At the American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition (APhA2022) General Session on Sunday, March 20, Theresa P. Tolle, incoming president, APhA, recalled that early in her career, she experienced the challenges of being an employed pharmacist. Likening that time to today, she said, "Am I frustrated by what I and my colleagues are dealing with today? You bet. Buy I also see a vision for where we can be. It will take guts, stamina, faith to reach our vision."
Dr. Tolle warned, "Don't allow negativity and barriers to keep you from pursuing opportunities. Pharmacists have waited for this moment, and today's the day. Embrace each day as an opportunity and as a way to stand out. In every problem, there is a hidden treasure. It is our job to find it."
Dr. Tolle characterized The Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners' vision for pharmacy as the profession's "North Star." She said that pharmacists have proven that when given opportunities and authority, they can make a difference. "Where would our country be without us?" she asked rhetorically.
"As a pharmacy owner," she said, "I recognize the business challenges, but I also recognize that the hidden treasure in our relationships with our patients and our commitments to our communities."
Dr. Tolle said that personally taking part in change initiatives is crucial. "It easy to be sideline critics, but that doesn't bring about the change needed. We are focused on changing the payment model, but that is not the end all. Management and decision makers need to bring about the necessary personnel, resources, and processes to support our patient safety commitment."
"After all our sacrifices, it is time to say 'enough.' Employers across all practice settings, do not discount our value or treat us as a commodity. All of us must raise our collective voices to address inequities on behalf of our patients and our teams, who are at their breaking points. We have heard you, are listening to you, and are taking proactive steps calling for reform and a need for dialogue."
To bring about the changes, Dr Tolle cited several current initiatives to facilitate dialogue and action. First, a fundamentals document focused on pharmacist responsibilities and rights supported by several national organizations. Dr. Tolle said that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, in announcing their support, acknowledged the need for protection from fear and intimidation or retaliation.
"This fear is real, and it led to the launch of our second resource—Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR). PWWR provides you a voice to report both positive and negative experiences."
In addition to increasing manpower, Dr. Tolle said, there are steps employers can take now. First, they can develop real, two-way lines of communication. Second, harassment of pharmacy personnel by the public must end now. "In these instances, the customer is not always right," she observed.
The third resource is a national survey providing quantitative information to help tell the story, "The results validate many anecdotal stories that we heard, and the factors impacting our ability to safety and effectively serve our patients. Change will not and cannot happen without your active engagement. APhA is by your side, including opportunities to advance our role in patient care."
Summing up, Dr. Tolle said, "Striving for the vision and collectively and aggressively addressing challenges will by my presidential focus. The worst thing we can do, when opportunities present, is nothing. Doors will close, but they will not be a terminal answer; there will be open ones to walk through. Today is the day for us to gain our earned recognition!"
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Published March 24, 2022