Keeping pharmacy staff: Best practices

August 15, 2010

With many pharmacists approaching retirement, positions are opening up. For professionals tasked with greater responsibility and longer working hours, greener pastures have an undeniable appeal. In this business climate, how can employers hold onto their pharmacy professionals?

Key Points

Do I stay or do I go? Every employee asks this from time to time. Nowadays, with many pharmacists approaching retirement, positions are opening up. For professionals who are tasked with greater responsibility and longer working hours, yet receiving the same compensation, greener pastures have an undeniable appeal.

"I would like to see talent from both internal and external sources. We, like many others, are up against a transition of high-performing talent," said Katherine I. Smith, RN, MBA, senior vice president of clinical operations, MultiCare Health System. "Having a formal plan and keeping highly skilled professionals in place and in succession is extremely important."

Surprisingly, organizations with retention programs did not outperform those without them. Survey results demonstrated an average turnover of 14% annually for both. Digging deeper, we found that high retention has little to do with formal programs and has everything to do with culture.

At facilities with high turnover rates, employees described a negative environment where trust was lacking, rates of management turnover were high, and leadership was without vision, direction, accountability, and fairness. These facilities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees, signing bonuses, relief/interim coverage, advertising, and relocation costs, and the result has been devastatingly low morale.

According to Tom Van Hassel, RPh, MPA, director of pharmacy at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Ariz., "Retention is a culture, not a program. The key is building the culture from the day you start interviewing."

MICHAEL DUGGAN is a senior account executive with The HealthCare Initiative.