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Use Professional Spending Accounts As Rewards

Donna Young

Professional spending accounts can be an effective incentive to recruit and retain pharmacists.

Diane B. Ginsburg, M.S., clinical associate professor for the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy, said pharmacists might be willing to accept less money in salary if they know their organization will reward them with other incentives, such as educational opportunities and travel to conferences.

Ginsburg said health systems can generate funds for professional spending accounts through research opportunities and by establishing teaching-service agreements with pharmacy schools to take students for rotation programs.

Janet Sylvester, M.B.A., director of pharmacy for Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., said her hospital sets aside funds it receives through its partnership with the Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University for pharmacists to pay for professional dues and buy reference materials and other resources.

"That’s about $3,500 [this year], and that’s a big chunk of money," she said. This amount is in addition to her pharmacy department’s travel and professional development budget.

As another way to recruit and retain pharmacists, Sylvester said, Martha Jefferson pays for its B.S.-degreed pharmacists to pursue a Pharm.D. degree.

Rick Demers, M.S., director of pharmacy for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, said that offering pharmacists professional spending accounts can be an effective way to stay competitive.

But, he said, health systems must remain competitive with salaries. And, hospitals must also offer a stimulating environment.

Demers said his hospital provides pharmacists a "career ladder" where pharmacists have the opportunity to move through a number of experiential modules, such as drug information and pharmacokinetics.

"It gives them the opportunity to grow professionally and be more proficient," he said.

As another incentive, Demers said, his hospital uses a decentralized pharmacy practice where pharmacists spend most of their time on the patient care units.

"It lets them do their job more effectively because they have day-to-day contact with physicians and nurses," he said. "They can establish better relationships in person than over the phone."