Bringing you insights from my second course in the Pharmacy Leadership Academy – ‘Leading the Pharmacy Enterprise.’
Pharmacists are truly facing a marketing crisis. We are plagued with either people not knowing we exist (especially in the hospital) or worse – people ONLY realizing we exist when a problem occurs (e.g. drug error, shortage, or cost).
It’s well known that people must first ‘know’ you - then ‘like’ you - and finally ‘trust’ you. Once people ‘know’ and ‘like’ pharmacists, we easily accelerate to ‘trust.’ We are one of the most trusted health care professions. But the problem is that no one ‘knows’ us.
Many of you are thinking “well that’s not true!” Maybe you are recalling patients who expressed gratitude for your care or maybe you personally recall a pharmacist who impacted your health. This is all true. But many more times have you heard other professions being thanked (e.g. nurses, doctors) with pharmacists clearly forgotten. This happens more times than not and there is literature to confirm.
So why are pharmacists so often forgotten? I’m sure there many reasons but here are my (likely) biased thoughts – but it’s my blog so here we go. Unlike physicians, pharmacist do not have a culture where we feel responsible for life and death. As a pharmacist, I may have heard, “this is your patient” or “what would you do if this was your grandmother” but never that the buck stops with me, the pharmacist. But as a pharmacist, we ARE responsible for life and death.
If we are the drug expert (which we claim to be) then don’t be looking around to find a doctor to make the final decision. You are the expert – act like the expert. I often hear fears of liability cited as reasons to do nothing. Of course, pharmacists are known for being cautious and detail orientated but these strengths double as weaknesses when attempting to elevate the brand. It’s ultimately our patients who are paying the price by not receiving our full expertise.
Where do we go from here? Maybe, like me, you are fed up. Below are two suggestions I think will help raise the profile of pharmacists:
1 – Nail your elevator pitch
Most pharmacists have a hard time describing what they do in a day. None of us want to be known as pill counters but if you aren’t doing that…what are you actually doing? I typically say something along the lines of
“Anywhere there is a medication, you’ll find me working. As the drug expert I oversee all your medications to ensure your drugs are accurate and safe.”
2 – Manage Your Own PR
Enough being worried about coming across as arrogant. If we don’t promote pharmacists, nobody else is going to do it. Be proactive. Highlight the positive work you are doing as it is happening (that means not just during pharmacist awareness month). I personally use my social media platforms to promote pharmacists. Although the focus is cancer care, everything is from the perspective of a cancer pharmacist turned cancer survivor and I don’t shy away from mentioning that.
I want to see other pharmacists stepping up to these challenges. Take on more responsibilities. Sing your own praise. We have to fix this marketing crisis ourselves.
The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health provider for questions regarding a medical condition.
Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor or 911 immediately.