Learning to lead on rotation

SPM: On Rotation Diary

I am sharing my unique experiences while on rotation anonymously under the name “Brandon.” It is my hope to provide you with insights about rotations and the many pharmacy opportunities I encounter.

The challenges I faced during my internal medicine rotation, combined with the progressive pharmacy practice model of the health system, have set my standards as a clinician. After my internal medicine rotation, I moved to another health system for my administration rotation, where I worked directly under the head of pharmacy for all the hospitals within the system.

The transition from the front lines of patient care on the floors to the offices and conference rooms of administration gave me a completely different perspective on pathways in the profession. While those in administration may not directly see patients during the day, their insight into the value of the pharmacist toward patient care, combined with their opportunities to make decisions and advocate to other health care leaders within the organization, can make a difference in just as many, if not more, patient lives. 

Nuts and bolts

Pharmacy administration (or really any type of administration) can typically fall into three categories: personnel, operations, and finances. The projects assigned to me covered a wide array of pharmacy administrative duties to give me the best experience possible. 

For personnel management, projects included increasing employee engagement by promoting achievements and rewarding excellence. I also worked on reviewing and revising job descriptions and exploring more 
efficient methods of scheduling employees. Operations involved high- level investigations such as researching the implementation of various changes to practice models into the current health system. I also helped find solutions to workflow problems with certain patients. 

At first mention, the thought of crunching finance numbers seemed mundane, but a lot of thought and analysis goes into optimizing costs and expenses. I reviewed past medication utilization evaluations, dissected pharmaceutical contracts, and 
analyzed productivity metrics to 
determine labor costs. 

Each of these projects, either in financing, human resources, or operations, may seem like ordinary administrative duties, but each requires a thorough understanding of medication knowledge and pharmacy operations in order to adequately solve problems, which is why there is a need for pharmacist leaders in administration.

Leadership lessons

As I shadowed my preceptor through meetings and saw health care leaders in action, I thought about my own experiences as a student leader in organizations like Twlug–ASP. I had always been told that those experiences would look great on my résumé as I pursued a residency or future career—and now I appreciate why. Being able to motivate your team, set goals, resolve conflicts, and effectively communicate on all levels is directly translatable from student, to new practitioner, to head of pharmacy, and beyond. 

In addition to the lessons and skills acquired, I also had opportunities to meet individuals along the way. Little did I know that those individuals were now forever part of my professional network. As I pursued projects and needed information or insight about certain topics, or from other organizations, that network has helped me well beyond the extra statuses that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed. 

As I discussed my future plans with my preceptor, he recalled almost every program director he has ever met. This is both a daunting and exciting realization. It reinforced the notion to always act as a professional. Word of your actions and attitude can travel fast, so make sure you leave a positive impression because pharmacy is a small world!

Making the case

One of my most insightful experiences was attending a meeting with one of the high-level executives within the health system. Here, the projects of the week are boiled down and productivity metrics relating to personnel, operations, and finances are discussed. 

At this level of administration, it became clear that numbers (and particularly dollars) drive the major decisions of the organization. Regardless of how valuable pharmacists’ services are to patient care, it comes down to the profession’s leaders to “make the case” for pharmacy.

With my past experiences and my aptitude for the administration field, this could very well be the road I go down for my future career. But I got into pharmacy because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Will a future in pharmacy administration validate that desire? Will I be happy improving patient care from behind a desk? How do pharmacy leaders “make the case” to other health system administrators? What can the next generation of pharmacy leaders do to prepare for the future of