A Commitment to Learning in Pharmacy

Published - Written by Tom Kines, RPh, MSPBA

I remember graduating from pharmacy school in 1991, which seems like a couple of lifetimes ago, and thinking that I was done with school forever. Whereas most of us are done with formal education after graduation, the need to learn is neverending. So much has changed in pharmacy practice that if we don’t continue to learn, we will be left behind. 

When I worked for a chain, it seemed like all of my learning was around receiving continuing education (CE) credit. I usually did that through magazine articles or if a drug company put together a CE dinner, that was an added bonus. Pharmacists will typically listen to anyone if they feed us. 

I have owned an independent pharmacy for more than a decade now and my learning has changed. Before I felt like I had to learn something, but now I have that desire to learn. I still get CE credits through trade shows and conventions, but now I look for things to help me. 

Being an owner gets tougher all of the time and we need help in our fight against health care giants increasingly entering the pharmacy space. So many of the places I go to now don’t even offer CE credits, but they do offer great learning experiences. 

Of course, so much of what I desire to learn has to do with business. After I opened my pharmacy, I found out how much I didn’t know about running it. It has been eye opening to say the least, but my two staff pharmacists are very clinically-oriented, which is good. 

Our industry is really headed toward the clinical side with a hands-on approach to patient care. That’s the only way we will survive in the current health care model. 

Another way I like to learn is by reading books. At one time, I really didn’t like to read and would rather watch a movie or TV. Today, I have many books to read and I often buy them faster than I can read them. Most are subjects that will help me with my business or improve me as a person, particularly John Maxwell’s books on leadership. 

I like when conferences have sessions that are more like a round table of experts. When they share from their experiences, it really hits home because they have been where you are. Question and answer sessions are also very valuable. 

Never be afraid to ask someone for advice. We do many good things at my pharmacy and all of these ideas came from someone else. I don’t care whose idea it is, as long as it works. 

One group I am a part of is Pharmacy Development Services (PDS). They have been a tremendous help to me and many other independent pharmacy owners. They have resources that help set us apart and to help us to understand our business. 

They understand that most of us weren’t taught much, if any business-oriented classes in pharmacy school. If they would have been available, I probably wouldn’t have taken them anyway because it was never my intention to own an independent pharmacy, but here I am. 

We never know what life is going to bring us, but we must be ready to roll with the punches. Back to PDS, they have a large, action-packed conference that is full of information once a year in February. People get back to their store after the conference and scare the rest of the staff with the new ideas they have. At the very least, you leave with confidence that you can make it as an independent pharmacy.

They also have smaller classes throughout the year. These classes include topics such as how to run a synchronization program, customer service, front-end profit ignitor, and a leadership program. These are top notch programs that will make you a better pharmacy owner. 

If you really want to do it right, bring some of your staff with you, whi will feel appreciated when you take them to these programs. I’ve traveled to Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh for some these programs and it has been well worth it.

Probably the boldest, and most expensive, thing I’ve done to learn was going back to school last year. I enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Master of Pharmacy Business Management program, a one-year course that took place about every other weekend, with a couple of immersion weeks. 

That was a huge step for me since I didn’t care for college the first go around, but the knowledge I gained can’t be measured.

Never stop learning. 

About the Author

Tom Kines earned his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from West Virginia University and a Master of Science Pharmacy Business Administration (MSPBA) at the University of Pittsburgh, a 12-month, executive-style graduate education program designed for working professionals striving to be tomorrow's leaders in the business of medicines. Tom has worked in retail pharmacy since graduation and has owned an independent pharmacy for over 10 years in Sissonville, West Virginia.

 

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