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APhA looks to alleviate increasing pressures of the profession

When my wife and I graduated from pharmacy school and were licensed in 1996, we entered into practice full of hopes and dreams of a bright future. We were eager to put to use those advanced patient care skills our alma mater had well prepared us to use. And put them to use we did.

Following residency, we moved to Alabama to become partners in an independent pharmacy practice, where we were the first pharmacists in the state to begin immunizing our patients. We started a diabetes self-management service and collaborated on drug therapy management with one of our local physicians. We were professionally engaged and actively involved, and both of us were relatively satisfied that we were using the skills we were trained to use, though we still had the challenges of compensation for our services. However, I’m hearing reports from recent graduates that paint a different postgraduation experience picture we had in 1996.

What I’m hearing from these recent graduates, as well as from seasoned pharmacists, is:

  • Public and private payers are looking to pay the lowest price for prescription drugs;

  • The community pharmacy business model no longer supports sufficient staffing, leaving little time for patient care, and in some cases jeopardizing patient safety;

  • Pharmacists, now largely employed by a corporate entity rather than through private practice, feel they have little control over their practice environment and professional judgment;

  • The number of pharmacists in many markets is leading to fear among some of losing their jobs or experiencing lower wages if they do not meet productivity metrics as more technical tasks are delegated to technicians;

  • Full-time employment is sometimes hard to come by as a pharmacist; and

  • Young pharmacists have tremendous personal debt from college.

Frankly, it seems many folks want to stick their head in the sand about these current realities. To do so is a failure to the profession. Hear me clearly: I’m extremely hopeful about the future of pharmacy and have some ideas of how we will get there, but first we have to help lift up our colleagues and move through a difficult period.  

The American Pharmacists Association is the leading advocate for the profession of pharmacy. Nearly every pharmacist in America has been a member of APhA at some point, either as a student or as a pharmacist. As the current speaker of APhA’s House of Delegates and president-elect of the organization, it is important to me that pharmacists and student pharmacists know that APhA is committed to addressing these practical challenges.

The nearly 400-member APhA House of Delegates in March 2018 adopted a policy on the pharmacist workplace environment and patient safety. The policies serve not only as guiding statements and principles for the profession, but are frequently referenced when key policy and legal decisions are at play. In addition to this policy, the APhA board of trustees has incorporated pharmacist well-being initiatives as core to our strategic plan. Among other efforts, we are building tangible resources to assist individual pharmacists with practice challenges, professional satisfaction, recognition and personal well-being.

Additionally, APhA is working with other professional organizations and employers to seek legislative changes at the state and national levels that will result in recognition of pharmacists as providers of care. Coupled with changes that remove unnecessary barriers to the use of technologies and technicians, this will lead to new opportunities for the patient care we are capable of providing, allowing the business model to shift.

There is a hopeful, brighter future ahead — if we fight for it. Let’s join together and ensure that patients continue to have access to the outstanding patient care of pharmacists.

Michael Hogue is president-elect of the American Pharmacists Association, as well as the speaker of the APhA House of Delegates.
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