacist, was heard by all
  2. The RxMoms voice was impactful, and we still have a lot to work to do

Suzy asked me to attend the conference on behalf of this group. Details about the conference including conference objectives, attendees, and background can be found here:

https://www.pharmacist.com/press-release/national-pharmacy-organizations-address-pharmacist-well-being-through-consensus

Recommendations from the conference can be found here:

https://www.pharmacist.com/enhancing-well-being-and-resilience-among-pharmacist-workforce-national-consensus-conference

 

Meet One Brave Pharmacist

She was a panelist who was asked to share her story from her community practice. I don’t remember which company she works for, but you should know that this woman bravely and eloquently spoke the hard truths about this role, all while sitting next to an executive from a large retail chain.

*While she was comfortable sharing at the conference, she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her position from retaliation. No one should have to lie about what working conditions are like, which is exactly why we need to keep this conversation alive.*

While she was talking, you could hear a pin drop. She was professional, poised, and passionate. Her story reminded me of all of your stories that I read on this page. How hearing about one pharmacist’s experience has the ability to hold your heart and your throat at the same time. How the stories remind us that underneath the hard shell we wear for day’s survival we also have the capacity to feel for our patients, but more importantly, for each other. We see the altruistic and precarious PharmD and we see our futures in the headlines.

I asked her if she would be willing to share her story in this blog, so that the Pharmacist Moms Community could read what she so courageously spoke on that day. I would like to thank her and remind her that she has 25,000+ pharmacists behind her. What a thought that just by describing her day, it would make someone’s “skin crawl” as commented after she finished her speech. Thank you, Brave Pharmacist. (Please scroll down to read her speech)

Briefly, I would like to mention what I learned from my experience at this conference: the Pharmacist Moms Group is an influencer in this space. Our stories and posts are gaining national attention and people wanted to hear what “the moms are saying.”  We have a lot of work to do, but I wanted you to know that this group has the ear of many. Thank you, Suzy.

 

Panelist Speech:

I am a retail pharmacy manager for a chain.  After graduating, I completed a residency in community pharmacy practice and have spent most of my time since then as a pharmacy manager.

I went into pharmacy because I love helping people, and specifically retail pharmacy because I love a sense of community. I love getting to know my patients, their families, their stories. For any business, developing relationships with customers is a driver of good customer service. In health care, being more than a number is powerful for patients struggling to connect with a healthcare system that is faster and more digital than ever before.

Accessibility of retail pharmacists is what drives these relationships. People can call me or stop by the pharmacy for any reason at any time (and they often do!). And I like being the person someone can call when they need to talk. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me where an auto body shop was in town. They apologized for calling me, but she said, “I just knew the pharmacist would know.” And I did. A month ago a woman called me just to tell me that she had an MRI scheduled, was worried that her cancer might be back, and asked me to pray for her. Just last week my partner climbed through the drive thru window to administer Narcan to the passenger of a car.  She saved his life.

But even though I love accessibility, it is also one the main factors that is driving burnout.  I am pulled in multiple directions at any given time- someone waiting to ask you a question, the antibiotic that needs to be mixed, the doctor’s office calling in a script, people waiting on their prescriptions, and a counsel at drive thru.  For years, companies have driven into customers minds that all prescriptions can be filled in 15 minutes or less and the pharmacist is to drop what they are doing to help patients. I have learned to respectfully ask someone to wait when needed, whether it’s a patient, my district admin, or a nurse, and it has made a huge difference. But pharmacists need support in pushing back against speed and striving for safety. 

The second main factor, for me personally, in driving burnout is workload.  I would like everyone to get out a piece of paper and a pen and write down the number of prescriptions you think it’s safe for a retail pharmacist to fill per hour.

In the month of June, my pharmacy dispensed 11,101 prescriptions and gave 86 immunizations.  We are open 84 hours and get 8 hours of overlap each week.  For anyone that is trying to crunch the numbers, that’s an average of 33 prescriptions each hour.  On Monday, I filled 505 prescriptions in 10 hours. Fifty prescriptions an hour. June and July are the slowest months of the year.  I’ll see at least a ten percent increase in script volume by August or September. 

There have been many changes that have helped with my workload over the last five years- new technology, automation, electronic prescribing, verification sharing. However, with every rollout comes a decrease in labor.  While I’m not sure a cap on prescriptions filled per hour is the answer, I do know that the pace that I am required to maintain is neither sustainable nor safe.  I simply cannot provide the highest level of care for every patient that walks through the door. 

And it’s not just my employer. Every pharmacist, no matter who you work for, is asked to do more with less. Multiple companies, both drug store and grocery store chains, have made announcements about reductions in pharmacy manpower, decreasing pharmacists’ base hours. The need for lower labor costs is a direct result of lower reimbursement rates a decreased margin from generic drugs. 

In addition to the workload, the actual work environment itself is exhausting. No one tells you when you are in school that you might be in physical therapy for neck pain from being on the phone so much. Or that you’ll need compression socks and orthotics in your shoes or learn to hold your bladder. I was on crutches for six weeks after fracturing my tibia this winter. I had a stool, but it was nearly impossible for me to sit down for long. It was miserable. While I have been cleared to run, my leg is still healing and part of me can’t help but wonder if I would be 100% if I had a job that wasn’t physically demanding.

According to state law, I am allowed to take a 30 minute lunch break for every 6 hour shift worked. My employer’s policy matches the law state, citing that the pharmacy is to remain open and I am to be available for counseling. While I sat on the floor eating my salad at 3 PM, I was interrupted 6 times in 20 minutes. At some point, you just give up on lunch and move on with your day.  In a 12 or 13 hour workday, I do not think it is unreasonable to close the pharmacy completely for 30 minutes to account for a break for the pharmacist. Doctor’s offices and other businesses close for lunch- what excludes retail pharmacies from doing the same?

Work life balance continues to also remain a challenge.  Several years ago I was a district supervisor, but after a 18 months decided to step down to have more time for my family.  I’m not sure it’s that much better when you don’t work in middle management. As a pharmacy manager, I am expected to complete paperwork and oversight for running the business, yet I am given no additional time or resources.  I am expected to attend company meetings unpaid and often contacted on my days off about work-related items. Companies should Be required to provide compensation and uninterrupted time ‘off the bench’ to any pharmacist in a managerial position.

I am in a unique location that has a shortage of pharmacists, so I am asked to pick up extra shifts to cover my store on my scheduled days off. When my store’s pharmacist hours were cut, I asked to have my base decreased from 40 hours to 38 hours and was denied. I have a family member who works for another chain who was told she must increase her base hours from 32 to 40 or she would not be guaranteed a job, even after she has not worked a 40 hour base since graduating 25 years ago.  When I graduated, I never anticipated wanting to work less and not being able to do so. Companies should not be able to force pharmacists to work more hours than they want to.

Am I proud to be a pharmacist, to serve my community and impact health care? Absolutely. But my well-being, our well-being, is at stake. Thank you.

 

Brooke Griffin, PharmD

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

What To Do When You Feel Shame?

Sherry Brown PriceWhat To Do When You Feel Shame?

We are humans.

And, by nature, humans are not perfect.

Humans make mistakes.

We do things that we wish we didn’t.

This goes for every human.  No exceptions.

We get stuck in certain patterns of being and doing that we can’t seem to find the way out of.

Like with our drinking.

We can feel helpless.

And powerless once we start drinking.

We feel shameful about not being able to stop and about who we are.

We compare ourselves to others who seem to have no problem with stopping.

Our shame makes us feel like we are bad humans.

It makes us feel diminished and unworthy.

Hanging on to the shame does not allow us to embrace our humanness and make the necessary changes to move forward.

Shame leads to more of the same.

A continued pattern of drinking.

How do we break the shame?

With acceptance of it and with self compassion.

We can choose to accept that we are a human that has learned and practiced over-drinking.

And we can bring in self compassion for our trained behavior.

Embracing self compassion moves us into a place of peace.

We make peace with what is.

Full acceptance and self compassion open us up to move into taking action.

Making a change that enhances the new script of our brain.

Your journey to cutting back may need to start with a hefty dose of self compassion.

In love and health,

Sherry

Sherry Price, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, APh

As an accomplished pharmacist, business owner, wife and mother, I used wine as the way to relax at night and to cope with the day’s stress.  When drinking that first glass of wine, I immediately felt relief and began to relax.  My anxiety level came down.  And the day seemed better.

But, I started to desire more wine to achieve the same effect.

One glass became 2……then 3……then more…..on most days.  And then daily.

The mornings became unpleasant and my sleep was not restful.  I gained weight and made poor food choices when I drank.  I tried to cut back over and over; only to white knuckle it for a few days until I gave in and started right back up again.  I still desired it.   It seemed impossible to cut back.  My willpower didn’t last.  And I craved the relief and pleasure the wine brought.

All of the programs I knew about focused on an all-or-nothing approach.  Abstinence programs.  Treatment centers.  Meetings.  Declaring a problem.  Sponsors.  That wasn’t for me.

I didn’t want to stop drinking.  I just wanted to be a normal drinker.  And to not think about drinking so darn much. 

I needed a solution.  With my pharmacy training, I understood the biology and how the brain works, the neurotransmitters involved, and how the wiring of the brain occurs.   I desperately wanted to figure this out.  Through my life coach training and additional courses, I have created tools where I blend the science and the behavioral application to cut back on drinking permanently.

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Gunda Siska

 

 

For years I lived a double life to escape the monotony that was my reality. As a pharmacist, drugs/alcohol was not really an option, at least not with all the drug testing going on in the work place. It led me to my guilty pleasure, my escape, my way of checking out mentally. That led me to writing fictional novels.

 I often wrote when I was on vacation at my lake house. Of course everyone was having a good time frolicking in the sun, swimming etc. But after decades of growing up in that environment, I had been there done that. That too was boring. Everything was boring. 

Even playing Candyland for hours was boring. I love spending time with my children and family but I needed something more.

While doing these mindless activities, I would be concurrently day dreaming about the next chapter in my novel. My mind would fill up with scenarios for the book. At night when everyone was a sleep, I would write. I lived my life like this for years, on and off.

However, I never had the courage to publish my novels, until now. This novel was a mental escape to the happiest time of my life=college. I turned the fictional scenario into a learning experience. This story is what I wish I could have told my younger self. It’s about finding happiness (book description below)

I also went on to write a salacious political novel. It is about how I would run the country given the opportunity to improve it. I wrote that novel after I had read 50 shades of Gray. I wondered, why is this author a multi-millionaire and I’m an unappreciated pharmacist feeling abused. I thought I could write a better novel than 50 shades of gray, and so I attempted to do so. I allowed myself to go down the path of erotic scenarios. But when the book was completed, I felt like I had sold my soul. 

The main character in the book was not how I was. Maybe portions of me were in the main character as well as the other characters, but it definitely did not represent my life.

I still contemplate deleting that novel. No one has read it in its entirety. I’m not sure it would be well received. We’ll see how the first novel does. But until then, I have completely given up my secret life of writing novels. I now live in the moment. I pay attention. I live and learn and make corrections. I now solve my problems instead of ignore them and hope they go away on their own. 

And the good news is…that once I started living in the movement, paying attention to my life, and solving my problems….my life became better. Happier. More successful in every. way.

I now write medical articles, and my pharmacy career has never been brighter. I think it is become I’m now more engaged with my career. I’m more connected with the other pharmacists around me. I am able to empathize and understand the people around me better.

Question: Should I use my real name when publishing this book? or a penname? I don’t want it to discredit my medical articles and books in anyway. Karen Berger has read my book in its entirety and says I should be proud of my book, and not use a penname. Karen believes honesty is the best policy, and the truth always comes out in the end. IDK. Any thoughts?

 

Update: Gunda has published her novel under the name of GK Siska and it can be found at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/109619824X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860or https://www.amazon.com/dp/109619824X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

Find Your Skinny Black Microphone: Advocacy As Pharmacists and Moms

 

On 3/6/19 my colleague and fellow pharmacist mom, Kathy Vest, PharmD, CDE, BCACP, and I met in a parking garage at 5:30am. With bellies full of coffee, pączkis, and butterflies, we drove 2.5 hours to Springfield, IL.  We were invited by the Illinois Pharmacists Association (IPhA)* to attend a committee hearing for HB 1442 (contraceptive prescribing bill) as ‘clinical experts.’  Yes, surreal! When you get this type of call, how could you say no? So I confirmed that my husband could take the kids to school, put on a blazer, and pushed my imposter syndrome aside.

In the 17 years I’ve lived in Illinois, I had never gone to Springfield. The day before, the nurse practitioner I work with said, “Good luck down there. It’s a one-horse kind of town.” I had never been to a committee hearing or even seen one on TV. The building is beautiful – if you are fan of architecture, Abraham Lincoln paintings, and marble columns for days, then check this place out. The committee hearing was in a small room with rows of chairs for the public, a small table with three seats for the presenters and 5 rows of tables with comfy chairs for the representatives. Each seat had a skinny black microphone on the table, with a push button to activate a green light alerting you, “It’s go time.” With ~30 lawyers and ~30 bystanders watching us, waiting for us to speak, my mind shuffled between ‘You know this stuff, it’s no sweat!’ and ‘How did I get here?’

I knew HB 1442 pretty well, as I participated in a couple of conference calls with the sponsor a year earlier. Since it was first introduced three years ago, Representative Michelle Mussman (with the help of IPhA) has been trying to get this bill passed. That morning she said to us, “It’s just been passed in the 10th state. We could have been 3rd.” Kathy and I been learning and conducting research on pharmacist prescribed contraception for the past few years. We know the pros and cons. We know some pharmacists are excited and some pharmacists are apprehensive. We knew clinical questions would come our way. We suspected the lack of an age limit in the bill would spark some debate. What we didn’t expect was for a woman’s age to the deal-breaker for so many voting representatives. Together with Rep. Mussman, the OBGYN physician to her left, and our IPhA representative, we explained that women of all ages are currently obtaining contraception – from their physician or online. If this bill is passed, a patient wouldn’t have to wait for a doctor’s appointment or a package to come in the mail. Rep. Mussman explained the potential negative medical and socioeconomic outcomes of an unplanned teen pregnancy. I’m happy to report that not one lawyer questioned a pharmacist’s ability to provide this service. At one point, a representative asked me, “So you are willing to take responsibility if you dispense the wrong/inappropriate medication?”  And I said, “Yes, just like I take that responsibility on a daily basis.”

The bill passed this committee hearing and is now on its way to the House floor! I felt like I did my duty – as a pharmacist and as a woman. I felt empowered that our voices matter. I felt American. I left thinking, why did it take me 17 years to drive to Springfield? I reached out to Laura Licari, PharmD, current president of IPhA, for her insight on this topic. She reassured me that advocacy at the state level was not always at the front of her mind (phew, I’m normal). She started her journey with IPhA when her mentor asked her to serve on the Board of Directors, which she wouldn’t have considered if not for that push (women helping women=love!). When I asked her what sparks advocacy, she told me, “When you realize that the Pharmacy Practice Act dictates your scope of practice, you also realize that every pharmacist has the power within them to advocate for change to that scope of practice through the legislative process.” When I ask her about a pharmacist’s limited time for advocacy, she admits its hard to keep up (I’m beginning to think Laura really gets me). She informed me that both IPhA and ICHP are monitoring over 6,000 proposed bills. She said, “If you feel like you don’t have the time or the expertise, make an investment with your membership. In doing so, your organization can sift through all those bills and alert you to the ones that are most relevant to your practice and profession; also you can build a diverse network of pharmacy professionals. Over time, just like me, you’ll learn about the legislative process and how you can affect change. Until then, your contribution helps both IL state associations attend meetings with legislators, organize Pharmacy Legislative Day, and monitor that long list of bills that can potentially help or harm our profession.”

My experience in Springfield made me think of how much advocacy we do DAILY as moms – for our families and ourselves. Phone calls to schools, networking on the playground, and negotiating who gets Mom’s laptop first are just a few examples. There have been times when I didn’t press the button on the skinny black microphone at home. There have been times when I CHOSE not to advocate for myself. Nervous to speak up, unsure how much it would help in the long run, and confused by the newness of motherhood – there have been silent times. Thankfully it didn’t take me 17 years to realize that in order to have MY needs and desires met, I needed to speak into the mic. I’ve hustled to obtain childcare when I need to exercise – even at 4:45am! I’ve explained to my kids how important my career is to my overall health – and their wellbeing. I’ve asked for alone time and tried not to let the guilt pull me back into the driveway.

I asked my colleague and friend, Kathy, who was with me in Springfield, if she thinks there are parallels between MOM and PHARM advocacy. She said, “A few things I’ve learned about being a Mom are that 1) I wear a lot of hats as a Mom and that can be challenging (house manager, school volunteer, basketball coach, etc), 2) there is no rule book for how to be a great Mom, 3) being a Mom often comes with feelings of vulnerability, and most important, 4) I am not alone in feeling like this!  Being a mom has shown me the importance of community and supporting each other since it can be one of the hardest, yet most wonderful aspects of our lives. Involvement with pharmacy organizations has been a great way to communicate my ideas, perspectives and experiences, as well as learn from those of other pharmacists.  And recently getting involved with legislative efforts has shown me that we all have the potential to contribute and how critical our voices are to help important causes to move forward!

Here’s the superheroic takeaway: Going to Springfield reminded me that in all aspects of our lives, there is a skinny black microphone with a button ready for you to push it. When the green light is on, well, you already know what to say.

Brooke

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist (be.superheroic@gmail.com)

*Are you a pharmacist practicing in Illinois?  The Illinois Pharmacists Association is offering a 10% discount for new members, courtesy of Laura Licari. FYI: she’s only the 7th woman IPhA president since 1880! Use code PRES10 at www.ipha.org.

 

Upskill and Reskill

 

Upskill and Reskill

I have a lovely author friend who writes about how to succeed at work now and in the future. Recently we were discussing life and writing and her new book* and she casually said two words that made me put my food down: upskill and reskill. And now I’m wondering how I lived so long without this phrase in my life. She explained it so eloquently as I feverously took notes circa 1999. [Remember the ‘there’s no handout’ kind of writing? Ah, the pen cramps we would get. All the loose-leaf paper we would buy…memories]

She defined it as:

Upskill: Take your existing level of expertise and widen it.

Reskill: Learn something different.

I can’t stop thinking about how this applies to pharmacists. What additional skills interest you? What additional training have you been thinking about for a while? This venture may or may not directly impact your current work situation, but it may be a futuristic pursuit. There are pharmacist moms in this group who are doing this very thing and posting about it: completing a pharmacogenomics course, MTM training, joining a new professional organization, and studying for board certification. Learning new skills in new environments offers advantages such as networking and diversifying our talent base. The goal is to reinvent ourselves by upscaling and rescaling our foundation.

Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, CDE, FAPhA is currently CEO of SinfoníaRx®, running as a candidate for president-elect of APhA, AND a fellow pharmacist mom. I met her in person a few years ago and she is honestly one of the most down-to-earth people I have met in this field. So let’s talk upskill and reskill. She pursued a Masters in Public Health as a personal goal. She told me, “I noted that helping people one to one was really impactful but I wanted to impact population health by addressing system issues and policy to address the repeating problems that every patient would walk in with. So many times we feel like we have to accept a broken system instead of feeling empowered to change it.”

Another pharmacist mom, Mitzi Wasik, PharmD, FAMCP, FCCP, BCPS is currently Senior Director, Patient Safety and Quality at Aetna and current president of AMCP, reflected on how she navigated this as her career shifted. She started with anticoagulation, diabetes, and immunization certificates early in her career when she was heavily involved in direct patient care, and she then pursued BCPS certification in order to stay competitive in the market as an ambulatory care pharmacist. She notes that these credentials led to a higher salary after a job change. What’s she doing right now? She told me, “Right now I am getting my MBA which is helping me from a business acumen perspective.  My position is less clinical these days but I have to be able to walk and talk the business perspective of clinical programs to tie it all together.”

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have time to pursue any new skills or another degree. At the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is interact with more people. You may feel that new talents wouldn’t be valued by your current organization.

Here’s my hypothesis about this group: you value this profession more than numbers and money. You value yourself more than any metric that attempts to define you. You want to upskill and reskill, but you’re not sure how and when and what.

Here’s what I know about this group: We have an advantage. We are used to squeezing in really important tasks into tiny pockets of time. We practically invented multitasking. (And yes, we agree with the research – it doesn’t work well). We juggle more in one hour than most people do in a week. Ok, that seems magnified but whether it’s real or exaggerated – it impacts our mindset on whether we should add something else to our plate. Upskilling and reskilling will no doubt force adjustments to our already full schedules.

Here’s the superheroic plan: For moms with littles and moms with teens and moms with olders; for any moms who have less than zero minutes to devote to something new: use this information as a jumpstart to think about what’s next. Take care of your babies. Take care of yourself. But during your commute and while you’re waiting in line and when you’re up at 3am – think about what you would do to upskill and reskill your career. Keep thinking about it, let it marinate in your mind, and remember Sandra Leal’s words of wisdom: “Don’t put things off. There will never be a better time to invest in yourself than now and your family will be better for it.”

Brooke Griffin

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

*www.alexandralevit.com

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist


Dr. Brooke Griffin

Hey Mamas! Do you ever feel the push and pull of motherhood and work thrusting you around like you’re standing in a wave pool? Do you ever wonder how you’re able to juggle so many balls in the air, then watch a ball (or two or three) drop, and somehow manage to bounce back? Do you ever waver between feeling inept and superheroic? Same here.

Hi, I’m Brooke! I’m a pharmacist. I’m a mom. I’ve worked full-time, part-time, and job share. I’ve worked in community pharmacy, ambulatory care, hospital-based clinics, patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, and last but not least academia. Besides being a pharmacist mom, some other things I love: Celebrating our differences! Asking bold questions! Sports! Life and all its imperfections! Writing! Ice Cream! Using explanation points!

Have you ever been told that trying to juggle a career with being a hands-on mom would be challenging? I remember thinking, “Challenge Accepted!” as I don’t like to be pushed around (except by small children, but you probably already guessed that). I certainly don’t have all of this figured out, but I’ve been soaking in guidance and advice from talented and superheroic moms with careers, including my own mama. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly reevaluating my experience. The growing pains are filled with joy, sacrifice, and blurred lines. Oh, and stretch marks.
Each month I’ll be posting riveting, groundbreaking, and superfunny blogs about mom stuff and work stuff and this-is-how-we’re-killing-it stuff. Ok, ok; you’Il be the judge of funny. I’ll be using this space to interview pharmacist moms (and a few non-pharmacist moms – hey, Mom!) and my hope is to ask the Yodas of our world for some wisdom. I believe that all of the million little imperfect pieces of our lives actually create a wild yet beautiful mosaic. I tell my children that this is my gift to them and then they ask for screen time instead. As we muscle our way through the days and those unforgettable nights, let’s talk about the good, the bad, the gritty, and the creative ways we work.

As I get to know you and you get to know me, let’s survive together Oregon Trail style, without the cholera but probably with the exhaustion. I don’t have work-life balance – that scale broke a long time ago. But I’ve got a vision for a network of pharmacist moms who know that sometimes, just getting through the day can feel pretty damn superheroic. Let’s celebrate that.

Brooke
Be.superheroic@gmail.com

A Career Beyond the Counter:

A Career Beyond the Counter:

My experience transitioning from retail pharmacy to the corporate world

 

By Ursula Chizhik VP of Quality and Regulatory Affairs, FLAVORx

 

I was a retail pharmacist for 11 years before joining the FLAVORx team.  Never in my life did I envision myself working in a corporate setting, where I would be sitting in my very own office, wearing a nice outfit with high heel shoes, taking a lunch break, and working less than 12 hours standing on my feet! I was so used to a lab coat, my comfortable Clarks clogs, eating quickly while standing, and arriving and leaving the pharmacy when it was dark outside- That’s simply what I thought the life of a retail pharmacist was destined to be.  But that all changed when I called FLAVORx out of the blue and asked if they needed a pharmacist on staff.

There was no job posting, only my desire to seek out a new opportunity and my familiarity with the company name, since I used to flavor prescriptions when I was a pharmacist. I was ready for a change and while I didn’t know exactly what I had to offer to FLAVORx, I knew I was a dedicated pharmacist with a lot of experience and, surely, I could bring something valuable to the table.

Fast forward 7 years and I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  I love my job and the fact that I can integrate my many years of practical pharmacy experience to bring an element of “real world pharmacy” to the company I work for and the people I work with.  I know what it’s like to be a pharmacy student.  I have experienced the peaks and valleys of being a pharmacist behind the counter.  I tap into those experiences every day as we discuss effective ways to reach out to pharmacy students, encourage technicians, and connect with pharmacists and other health care providers.

Working for a small business, I feel especially valued and valuable for the credentials I’ve earned and the experiences I’ve gained, which is tremendously rewarding and a big difference from some of the retail pharmacy jobs I held.

As some of you may be considering a career move at some point in your future, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that I learned after getting out from behind the counter:

Time management-

This was probably the biggest adjustment for me during my transition from retail pharmacist to business person.  In the pharmacy setting, everything has a sense of urgency. We need to get prescriptions ready quickly and patients out the door as soon as possible, if we want to keep customers happy. This fast pace was simply an integral part of the job.  On the contrary, in the office setting, I feel like you are constantly waiting for someone to respond to an email, a unanimous decision to be made, a delivery to arrive, a colleague to do their job.  This waiting game is quite different from the constant scrambling and running around at the pharmacy, but most of the time this is a welcome change.

Meetings-

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! Business people like to spend a lot of time talking about ideas- collaborating or brainstorming as they call it. While in theory it seems like a great idea to get a group of bright people in a room to determine the next big thing for your company, the next direction, the next initiative, there is generally more discussion than decision-making!  Although if you have a meeting that runs into lunchtime, there will likely be a free food!

Personalities-

Just like in every work environment, you must learn to deal with many different personalities. Although, behind the counter you are typically dealing with people of the same educational background- all pharmacists and technicians who speak the pharmacy language. In a business setting, you are dealing with a variety of people from broad educational backgrounds that do not speak the same language.  At any given moment, you may find yourself working with the sales team, the marketing team, the finance team, the engineering team, and maybe even the CEO. Needless to say, every individual or team has their own perspective and priorities, which don’t always align. I’ve learned that you can’t always make everyone happy, so its best to stay in your lane, but remain open minded and flexible.

My role at FLAVORx has evolved over the years, and with every passing year, I have taken on more responsibilities and have truly enjoyed the opportunity to create such a unique, flexible, and rewarding job that works for me and my family. Best of all, working at a company like FLAVORx allows me to still be part of the pharmacy world, even though I am no longer in a traditional pharmacy setting. If anyone is considering a career beyond the pharmacy counter, I would be more than happy to give you some advice. Feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

A Day In the Life of an Academic Pharmacist

A Day In the Life of an Academic Pharmacist

I recall sitting in a therapeutics lecture as a pharmacy student thinking my professor had it easy.  She showed up to lecture for a few hours each week, a handful of weeks each year—she could spend the rest of her time preparing lectures. I honestly thought that was all she did until I completed an APPE rotation with her and realized she had a practice site with responsibilities to the site, committee work, research, service, student mentoring and teaching outside of the College of Pharmacy.

 

She stayed busy, but seemed fulfilled by her career and autonomy. This experience influenced my decision to pursue academia as a career after I completed my PGY1/PGY2 Pharmacotherapy residency training. I stayed with Idaho State University in Pocatello, taking a clinical assistant professor position with dual appointments in the Department of Family Medicine and the College of Pharmacy.

 

My position is somewhat of a unicorn in the academia world because I primarily train physician and pharmacy residents on our inpatient medicine service as opposed to focused teaching of pharmacy students. Though residents are my main learners, I do take students on APPE rotations, facilitate labs, case studies and small group discussions and lecture to other learners across campus.

 

Here’s a glimpse into my typical day:

 

5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Let’s be honest, I’ll snooze until at least 6:00. Shower, get dressed, do my hair (top knot or pony) and makeup. Dry shampoo is my best friend! Husband leaves for work around 6:15 today. He’s a physician assistant in orthopedic surgery, so his surgery days are my solo mornings.

 

6:40 am: Eat breakfast and get the girls (3 year-old and 9 month-old) up and dressed. Pack my bags—pump bag, computer bag, lunch bag, diapers and wipes for the baby and swimsuit and towel for the 3 year old’s water day. It’s a miracle I don’t forget anything.

 

7:30 am: Leave the house. My girls go to two different daycare facilities because of age restrictions. Can’t wait until the baby is one! Drop-offs go smoothly so I make it to work by 8 am.

 

8:00 am – 9:15 am: Spend an hour answering emails—So. Many. Emails!  Questions from a speaker for the Idaho Society of Health-System Pharmacist’s Fall Conference (I’m the Education Chair), set up an appointment with my research student, and then address a conflict with the residents schedules. Finally, I take a few minutes to update my ever-expanding to-do list. Sometimes I wish I could start all over with a brand-new email address. And share it selectively.

 

9:15 am: Pump break—I’m lucky enough to have a designated room with a comfy chair, a sink to clean my supplies and freezer to store the loot.

 

9:30 am: Drive to the hospital to precept patient care plans with the pharmacy resident.

 

9:40 am: Take the stairs to the 4th floor—have to fit exercise in somewhere!

 

9:45 am: Catch my breath enough to precept patients with the PGY1 resident. He presents a brief subjective and objective history followed by assessment and plan for relevant medication related problems. We discuss his plan for the most critical patients. I ask questions and assign readings.

 

10:30 am: Rounds start (mostly) on time today. I make a point to listen closely and review patient charts as we go because—brand new medical interns. Need I say more? Although I start to wonder if it’s the third-year medical residents I need to worry about after this interaction:

 

Dr. U (R3): “Problem number one sepsis, secondary to cellulitis of the leg. Patient also has a hematoma of the same leg from a recent fall.”

 

Me: “What is your plan for the patients’ antibiotics? She currently has daptomycin and vancomycin ordered.”

 

Dr. U (R3): **Looking lost** “Uhhhhh”

 

Me: “Would you like to continue both the vancomycin and the daptomycin?”

 

Me: *in my mind* Please say no, please say no, please sa—

 

Dr. U: “Yes! Because it will be awhile before the vancomycin level is therapeutic so I’d like to make sure patient is covered with the daptomycin in the meantime.”

 

Me: *long blink* “Okaaaay. Well, let’s pause there for a second. Help me understand this infection a little better.”

 

I fire off questions about the patient such as…”She has a cellulitis? How big is the cellulitis? Do you suspect infection in the proximal hematoma—like an abscess? No? Okay, do you think this isn’t a strep cellulitis? How’s her renal function? Do you suspect MRSA?”

 

Me: “Okay, so you don’t have any reason to believe this is MRSA. What regimen would you send this patient home on, maybe that will help us narrow our coverage?”

 

Dr. U (R3)- “Well I’d just keep the IV vanco and continue oral vanco when she goes home.”

 

Me: *loooooong blink* try not to laugh, yell or cry. “Okay, let’s talk about that for a minute…”

 

11:20 am: We pause rounds so my PGY1 resident can teach the team about anticoagulation—his first team teaching moment of the residency year. The sympathy nerves get to me and I spend the first 30 seconds freaking out for him—totally unwarranted because he nails it. Relevant information and an engaging teaching style—tough skills to teach. I almost cry happy tears. The residency year just got a lot easier!

 

11:26 am: Phone vibrates with this message from our attending physician—“Your resident is a fantastic teacher!

 

11:40 am- Leave rounds a little early to swing by daycare and nurse the baby before her nap. So glad I live and work in a 10-minute radius.

 

12:05 pm- Head back to my office on campus. I’m teaching at the Noon Conference—Prescribing Pearls—to the family medicine residents today. I target my content towards our new family medicine interns. Many have never written a prescription…or learned how to write one in medical school, for that matter. To put it kindly—they’re clueless. I cover the basics of prescription writing—legal requirements versus good practice, ISMP abbreviations to avoid, etc. I also share prescribing tips like asking about refills at each appointment, canceling old prescriptions with the pharmacy, and including an indication as part of the sig.

 

I love giving this didactic every year. I get to teach them the basics of the pharmacy world and feel like a genius because it’s all “new” to them. Conversation surrounding our last topic of the hour—legal and ethical considerations of prescribing for self, family and friends—gets heated. This is my first year including this subject and I’m shocked by some of the reactions. When the presentation is over, I take notes on how it went and changes needed for next year.

 

1:15 pm: Eat a quick lunch—leftover burrito bowls from dinner the night before—while I answer a few more emails.

 

1:30 pm: Meet with a P3 pharmacy student doing a research elective with me. We plan to survey community health workers about how they help with medications and their training to do so. This student is a Rockstar. She owns her project. I spend the hour helping her edit the survey. We make a few changes to our Institutional Review Board form before submitting.

 

2:30 pm: Try to tackle a few items on the to-do list. I make it through what feels like never-ending resident evaluations in PharmAcademic, update my lecture for the following week, and coordinate with speakers for the ISHP Fall Meeting.

 

3:30 pm: Another pump break.

 

3:50 pm: Back to work on the to-do list.

 

4:10 pm: One of my PGY2 Pharmacotherapy residents drops by to discuss a patient case. The patient was bridged with enoxaparin perioperatively and just saw her surgeon complaining of calf pain.  My poor resident is devastated that the patient may have a clot. Another preceptor and I review the course of therapy with the resident and determine there was nothing that should’ve been done differently. We explain that medicine isn’t foolproof, secondary prevention isn’t guaranteed and sometimes the worst outcome happens even when we do everything correctly.

 

4:40 pm: Engage in a philosophical discussion on the future of the pharmacy with my office mate—an almost daily occurrence for us. We ponder the effects of Amazon’s purchase of Pillpack on community pharmacy, whether I should encourage or discourage my brother from pursuing pharmacy, and if provider status is really necessary (sacrilege, I know!).

 

5:00 pm: Leave to get the girls from daycare. I pick up the 3 year old first. I’ve inadvertently trained her to ask “what you brought me?” when I pick her up every day, and today is no different. I let her choose a fruit leather flavor and she asks me to open it, which I do. She cries because I didn’t open it the “right way like daddy does it”. It’s a no-win situation.

 

5:30 pm: Arrive at home to an apron-clad husband pulling salmon off the Traeger. Dinner is ready! I love it when he beats me home.

 

6:30 pm: Clean up dinner, bathe the babes, jammies, prayers and bedtime stories. Husband takes the three year-old while I put the baby to sleep.

 

7:30 pm: Crack open the email from our ASHP Accreditation Site Surveyor and get to work on collecting documents for our upcoming site visit. I try not to work at home when I can help it. I’m successful most nights—tonight isn’t one of them.

 

9:00 pm: Think about exercising, but go for a bowl of sherbet instead. Veg on the couch reading a book.

 

10:00 pm: Get ready for bed and hit the hay so I can do it all over again tomorrow!

 

I’ve discovered many hidden rewards in teaching—and encountered so many challenges. Some days I feel like a well-paid babysitter. I hate those days! Some days seeing my learners succeed makes me proud enough to share their success with the mailman. I love those days! Most days fall somewhere in between. Each one varies—different learners, different responsibilities, different challenges and different successes. And that’s why I love it!

 

 

Kasidy McKay, PharmD, BCPS

Clinical Assistant Professor

Idaho State University

mckakasi@isu.edu

 

Happy Women Pharmacist Day! #womenpharmacistday

 

In 2013, Harvard Economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz published a paper which showed that the pharmacy profession was one of the few healthcare professions to have an equal representation of men and women. Gardner and Stowe reported that in 1992-93, female pharmacists comprised only 26% of faculty at pharmacy schools. Today women make up the majority of faculty, students and practicing pharmacists.  Remember that scene in the movie “‘Dead Poets Society’ where Robin Williams shows the students photos of past graduates from decades earlier. It reminded me when I was a student, walking down the halls of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy and seeing the rows and rows of photographs of UIC alumni who had once been in my shoes. But unlike the students in the movie, I couldn’t see myself in all of the photos specifically because the early ones were mostly men. Things have certainly changed.

 

October 12, 2018 will be the first time we celebrate and recognize #WomenPharmacistDay (WPD).  WPD is about honoring and acknowledging the strides we have made as women in pharmacy. It is also a day to remember the pioneers in the field that paved the way.  Women like Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf, who is recognized as the first female pharmacist in the US who had 12 children (hence October 12)! Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi who was the first woman to graduate from a school of pharmacy in the US, and Margaret Cornelius “Cora” Dow who was the first female pharmacist to own a chain of pharmacies (11 in total). Zada Mary Cooper is known as the “grand and glorious lady of pharmacy”, and Mary Munson Runge was the first female president of a national pharmacy organization. Each and everyday women pharmacists help advance the practice of pharmacy and science and as a result, change lives. WPD is about recognizing what we as women have accomplished and will continue to accomplish.

 

Today, I encourage everyone to celebrate Women Pharmacists! The celebration is long overdue, and I am so happy that it is finally here. Thank you to all of the pharmacy influencers and to our corporate sponsor, Cardinal Health, for supporting WPD and making this day possible.

 

HAPPY FIRST WOMEN PHARMACIST DAY TO MY TRIBE #RXMOMS AND TO ALL WOMEN PHARMACISTS!

 

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS

Founder, Pharmacist Moms Group

www.pharmacistmomsgroup.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pharmacistmomsgroup/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzyatpharmacistmoms/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/smsoliman1

3 Fun Activities for your Kids that are Budget Friendly

3 Fun Activities for your Kids that are Budget Friendly

By Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

Freelance writer

 

Whether you are a new or seasoned Mom, it can sometimes be a daunting task to find fun, budget friendly activities for your kids.  I’d like to provide some useful tips and activity ideas for different weather situations that can be fun for the whole family.  These tips are great for both working and stay at home Moms, as there are events during the week and weekends.

Here are 3 fun activities for your kids that are budget friendly:

  1. Library events

One of the best places to find events is right at your local library!  Libraries also have great activities in the children’s section including puzzles, books, and computer games.  It is a great way to stay active during the hot summer or cold weather.  Check out the events online or on their Facebook page to find out the latest happenings.  These free events are great for the whole family.  With Halloween coming up, many libraries have costume parties, special themed story times, and trick-or- treating.  Story time activities are great, and libraries generally have them for different age groups ranging from newborn through preschool age.  Other library events include board games, open play, music and dance programs, and writing classes.  Sometimes pre-registration with your library card is required prior to the events.

 

  1. Parks

Check out your local parks when the weather is nice for outdoor activities!  With slides and more these are great free activities for your kids that will help keep them active.  Many parks also have splash areas for the kids to enjoy so feel free to bring your bathing suits!  Like the Facebook pages to check out different park events.  There may be holiday themed events that are free or have a nominal fee.  Some parks also have community centers with science museums and theaters that have great family shows.  Food trucks have become the latest trend at parks, so you can make it a family night out and not have to worry about dinner.  Food truck prices generally range from $5-$10 per food item or you can bring your own snacks to enjoy at the park.  Many parks also have free concerts with great music during the food truck events.

 

  1. Indoor playgrounds and gyms

Indoor playgrounds and gyms have become the latest trend for kids.  This is a great way for kids to stay active when outdoor activities are out of the question due to bad weather.  The fee is generally $10-$20 per child with a discount for siblings, and adults are usually free.  Many facilities have wrist bands for the adults and children with numbers that match and are checked upon leaving for added security.  Indoor playgrounds will usually include access for the full day so you can stay for 1 hour or until closing!  The facilities may also have mommy and me classes.  Take it from me if you have little ones the adults will feel more tired than the kids after leaving!  Adults can have fun too and participate in all of the activities with their kids, and there are also areas to sit and relax.  These facilities usually have shoes off and socks on policies so be sure to pack socks for you and your kids!  Ask about discounts for teachers, healthcare professionals, and military as many offer special deals.  Also, you may be able to purchase a package of admissions at a discount that can also include free sessions if you plan to go frequently.  Be sure to also like the Facebook page, as some places offer discounts on certain days if you provide a special code or word of the day.

 

Good luck on your search for activities!