Management tips for supervising pharmacists


A concise summary of what they didn't teach you in pharmacy school

Up Front in Depth

After working for a few years as staff pharmacists, many pharmacists progress to a supervising pharmacist role. Because pharmacy schools rarely discuss the topic of management, graduates take little from the program's curriculum beyond the awareness that supervising pharmacists are responsible for everything that occurs in a pharmacy and that the Department of Education must be notified within an allotted time of any change in supervising pharmacists.

What they don’t teach you

When I was in college, I never thought about the words “pharmacist” and “management” in the same sentence. I thought a pharmacist was a person involved in clinical matters, someone who addressed issues related to medication selection and medication therapy with patients and other healthcare professionals. A pharmacist also ensured correct dispensing of drugs and was responsible for adhering to pharmacy laws and regulations. In my understanding, a supervising pharmacist performed the duties of a staff pharmacist and was also legally responsible for the actions of his or her subordinates.

During 17 years of practice in various pharmacy settings ranging from an infusion practice to specialty pharmacies, I have taken on many roles, from that of staff pharmacist to managing partner. During that time, I have witnessed the dispelling of many myths. I have found the title “supervising pharmacist” to be just a legal term, whereas the actual position implies managing an often complex operation. I have observed a wide range of management styles and would like to share two of my core principles.

 Create structure
Imperative to the role of manager is strategic organization of your time and the time and duties of your subordinates. Equally important is to create the pharmacy procedures necessary to carry out these objectives. Two key principles that help accomplish these tasks are an analysis of operations and standardization.

Observe the workflow in the pharmacy and identify each employee’s daily tasks. Recognize delays and the areas where most problems occur. Also, identify the times when there are spikes in work volume throughout the day. Assign duties and structure your staff’s daily schedule based on these observations. For instance, if there is a slowdown in the morning, that’s the time to take care of paperwork and filing. Adhere to the same routine daily.

One of the first things I learned as an intern in a compounding pharmacy was to work in such a way that if I had to leave in the middle of preparing an order, the person taking over would know exactly what to do next. Take the guesswork out of the pharmacy by developing, implementing, and constantly reinforcing standard operating procedures.

Guidelines to standardization already exist in places such as pharmacy law, Medicare Part B protocols, HIPAA compliance, and the company’s operations manual.  These materials should be used to create appropriate procedures for your workplace.

Build a team

It can be challenging to create a well-functioning and motivated team at work. Two practices I find helpful are keeping a learning curve and involving everyone in problem-solving.

One of my pharmacy mentors always kept me present when he made medical interventions and often shared with me the projects he was working on. I gained new expertise and a feeling of importance. I believe that feeling important translates into feeling valued and needed. Learning something new makes work interesting and engaging. These factors lead to increased motivation and contribute to unity and a better work ethic.

Tell your employees what tasks you are working on and demonstrate the steps to accomplish those tasks. Share the latest news from around the pharmacy world and healthcare in general. And have your staff listen to how you handle various situations and give reasons for taking one action rather than another.

When you want to institute a procedural change in response to an issue, or when an operation is not running smoothly, solicit your employees’ opinions. Arrive at a mutually agreed-upon resolution. The more included people feel, the more likely they are to adhere to new policies and procedures.

Julie Fishmanis a pharmacist and consultant in the New York City area. Contact her at

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