At this time of uncertainty within the pharmacy profession, it is more important than ever that, together, we can articulate exactly what a pharmacist is. Without a clear idea, we will struggle to convince patients, commissioners and politicians of our value and the contribution we make.
Never before has there been so much opportunity for pharmacists to practise in new ways, but these opportunities present a further challenge in describing what a pharmacist is. Capturing what is common among all pharmacists, irrespective of setting or specialism, is an important step.
The specific contribution of pharmacists working in different settings and specialisms is distinct and important to us, but it may be less important to our stakeholders. Brand owners often apportion a much higher level of importance to their brand than their customers. The pharmacist brand is no different: we must understand what is common to the idea of a pharmacist and what underpins our value, and focus on communicating that in a way that any member of our family could grasp.
Many people within the pharmacy profession feel that others do not understand what they do. They do not value, commission or pay us enough. We have been striving to redress this balance for a long time. Value, commissioning and payment all stem from an understanding of what we are and what we can do to help. At present, there may be a gap between what our stakeholders think of pharmacists and what pharmacists think of themselves.
The challenge is that no one person has the answer to the question, ‘what is a pharmacist?’
Understanding the thoughts of different groups is the beginning of understanding how to lead people towards our thinking and support a healthy future for the profession.
To this end, a research project is underway that seeks to understand how people from differing stakeholder groups describe pharmacists. The project aims to gather and analyse the thoughts of as many people as possible, shed light on the pharmacist brand and facilitate work to manage it. Results and analysis will be published as part of a forthcoming book from DOSE Publishing.
Responses are sought from pharmacists of all types, pharmacy team members, other healthcare professionals and members of the public.
Contribute to the research with your description of a pharmacist here: https://dosepublishing.uk/research/
Gavin Birchall, pharmacist, brand consultant and designer specialising in the pharmacy sector