Standing on the sidelines, thick clipboard in hand, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And they are made, just like anything else, through hard work.”
Throughout his decades-long coaching career, Lombardi landed 5 Super Bowl wins and racked up an impressive 89-29-4 regular-season record — cementing his reputation as one of the greatest coaches in the history of American football. Leading by example, it seemed that Lombardi was right: great leaders are made.
Are great pharmacists the same?
The science says it’s a bit more complicated than that. Research suggests that several factors play into whether or not someone will be a successful leader, a successful coach, or a successful pharmacist — including personality traits they’re born with and behaviors they learn over time.
In other words, some people are born leaders, but everyone can be made into a leader by developing certain qualities. That includes you.
Pharmacist by Design: Building Your Best Self
Every field requires a different mix, but in the world of pharmacy, experts agree that most successful pharmacists share a few qualities.
In fact, the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education conducted a survey to determine the most desirable qualities in the field of pharmacy. In the survey, pharmacists were asked to rank the qualities they considered most important in those new to the profession — particularly in recent pharmacy schools grads. Their responses were collected, compiled, and published according to the top 20 qualities listed.
These characteristics, which can be seen below, shed light on what’s important to providers, patients, and the profession as a whole: and they can provide you with a blueprint of how you can better yourself.
If you already have these qualities, keep fostering them; and if you need to improve in an area or two, let this be your cue to become a better pharmacist.
Check out the results of the survey, which are ranked according to the percentage of pharmacists who deemed each quality “most important” to them:
1. Good Communication Skills
Ranking, expressed as a percentage: 15.9%
It’s no surprise that communication takes the cake in this survey. Good communication skills are important in every aspect of life, from personal to professional matters, and especially those in the pharmacy. As a pharmacist, it’s essential that you can clearly communicate with providers and patients alike. Doing so allows you to provide proper assistance, offer quality care, and assist others when needed.
The world of pharmacy is constantly growing and evolving. In your own pharmacy, you experience challenges and changes every day, whether that be with prescriptions, clinical services, or patient care. On a larger scale, you’re affected by legal cases, licensing requirements, and new regulations. In order to stay at the top of your game, you have to keep adapting to new and changing situations.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals — emphasis on the word professional. In any industry, but especially in one as patient-centric as pharmacy, you should maintain an air of professionalism at all times. In the pharmacy, that means extending grace, keeping your cool, and prioritizing patients above your pride. Professionalism can be a test of your patience, but it’s key to creating a strong patient-provider relationship.
Education doesn’t stop after pharmacy school ends. With new advancements happening every day, you have to keep learning to keep practicing at the top of your license. To do this, stay on top of the latest news and trends, try out new techniques and new technologies, and invest in continuing education for yourself and your team. After all, knowledge is power.
5. Critical Thinking Skills
Pharmacy is an incredibly technical field that requires sharp critical thinking skills. Whether you’re mixing chemicals, counting medications, or breaking down the complexities of drug interactions, you should be able to accurately analyze information and make informed decisions from that information.
In the pharmacy, complications arise on a regular basis. From medication mix-ups to prescription errors to issues with reporting, you’ll deal with problems — and it’s important that you resolve them quickly, especially under pressure. Your team and your patients rely on you to act fast, and more importantly, to act appropriately.
Pharmacists have to juggle many different tasks on the day-to-day. With so many items on your to-do list, you should be able to manage your time, prioritize your tasks, and work quickly so that you can cross everything off in a timely manner.
The best pharmacists are warm, engaging, and personable with the people they interact with every day. This “personal touch” is what sets independent pharmacies apart from the big-box chains. In this case, a simple smile or warm gesture can go a long way. What are you doing to show your patients you care?
For all of its rewarding moments, there are plenty of times where life at the pharmacy is trying. You shouldn’t let this deter you, though. Instead, you should take the time to reset and refocus, while continuing to serve your patients and your team. In the highs and the lows, you should remain dedicated to your profession.
Is empathy the driving factor behind why you do what you do? If so, you might be a pharmacist. In practice, you should empathize with everyone who walks through your front doors, from the five-year-old getting their flu shot to the elderly patient picking up their cancer medication. Empathy allows you to extend compassion, kindness, and better care not only to your patients but to all people you encounter.
The best pharmacists practice patience with each and every one of their patients. This may mean explaining (and re-explaining) familiar concepts, trying different methods of care, and opening up new avenues of communication. However you have to do it, you should take the time to make sure that your patients feel comfortable with their treatment and that they can call on you when they need you.
As you learn from other people’s experiences, you should also strive to learn from your own. Self-learners are competent, capable, and able to figure out even the most tricky of situations by using their own knowledge and intuition. As a pharmacist, you should be able to trust yourself to make the right decisions and do the right thing.
13. Technologically Adept
Technology is more important than ever, especially in independent pharmacies. To stay at the top of your game, you should be familiar with each piece of technology in your store, starting with your pharmacy software system. Getting familiar with your software system will enable you to work more quickly, efficiently, and accurately — strengthening the other top qualities you should have as a pharmacist.
Looking to learn more about pharmacy software? Check out our Compare Software page to get an in-depth look at some of the top technology solutions in the industry, and find out how they can help you advance your practice.
Great pharmacists have great ideas, but they’re also willing to hear the ideas of other people. That’s because great pharmacists know the best course of action isn’t their own, and they’re committed to putting outcomes above egos. To put this theory in practice, you should ask for feedback from patients and providers, be receptive to other perspectives, and consider changing your own ideas when it’s needed.
An important part of professional development is punctuality. Your team expects you to be in the office at a certain time, and your patients expect to be seen promptly. As such, you should take the right steps to be mindful of other people’s time — and you’ll find that other people are mindful of your time, too.
Most of your work is routine, but that routine has to be done in a systematic way. From counting inventory to compounding medications, you should be careful that you complete the right steps, in the right order, at the right time. This requires an attention to detail that only the best pharmacists have.
17. Utilizes Literature
As you stay up-to-date in pharmacy practice, you shouldn’t just rely on bite-sized information from online articles. Instead, you should look to peer-reviewed journals and academic studies that you know you can trust. This research won’t only help you stay ahead, but it will ensure that you keep a quick mind and foster critical thinking skills.
18. Strong Leader
Whether or not you believe leaders are made or born, you can develop leadership skills in and out of the pharmacy (even if you aren’t a pharmacy owner). To do this, you should take charge on new projects, step up to help others, and treat everyone in the pharmacy with dignity and respect. Over time, you’ll find that your influence reaches farther than you thought.
Half of pharmacy is clinical, but the other half is business. The best pharmacists care about offering services, but they also care about making those services profitable. As a pharmacist, you should spend some time thinking about the business side of pharmacy and brainstorming how you can boost your bottom line.
The most important changes in the world — including those in the world of pharmacy — start with inventive and imaginative people who aren’t afraid to do things differently. As a pharmacist, you should look to adapt, improve, and better yourself and your business, even if it means going out of your comfort zone. Anything is possible with enough imagination.
Where Can You Improve?
With a better understanding of what makes a great pharmacist, you can start the journey towards becoming one. Consider the qualities you already have and think critically about the ones that you can improve. Use what you have, pick up what you don’t, and start becoming the pharmacist that you were designed to be.
As NFL coach Vince Lombardi said, while on the road to leadership, “Perfection isn’t attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
What are you doing to chase perfection?