What We Could Learn from Pharmacists
know our profession is unique and cannot be identically modeled off any other
profession. However in both my personal and professional lives I often try to learn
lessons and draw parallels from observations around me.
have been in this profession for more years than many of my readers have been
alive. I have practiced in several countries. Although there are differences,
some nagging challenges are universal and also have persisted for years. One such
bugaboo is the dissatisfaction with how we are perceived, given our education, training
and abilities. We also compare unfavorably with others in the healthcare fields
who have somehow managed to overcome barriers similar to those we cannot seem
that’s where the comparison with pharmacists comes in. They did not like the name “druggist” so they
universally adopted the more professionals sounding moniker of “pharmacist.” Yet, we still struggle as to whether we are
“just technicians,” “medical technologists,” “medical lab scientists” - or something else. We argue among ourselves
as to even whether choosing a descriptive name is mere elitism and fanciful
decided to limit entry to the profession. They control their own profession, have a rigorous entry exam, and
allow only a certain number of entrants per year. That practice creates demand from
employers and also helps to select the best candidates.
have crafted their program specifically
to fit their body of knowledge. They won’t accept a bachelor's in basket
weaving, plus 2 years’ experience working in a pharmacy as an acceptable pathway to
enter the profession. Biology and chemistry are essential foundational
sciences, but they are distinct from pharmacy.They are not substitutes for a
degree in pharmacy. The training is also standardized. I certainly do not want
to disenfranchise any current laboratory practitioners, but we ought to have a
cutoff date after which we offer (and accept) only a very specific entry level
degree. Every one practicing the profession should possess a medical laboratory science
there is the hot button issue of licensure. Seen by some as just another fee to pay,
or a devious plot by government to take more money from the working citizen, it
is also one way in which the public health is protected. Each hard-working
practitioner is also protected because they cannot be legally displaced in the
workplace by anyone who is not similarly educated, certified and licensed. What
about the need for a separate licensure examination in each state? Professions like law and nursing have
licensure compacts where licenses are essentially transferable from state to
state. Once you licensed, there is no need to sit a different licensure exam if
you relocate. Accepting national certification for licensure is also not
without precedence. So that barrier is very easy to leap.
recent years pharmacists have deliberately crafted practice routes for
themselves without waiting for others to offer them, and without asking for
permission to do so. There are clinical pharmacists who make patient rounds and
order labs, they manage therapeutic drugs from antibiotics to anticoagulants,
they adjust dosages; and they create algorithms and develop best practices. Now
it is common for pharmacists to administer immunizations and vaccinations and
manage diabetes. They are also the specialialists for medication administration
and storage wherever such functions occur in the institution.
have gradually (without disrupting the status quo) made the PharmD the entry
level professional degree and thereby greatly enhanced their image, demand and earning
capacity. Those practicing pharmacists with other degrees were offered creative
routes to the PharmD so no one was disenfranchised. See any parallels there?
many states like Georgia, pharmacists have crafted and carefully developed
political power as well. Through colleagues in public office and lobbyists they
ensure laws are not just pharmacist-friendly, but constantly expand their
scope of practice. They can perform some lab tests, and directly order several tests. They
ensure physicians use certain secure mechanisms for writing prescriptions;
without which they do not have to fill those prescriptions. All those requirements are
prescribed by laws pharmacists helped to create.
easy to say we are different. But it is worth drawing parallels and learning
from others as well. I think we have a real viable model here.