How to Talk About Being a Pharmacist

October 29, 2018
Marvin Moore, PharmD
Volume 162, Issue 10

When someone asks about your job, how do you answer?

Have you ever been asked to write an elevator speech?  In other words, what you would say if you had 30 seconds (about the time it takes for a ride in an elevator) to describe your business or to sell a project to a perfect stranger?

I’ve written an elevator speech a couple times as a brainstorming exercise when I’ve participated in strategic planning processes with organizations that I’ve been involved with. More recently, I did it as part of a marketing seminar that was meant to be specifically for my pharmacy.

It’s not easy to describe an organization’s mission or purpose, or in the more recent case, what makes my pharmacy unique, in about three or four sentences.

I live in a somewhat rural part of Wisconsin, so the idea of riding in an elevator with a stranger is somewhat foreign, due to the fact that (a) there is only one elevator in my town, and (b) everyone knows everyone, so the idea of somehow ending up in an elevator with a stranger just isn’t very likely. 

I like to think that instead of an elevator speech, I’m writing a “get to know the other parents at the ballgame a little better conversation.” At this point in my life, my kids’ ballgames are where most of my interactions with others are taking place. I use the word “conversation,” because it’s not likely anyone wants to listen to a prerehearsed 30-second speech anyway.

At the ballgame, when another parent inevitably asks me, “So, what do you do for a living?” I’ve found it helpful to be prepared with more than, “I’m a pharmacist.”

I’ve noticed that very few people have a good idea of what a pharmacist actually does. Maybe it’s because pharmacists do so many different things, or maybe it’s because every time there’s a pharmacy-related story on the news, the one and only video shot is of the counting tray and someone (by assumption, it must be the pharmacist) counting pills by fives and pushing them to the side.

So as part of the conversation (again not a speech), I like to point out the services we offer and say things like, “I spend time with patients who take a lot of medications and look for ways to simplify their regimen to make it easier for them” or, “Have you ever picked up an antibiotic for your child and wanted to know for sure it was the right dose? Well I make sure it is.” 

I’m proud of the many things we, as pharmacists, do every day. And it’s so important for people to know what we do and how it applies to their everyday life.

The cover story this month revolves around even more activities that pharmacists are doing these days, specifically as part of the primary healthcare team in primary care settings like medical clinics and physician’s offices. How great is that! Our profession is continually evolving, and we need to keep finding ways to use our knowledge and skill set to improve patient care.

I’d encourage you to think about how you spend your day and how you describe our profession to others. We need to make sure people outside our profession know how we spend our days so that, someday, the video of the pill-counting pharmacist looks as odd as someone using a pay phone or typewriter.

And just like someday, when we all have jet packs attached to the back of our white coats, the idea of using an elevator will be very odd too.  

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