CPhA launches employee pharmacist resource program

March 15, 2011

The California Pharmacists Association has launched what may be the nation's first employee pharmacist ombudsman program sponsored by a state association.

Key Points

The California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) has launched what may be the nation's first employee pharmacist ombudsman program sponsored by a state association.

CPhA has hired a long-time pharmacist to help resolve workplace concerns such as lack of breaks, prescription quotas, or pressures to avoid counseling.

The CPhA's Employed Pharmacist Resource Program (EPRP) was rolled out at its annual meeting in February.

"CPhA has struggled for years to create value for employee pharmacists. This program will help them be better practitioners and creates a value proposition that would encourage them to join CPhA," he said.

Changing demographics

The increase in employee pharmacist numbers and the simultaneous decline in independent pharmacists have left CPhA in a quandary.

There have been few incentives for employee pharmacists to join the association, which has traditionally focused on the concerns of independent pharmacists and chains. The association has long resisted efforts to expand services for employee pharmacists for fear of offending chains, manufacturers, and other funding sources.

CPhA's Academy of Employee Pharmacists (AEP), which is supposed to serve the interests of employee pharmacists, has long been moribund, silent, and controlled by chain interests.

"We just couldn't impact employee pharmacists," said former CPhA head Lynn Rolston, now a consumer advocate. "We couldn't contact them directly, we couldn't contact them through the chains. But we were constantly getting calls from chain pharmacists complaining about workplace conditions, like de facto script quotas that are unsafe for patients and unsafe for pharmacists."

Employee advocates

The break came in 2008 when activist pharmacists Mark Raus, Phil Grauss, and Fred Mayer were elected as AEP trustees. Mayer is president of Pharmacists Planning Service, Inc., and a member of the Drug Topics editorial advisory board.

The trio spent 2 years convincing CPhA that it could provide services to employee pharmacists without alienating chain employers. Adding employee pharmacist services could help boost association membership.

As have many state associations, CPhA has been steadily losing members as the pharmacist balance shifts from independents to employees. The ombudsman idea came from Raus, a long-time chain pharmacist and active union member.

"We need to help pharmacists who are being hit with 500 scripts a day and no help from their supervisor," Raus said. "That's not safe, that's not compliant with Board of Pharmacy regulations, that's not appropriate under the CPhA Code of Ethics."