Pharmacists are being pushed from a supply function to a role where they prevent medicines use problems, says William Zellmer of Pharmacy Foresight Consulting, Washington, USA, on 3 September 2014 at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok. This shift in focus is necessary because it ensures the sustainability of the profession and there is a moral obligation for pharmacists to do so, he said. This change has an effect on the image and self-concept of pharmacists and the profession.
Zellmer suggested that, for pharmacy’s transformation to succeed, the public must see the pharmacist as a health professional, and pharmacists must view themselves as clinical practitioners and act accordingly.
The public generally sees pharmacists in a supply function role and less in a patient-caring role, said Zellmer. Also, there is a continued commoditisation of prescription medicines, corporate pressures to increase “productivity” (e.g., pick up the pace and dispense faster), insufficient technical support (e.g. bound by administrative tasks), little or no enforcement of ethical standards, low profile of exemplary pharmacy practices, and limited resources for mass communications (e.g. advertising campaign telling the public what pharmacists do).
Zellmer said the historic legacy (pharmacy’s business model, i.e. pharmacists as tradesmen) affected the self-concept of pharmacy. There is also limited professional autonomy (e.g. those who work in large corporate chain pharmacies). He thinks the profession attracted introverted individuals in general. Additionally, he said there are many pharmacists who are comfortable with the status quo and to “ride out one’s career” (e.g. those who are close to retirement).
Changing our image
Zellmer gave suggestions as to how pharmacy could change its image:
- Be candour about pharmacy’s ongoing transformation
- Explicit differentiation of competencies is needed
- A collective action to change pharmacy’s image is necessary (e.g., via pharmacist associations, colleges of pharmacy, the International Pharmaceutical Federation)
For individual pharmacists, Zellmer said they need to self-examine their image honestly, be aware of history and contemporary trends in the profession, participate in open discussion about the profession (e.g. on forums) and they should instil a sense of individual responsibility for the future of the profession (e.g. students, trainees).
Zellmer asked attendees if the change in image and self-concept is simply a matter of time, but he challenged them by asking whether the profession could afford to wait. The patient need is growing and someone will be called to fulfil that need. Will that be the pharmacy profession, he asked.