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    Should I stay or should I go? Navigating poor pharmacy management

    Kelly HowardKelly HowardHaving spent 10 years toiling as a pharmacist under roughly two dozen managers, I know two facts to be true: Our society rewards good work with more work, and great worker bees do not necessarily make effective managers.

    If you’ve been a staff pharmacist for any length of time, you are likely to be familiar with the Peter Principle, the concept that individuals are promoted until they reach the level of their incompetence. This practice is so prevalent practice in pharmacy that I often joke we may as well rename it “The Pheter Phrinciple.”

    See also: The crisis in pharmacy management

    What to do?

    Poor management is something pharmacists are likely to encounter throughout our careers. What will you do when you find yourself in a job you love, working for an inadequate manager? Do you stay for the wonderful job, or do you leave in hopes of finding efficiently managed greener pastures?

    Having endured the entire spectrum of management, I now know that the solution to this conundrum lies in treating your relationship with your manager as just that — a relationship. In our personal relationships, we all have our stakes, our “hard Nos,” our deal breakers, our lines in the sand. We tend to know exactly what qualities to seek out or avoid in potential friends and companions. Chances are, though, that you’ve never thought to apply this basic principle to your professional relationships — at least not consciously.

    See also: Note to pharmacists: When it comes to the company P&P manual, ignorance is NOT bliss

    Managers I have known

    When I was not long out of school, I had a manager who raised micromanagement to high art. I can recall receiving an e-mail that chastised me for leaving the cap off a yellow highlighter and threatened to deduct the 80-cent cost from my next paycheck. I left that job shortly thereafter.

    Some years later, in a different hospital, I received an order for a pediatric patient that I deemed inappropriate and possibly dangerous. After consulting a pediatric pharmacist, conducting an exhaustive literature search, and being yelled at and subsequently hung up on by the ordering physician when I tried to discuss alternatives, I made the decision to refuse to fill the order as written.

    I put in a courtesy call to my manager, who agreed the dose was dangerous, but advised me to fill the order anyway and simply place a note in the comment field, stating, “I do not agree with dose, but doctor insisted,” solely for the sake of further angering that particular high-ranking physician.

    I can say with pride that I did not fill that order, much to the physician’s rage and my manager’s irritation. I should have known, right then and there, that that manager would never have my back, would never be the supportive mentor I needed.

    Kelly Howard, BS, PharmD, BCPS
    Kelly Howard is a blogger and freelance pharmacist in Southeastern North Carolina. Contact her at [email protected] or ...

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    • Anonymous
      Eight years ago, I went from being a darn good pharmacist to being a rather poor manager of a retail pharmacy. I did not ask for the job, but accepted it just so that prospective buyers would go through with the purchase of the store from my previous employer, whom I greatly admired and respected, and who desperately wanted to sell and retire. Let me say that as a pharmacist, I work harder than many, I am exceedingly loyal and conscientious, I place my customers/patients welfare first, etc, etc. However, I had no previous managerial experience. Having explained that to the new owner ("corporation"), I agreed to fill the position temporarily until a replacement could be found. He (non-pharmacist) seemed to think that was not a problem, I could be trained, and he would continue looking for a replacement. That's the last I've heard of any training or relief. Not only am I the "manager", I am also the PIC and the ONLY staff pharmacist. It's true - I am NOT a good manager. With all the other responsibilities taking my attention, I am no longer a good pharmacist, either. I understand your frustration with working under poor managers. I still put my patients first and support my staff in every way possible, but that's about all. You are correct - great worker bees don't necessarily make good managers. I realize your environment is probably different, but that's the view from my side of the fence.
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