Pharmacy administration as a career choice
One of the best opportunities you have as a student pharmacist is the ability to see and experience many avenues of pharmacy practice. However, eventually each one of you has to make important decisions regarding your career direction. It is important to make these decisions early enough so that you can seek out internships, research experiences, residencies, fellowships, and other specialized learning opportunities that will help you along the career path you have chosen.
I remember how daunting this decision process was for me. I enjoyed all of my rotations and internship experiences. It was a real challenge to rule out any career path when it came time to consider what I would do after graduation. I decided that the moments in my career as a student pharmacist where I felt the most engaged and the most proud was when I was working on group projects, writing policy, or promoting the profession of pharmacy to others. The common thread was that each of these things was focused on improving the practice and the profession rather than working with patients directly. As much as I loved patient care, it was the things that I did to support others in the profession that were the most rewarding to me. It is with these thoughts that I chose to pursue a career in pharmacy administration.
Pharmacy administration has many faces, but at a basic level it provides leadership and support to practicing pharmacists in any setting. Pharmacy administration exists in community pharmacy, health-system pharmacy (at the hospital and corporate level), managed care pharmacy, and a variety of other areas.
The core roles that pharmacy administrators often play are leading teams or departments of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, advocating for the growth and development of pharmacist–provided services, liaising with senior leadership and stakeholders on behalf of practicing pharmacists, and developing pharmacy practitioners, clinicians, and leaders. Common pharmacy administration positions include operations and clinical coordinators or managers, pharmacy directors, as well as regional and corporate pharmacy leaders.
There are many unique attributes that pharmacy administrators possess, and there are residency programs that are focused on building these skills and behaviors. These residencies can be either 1- or 2-year programs, and some are coupled with a Master’s degree in business, pharmacy administration, health administration, or similar programs. The skills and knowledge that you can expect to gain in a pharmacy administration residency include communication skills, an understanding of legal and regulatory issues, financial management skills, leadership and management skills, and continuous quality improvement methods.
Pharmacy administration residencies prepare pharmacists for entry-level pharmacy leadership positions, such as a clinical team leader and operations or clinical coordinator.
I chose a residency in pharmacy administration, and upon completion, I took a position as a clinical pharmacy services manager within a health-system. In this role, I had the opportunity to work with many clinical pharmacists whose expertise and knowledge in their practice settings far exceeded my own. However, I was able to support their practices by working with them to develop robust collaborative practice agreements, establishing professional development and competency assessment programs, and working to ensure that the value of pharmacist–provided services was understood by a variety of health care stakeholders.
As I look back on the experiences that I had that led me to know that pharmacy administration was the right path, it was my time in Twlug–ASP that stood out. As a student pharmacist, I was very involved in the policy and advocacy efforts of Twlug–ASP, and I was fortunate to serve as a regional delegate and Twlug–ASP Speaker of the House. In these roles, I gained experience in policy-writing, advocating for the profession, and working within large groups of pharmacy professionals on how to advance the profession. I have incorporated these activities into my career, and also still make a point to stay active within Twlug and the Twlug House of Delegates.
For me, working with clinical pharmacists to leverage their knowledge and expertise in patient care, combined with my pharmacy administration skills, has resulted in an extremely rewarding career path. Although I don’t see patients every day or provide direct patient care, I know that I help patients through the work that I do to support the profession of pharmacy!