Walking in to the Colorado convention center on the first day of the ASHP summer meeting this June was a bit of a nerve-racking experience. It was my first time attending a big national pharmacy conference and I was the only one from my school here. I really didn’t want to make a fool of myself. As soon as a I stepped inside I was greeted by a nice gentleman who gave me a map of the convention center along with a schedule of all the different sessions that would be taking place throughout the next four days. The schedule wasn’t really helpful to me since I had already planned out the sessions I was interested in a few weeks before in anticipation of the conference. Eager to get a good seat for my first session I headed for the conference room where it was going to be held only to be stopped by another gentleman standing in front of the door to the room. In all my excitement (or nervousness) I had forgotten to complete my registration and pick up my badge. The whole thing about not making a fool of myself didn’t last very long, but on the bright side there weren’t any more hiccups after this.
Over the next few days after attending various sessions on leadership and the practice and future of pharmacy I was very happy that I was able to attend the conference. Besides getting an opportunity to learn I also got to meet and interact with many pharmacy students and pharmacists who were there as well. I was even part of a group that had to present in front of mock panel of judges about the implementation of an outpatient ambulatory care clinic. Leadership was a key theme for this conference and there was a lot that I learned during my time here, too much to put it all into words, so instead here are my biggest takeaways from the meeting that pertain to leadership and how it will affect us in our future careers as pharmacists:
A power vacuum in hospital pharmacy
Over the next decade, approximately 75% of current hospital pharmacy directors are planning on retiring from their positions. This doesn’t seem like a that big of an issue at first until you realize that only about 45% of current pharmacists working at these hospitals are even considering having a leadership position.
"A lack of leadership will mean that health‐system pharmacy will no longer be in a position to enhance patient safety, to optimize medication therapies across the continuum of care, to make a real difference in the lives of the patients that we serve.” – Mick Hunt (2000 ASHP Presidential Address)
In the event that there is indeed this lack of leadership in hospital pharmacy, other professions will have to step up to the plate, whether it be nurses, physicians, or even those from the private sector. However, something doesn’t feel right about someone who is not directly involved in pharmacy helping shape the future of the hospital pharmacy. This is why it is so important to get pharmacists and pharmacy students engaged in leadership training so that hospital pharmacy continues to progress forward.
Getting to that leadership position
During one of the leadership sessions at the conference, the speaker presented on a topic called “Practical tips to get ‘there’…wherever ‘there’ may be.” I found this to be one of the more interesting topics because of its applicability to so many different things in life even though the speaker focused more on its benefits to pharmacy. There are four steps or tips to get “there” and I’ll do my best to summarize them.
Step 1 – Develop a plan
Everything starts off with making sure you have a good plan in place. It’s important to keep the end in mind and also establish your short and long-term goals. These can be either professional and/or personal. The next most important thing to do is to put this plan in writing, think of it as your own personal mission or vision statement and be sure to update your plan regularly as you begin to accomplish and adjust your short and long term goals.
Step 2 – Get Involved
Living in a bubble will only get you so far, therefore it’s important to get out there and network and explore the many different career options you have. An easy way to do this, especially as students, is to get involved in various pharmacy organizations, whether they’re student, state, or even national pharmacy organizations. You can even seek out rotations or internships or even shadow pharmacists in your areas of interest in order to explore your career options.
Step 3 – Find a mentor
Remember that it’s not always about what you know, but also who you know, and it that regards having a mentor can be very important. It’s important to find a mentor who you can connect with but it’s also important that you find a mentor who is also effective. They should be good at reflective listening and provide honest feedback both good and bad. They should also be encouraging and willing to share their own network in order to connect you with more learning opportunities. In addition to finding a good mentor, remember to pay it forward when the time comes.
Step 4 – Build leadership skills
You can’t become the leader you want to be without actively learning and honing your own leadership skills.