Relating Differently with your Pharmacist – An exercise in relationship creativity

Role of community pharmacists in primary care and counselling for healthy living.

I, probably like most people, never thought of a pharmacist as part of my health care team. I would go into my local pharmacy and watch the pharmacy technicians staring at a screen or busying themselves in the background, never looking up to see who had come up to the counter. For me, I merely saw receiving medication as a transaction where the pharmacy would receive a prescription from the doctor and count out the pills to put in a plastic bottle. At most, the pharmacist would print out a description of the medication and any side effects. For me, it was the doctor that knew stuff, I never gave a thought to the breadth of knowledge that the pharmacist might bring. Perhaps they could do more than just decipher the doctor’s scrawl on a small note pad.

Over the past couple of years, the role of community pharmacists has been expanding to include some primary care and counselling for healthy living. Over the next few years, pharmacists may begin to prescribe medications for select health issues, particularly in rural areas where there are few doctors.

How did I get to know about this expanded role? My pharmacist let me know that I could now have a yearly consultation with him to review my medications and overall health and that it was a new initiative by the Province of Ontario, Canada. I was stunned but said, “ok”, What a surprise? I was able to speak with the pharmacist the next day, instead of waiting a month or two to make an appointment for a complete physical with my doctor. It was quite a different experience. We went over my medications and what they were for. My pharmacist asked me about how the medications were working for me and if there were any side effects I was concerned about. He also provided me with some additional advice that could be helpful in managing my condition. He also promised to relay our discussion to my doctor. It was an overall positive experience.

To forge a new relationship with the pharmacist, I needed to get past my attitude that only my doctor could advise me on medication. I also needed to learn to trust.

So, what does this have to do with relationship creativity? Engaging differently, changing our mindset and our interactions, and finding new ways to collaborate are the bases for relationship creativity. This type of creativity can lead to expanding a current relationship or creating new types of relationships.

Community pharmacist assisting a patient.

Community pharmacist counseling the patient on proper use of her medication.

To forge a new relationship with the pharmacist, I needed to get past my attitude that only my doctor could advise me on medication. I also needed to learn to trust. The first step was not actually up to me. My pharmacist had to establish his credibility. This sounded a little harsh, so I decided to delve further into what helps people establish credibility and how this can be communicated.

Credibility is not a new concept. Aristotle first talked about ethos, which has a similar meaning. Current credibility research indicates that people unconsciously search for clues indicating that their contacts are credible. They look for competence, character and caring.

Acts of Credibility

How do credible people act or what do they do?

  1. They are competent and good communicators.

  2. They do what they say they will do.

  3. They check back with people to see how they are doing.

  4. They treat others as they would wish to be treated.

  5. They care.

  6. They are open to new ideas.

  7. They know what to do when they make a mistake.

That is quite a list for the pharmacist. If we want to have people remember and take action, communication is the real key to establishing credibility. I came across the 7 Cs for credibility for business and venture capital. These 7 Cs could also be useful for expanding the relationship between the pharmacist and their client.

Applying 7 Cs to Pharmacy Practice

The Pharmacist demonstrates the following:

  1. Competence — is licensed, meaning that he/she has met and maintains the knowledge requirements of their profession. Principally, they have knowledge of the uses and side effects of medications.

  2. Character – due diligence, attention to detail, and punctuality.

  3. Co-orientation — an ability to relate to their clients and make them ‘feel’ that they understand and appreciate their point of view.

  4. Charisma

  5. Composure — coolness, calmness even under pressure.

  6. Compassion — empathy, concern and sympathy for what their clients may be experiencing.

  7. Commitment —loyalty and integrity

Community Pharmacist Counseling a patient.

Community pharmacist answering consumer's questions.

Sure, but this initial relationship creativity means building and maintaining the set of soft skills among pharmacists to create a lasting change to the relationship between the pharmacist and their clients. Including soft skills in the ongoing professional development of pharmacists will enable moving from relationship creativity among individuals to a successful innovation in the client relationship dynamics.

Ok. So am I convinced? A quick refresh on the role of the pharmacist on a leading employment website indicates that the pharmacist is intended to be a trusted member of the health care team and that he/she does need good communication skills. The critical area seems to be in the local pharmacies. It is here that the pharmacists need to establish their credibility in a new way before they can forge an expanded relationship with their local clients.

About the author:

Pharmaread expresses appreciation for this thoughtful article contributed by:

Ruth Stanley
Boann Consulting
Author of A Different Type of Bombshell and Your Creativity Sprint
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