Follow the leader: In a rapidly changing healthcare workforce environment, how can hospital pharmacy dig itself out of a managerial vacuum?

June 18, 2007

Changes in the health-care workplace environment have put an increased emphasis on the importance of leadership skills to help address this challenge.

There is a leadership crisis brewing in hospital pharmacy. It is predicted that 80% of pharmacy directors and 77% of middle managers plan to resign over the next 10 years, which will leave a leadership crunch. "We are paying the price for this today," said Mark Woods, Pharm.D., FASHP, clinical coordinator and residency program director in the pharmacy department at Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Compounding the matter, there is a growing demand for pharmacy services and pharmacists across all practice settings due to numerous factors. It is estimated that more than 7.2 billion prescriptions will be filled by 2020, and by 2030, 70 million Americans will be over 65 years old, using three times more prescription medications than younger patients. To complicate matters, the Pharmacy Manpower Project predicts that there will be a shortage of 160,000 pharmacists by 2020.

Competitive salaries are important for recruiting, but research has shown that there are other job factors, such as positive relationships with supervisors and co-workers and having interesting work and opportunities for learning, that many men and women value more.

"Compensation tends to be less important on the list of incentives in today's work environment," said Woods. "Compensation can't be ignored, but people want to know that they're getting better at their jobs and they want to feel a sense of community in the workplace. Given the workforce shortage, diversity, and workforce demand, pharmacy leaders must meet these requirements. They have to meet the organization's objectives as well as be sensitive to the staff, which is our most valuable resource. We need to develop a wide array of leadership skills and techniques to build successful departments."

Wanted: Leadership skills

"One thing we have to keep in mind is that we have to tailor our coaching to the individual's unique needs," said Woods. "It is not one-size-fits-all." Mentoring is a bidirectional process in which the leader must be willing to share what he or she knows as well as be able to listen to the employee. "People are looking for more than just a job," he added. "They have to believe that the work they are doing is meaningful and feel that they are getting better. Coaching and mentoring make people feel that they are continuing to improve and upgrade their skill levels."

Leaders must strive to make the workplace a community, understand their workplace, and decrease the social distance between themselves and the staff. Research has shown that high-involvement companies improve long-term productivity and profitability through the concept of community.