It is a question that many retail staff pharmacists will face at some point in their career. An opening for the position of “Pharmacy Manager” happens at your store or in your district. You are curious. You think about it. Should you do it? Feelings of uncertainty and possibly doubt invade your mind. It might mean a little more money. But as with every move “up the ladder” you wonder if the additional headaches are worth it. If you have ever been faced with this scenario, or you anticipate such a possibility in the future, this brief post is for you.
I have managed pharmacies for 3 different companies in 2 different states in the course of my career. Each opportunity was uniquely challenging. None of the companies or management responsibilities were exactly the same. Nevertheless, there were certain general similarities between all of these different businesses that allow me to draw some simple conclusions and give some basic recommendations to a pharmacist who is thinking about a manger role.
Before going any further, for the sake of any readers or pharmacists not familiar with the pharmacist roles in community pharmacy, let me just quickly explain something about the pharmacy manager. The Board of Pharmacy in each state is responsible for the oversight and regulation of the activities of pharmacies. Licensing of that pharmacy typically requires the identification of 1 individual pharmacist who will be particularly responsible for maintaining the pharmacy operation in a manner consistent with current Federal and State laws. That individual is the pharmacy manager. Although all pharmacists are responsible for their own activities (e.g. checking prescriptions accurately, giving correct counseling information), the pharmacy manager must ensure everything that goes on is done correctly.
How do you decide if you should take a job as a pharmacy manager?
I don’t think there is any one “personality” type that makes a better manager than another. I’ve known good extrovert and introvert managers. I’m an introvert. Your personality type isn’t really, in my opinion, the deciding factor. Rather, I would pay close attention to the following considerations.
1) Do my fellow pharmacists and techs respect me? You don’t need to be the smartest pharmacist to be a good manager. I’m certainly not the brightest person in the room most of the time. But you should generally have the respect of your peers. You are asking for trouble if you move into a position of leadership over people who have a hard time respecting you. This is a rather subjective consideration, but it is still important to bear in mind.
2) Are you comfortable managing policy compliance? By “policy” I mean both the “laws” of your state as well as the “rules” of your company. Lets face it, some people just hate rules. As a manager you are going to be put into the position of maintaining compliance with policies, and if you simply get annoyed with that part of the job, then this might not be a great career path for you.
3) Do you enjoy the “business” side of running a pharmacy? In other words, do you recognize that a pharmacy needs to be profitable to stay in business and do you know what this means in terms of managing controllable expenses and driving new business opportunities? I have met a striking number of pharmacists who haven’t a clue if their pharmacy is actually profitable or not. Pharmacy managers often are given responsibilities related to the success of the pharmacy bottom line. Does that excite you or terrify you?
4) Can you motivate others? Management is uniquely different in this way: You can be a great pharmacist by your own personal great performance, but you can only be a great manager by driving great performance through others. This is the difference between a great pharmacist and a great manager. In fact, I’ve known some people who frankly were not very good pharmacists, but they could motivate others to get stuff done and therefore made pretty good managers.
5) Do you mind dealing with the “employee” problems, needs, opportunities and drama? Every pharmacy I have ever managed has had certain personnel “issues.” You will be the one targeted to deal with them. Will you do it?
6) Are you okay being the one who is “in charge?” When a customer complaint comes in, you will probably have to manage it. When the inventory is coming, you will need to manage it. When the pharmacy is undergoing a staffing crisis, you will have to find a way to manage it. If you are the type of person who likes to just come to work, keep your head down, do a good job, and go home…management might not be for you.
7) Can you support decisions you don’t necessarily agree with? A pharmacy manager, at least in most chain pharmacies, has to implement company policies. But what if you don’t like them? If you feel the need to voice your opposition to every rule you think is stupid, you are going to find it challenging to get others to follow these rules. You don’t need to be a mindless “yes-man” but you have to be reasonable enough to understand that some decisions are not yours to make. Welcome to life. Can you deal with that?
I love pharmacy management. I like teaching, training and talking to others about new ideas, new programs and new opportunities. I love a challenge. I like problems to solve. I like working with employees through their issues related to balancing life and work and everything else. Business is exciting to me. Profitability is always a challenge, but I view it as a battle that is worth fighting for the sake of my patients.
I think moving into pharmacy management is a great thing to consider for your career. It will often open up new doors of opportunity, teach you things you never knew and force you to become better at what you do in many ways. You could be a great pharmacy manager! And if you have questions about becoming a pharmacy manager, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email and ask!
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