From clinician to consultant: a pharmacist’s perspective

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Consulting is a common term in business and finance sectors.  Being a successful consultant in the health care sector requires significantly different skills, experience and attributes.  Consultant work ranges from mundane administrative tasks to extremely important policy implementation affecting the lives of millions of people.

From the perspective of a retail pharmacist, there are relevant, transferrable skills including:

  • Project management: In the pharmacy, daily, weekly and monthly tasks are managed in order of crisis management first (patient health in danger) to routine activities that pass the time (stock rotation)
  • Time management and prioritising: This is what pharmacists do when there are 20 scripts to be filled, ten customers waiting to speak to the pharmacist, and two phone calls to answer, all at once
  • Stakeholder management: Pharmacists manage stakeholders when there are 20 scripts to be filled accompanied by 20 sick and tired patients. Pharmacists are well placed to establish effective relationships with patients (i.e. stakeholders), built on trust and a mutual focus on what is important to the patient. Special relationships are established with repeat customers, with the pharmacist often becoming a key figure in their patients’ lives over the years.
  • Analysing and Solving Problems: When just before closing time a new patient presents with a new condition, holding a prescription with a medication error, while the doctor is unable to be contacted and there are no other doctors or pharmacies around. What to do?
  • Information management and computer skills: These days, a skilled pharmacist needs to be comfortable managing complex information and working across multiple dispensing and IT systems: Amfac, Minfos, Winifred, Lots, in addition to DAA systems, prescription reminder programs and automated dispensing robots
  • Business acumen: Retail pharmacists are in a unique position to understand the importance of budgeting, marketing and customer service, all while maintaining their focus on patient wellbeing.

The frontline experience as a health professional is invaluable and it underpins all consulting work with a critical question – is this practical?  As a consultant however, you always need to go that extra step, think more broadly and cross the boundaries of methodology sectors or disciplines to develop a design or evaluate a program that responds to a difficult, complicated issue or deliver a project within a tight timeframe.

by Chiara To, Primary Health Care Consultant

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Image credit: Swaminathan via Flickr Creative Commons