2015: The #YearOfTheRPh

January 10, 2015

Let this be the year you do something for the cause.

What with the lingering cloud of compounding scandals, rapidly shrinking reimbursements, and vital pharmacy legislation languishing in Congress, 2014 perhaps was not the best year for the profession of pharmacy. It certainly was not the best year for me professionally. Last year was, after all, the year I got fired from my job as a hospital pharmacist for “communicating threats.”

No, that isn’t a joke. If you’ve seen me play in my church’s handbell choir, sponsored any of the marathons I’ve run for charity, or seen my name listed as the pharmacist in charge on the pharmacy license for the free clinic where I volunteer, you probably will want to know what I actually got fired for.

I think Tupac put it best when he said, “They say I’m violent. Because I refuse to be silent.” Yes, I just quoted Tupac. 2014 was that kind of year. 

When silence is not an option

In reality, my termination became inevitable when I refused to sign an attestation penned by the hospital’s administration. It was a quasi-legal, murkily ethical document that I felt violated my professional code of ethics and restricted my abilities to care for my patients as required by my state’s board of pharmacy.

You and every other reasonable pharmacist would have balked at signing it too. I was not quiet about my indignation over this form, so they called me violent.

Last year was also the year that I managed to land one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I’m proud to say that I now work for a hospital that prizes character, compassion, and courage in its healthcare providers. My current manager will probably tell you, though, that silence is still not a technique I resort to very often.

I do not think pharmacists should routinely make a practice of keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, not when silence negatively affects patient care or marginalizes our profession.

If I could get into my Wayback Machine and do 2014 all over again, there isn’t a lot I would end up doing differently. I would rather be falsely accused of being violent than rightly accused of being corrupt, lazy, incompetent, or anything else that characterizes a “bad pharmacist.” 

Yes, I have a huge black mark on my otherwise mostly spotless professional record, a blemish with which I’m completely at peace. I consider it to be a badge of honor earned in the defense of our rights as healthcare professionals.

 

Let this be the year

And this is my battle cry for change, right here and right now. Stand with me in refusing to be silent. Change may be hard, and giving up is easy. But look what you get - or don’t get.

Let this be the year. Let 2015 be our year, the year that we finally show lawmakers, insurance companies, and the public at large our value. Let this be the year we finally get provider status. The year that equality finally makes it to the business of pharmacy and the Any Willing Provider law is rightfully applied to pharmacies.

Let this be the year a televised medical drama portrays a pharmacist as something other than a money-hungry, death-propagating drug dealer.

Let this be the year we stop lamenting our frustrations and do something about them. Something constructive, something profession-altering. Do one thing to advance our profession - e-mail your congressman, educate your patients about our struggles, write an editorial in your local newspaper. Do something.

If every pharmacist, all two million of us worldwide, were to do just one thing this year, imagine the impact we could have.

Just do it

So stop complaining and start doing. Do one thing for us this year, and don’t be silent about it. Share it on social media, encourage your co-workers to act, shout it from the rooftops: 2015 is the #YearOfTheRPh. 

Kelly Howardlives and works in Southeastern North Carolina. Tweet her @PharmacistKelly and let her know what your “one thing” will be to make 2015 the #YearOfTheRPh.