Pharmacists Must Unify to Overcome Challenges in Profession

January 18, 2021
Pete Kreckel, RPh

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics January 2021, Volume 165, Issue 1

“We have met the enemy, and they are ours!”

My opening lecture for the summer semester at Saint Francis University starts out with me introducing myself to the class of future pharmacists. Then, I open the classroom door and look up and down the hallway. I close the door, and the students look at me with an inquisitive stare. I tell them there is no one sitting in the hallway waiting to take their place and they have earned their seat in the classroom. I tell them for the next 11 months, their job is to work together as a team so they all can make it through this rigorous didactic curriculum. I give them my slogan for the year: “We are no longer competitors, we are colleagues.” It appears as a headline on page 1 of my Intro to Pharm notes. It also has made it to several of their class t-shirts.

We, as pharmacists, need to form a cohesive unit like so many other health professions do. We are often competitors, working for different chains and pulling business away from other pharmacies. I get frustrated when I call a competitor pharmacy for a patient transfer and get the 5-minute hold routine. When we call most doctors’ offices, there is an option to press a button if you are a health care facility, and you get immediate attention. Why can’t we pharmacists have the same options?

A former state representative summed it up well. He said, “Pete, when the lobbyists come to my office to speak on behalf of pharmacy, I never see a unified message. The independent pharmacists have 1 message; the chain pharmacists might have a different message, and hospital pharmacists might have another message! Your profession needs to unify like physicians, nurses, and physician assistants!”

Who speaks for the physicians? We all know it is the American Med- ical Association. Who speaks for the nurses? It is the American Nurses Association. Who speaks for the physician assistants? It is the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Who speaks for pharmacists? It is
the National Community Pharmacists Association, American Pharmacists Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and many others.

The Latin phrase “divide et impera”, meaning divide and rule, credited to Julius Caesar, is what has happened
to our amazing profession. Pharmacy benefit managers have divided us on all fronts with predatory pricing, reimbursements, and the latest, sending our patients to different pharmacies. At the same time, our profession is seeing wage stagnation or decreases, lack of adequate staffing, and the scarcity of employment opportunities.

So of all the pharmacy organizations, which one can save us? I doubt it’s just one of them. Our profession must band together in unity to push forward and relay 1 consistent message. It will all start as a grassroots effort, where we begin to treat each other as health care professionals the minute the phone rings and another pharmacist is requesting a transfer. Remember, we can no longer be competitors, we need to become colleagues.

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