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Pharmacy Managers Look Beyond Technical Skills When Hiring

Kate Traynor

A solid understanding of drug therapy issues is just one of the skills that pharmacy directors seek when interviewing potential employees.

"As a health care professional, you need to be able to communicate," said Harold N. Godwin, M.S., director of pharmacy and a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. "I think it’s a skill that will forever be important."

Godwin said he wants his pharmacists to be able to deliver technical information at multiple levels. When working with physicians and nurses, Godwin said, pharmacists must communicate at a "high-technical" level. But when interacting with a patient, pharmacists need to pay attention to the person’s knowledge and background while still getting the information across.

"You need to be sensitive to literacy and diversity," Godwin said.

Rita Shane, Pharm.D., FASHP, director of pharmacy services at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, also places communication skills high on her list of critical traits for new hires.

In particular, Shane said, clinical pharmacists need to be able to communicate comfortably with nurses and physicians.

"I would call the pharmacist the safety net between the nurse and the physician," Shane said.

"Every discipline has its own priorities," she noted. "Sometimes it’s the ability to effectively negotiate with these other disciplines that is important to be successful in one’s career." This is especially true, she said, for new practitioners who want to make recommendations about a patient's medication therapy.

Although Godwin ranked "human relations skills" as a high priority for job candidates, he also said that the ability to think and operate independently is important.

"You’ve got to have your own thoughts, and you’ve got to want your own autonomy at times," he said. One way Godwin explores this area wth a job candidate is by asking about the person's participation in activities outside of pharmacy, such as scouting, sports, or school politics. Such activities, Godwin said, encourage teamwork but also require independent effort.

"I’m trying to recruit leaders for the profession," Godwin pointed out.

Shane also praised the ability of a job candidate to think independently, particularly about scientific issues. One thing she looks for is the ability to "take information about a drug from the literature and make a recommendation based on the results" of the study, not just the published conclusion.

"That’s a huge issue, especially if pharmacists are responsible for making recommendations and calling physicians to switch from one therapy to another," Shane said. "You really have to have the ability to discern what’s in the literature."

Another asset that Godwin likes to see in new hires is good time management and organizational skills. One way he tests whether candidates have such skills is to ask them what their typical workday is like.

An answer Godwin said he does not like to hear is that the applicant usually just shows up and does whatever the boss says to do.

But Godwin emphasized that, although he expects his people "to work hard, to be productive," he wants them to make time for their private lives.

"I guess you work hard and you play hard," he said.

"I want this to be not a job—I want it to be a career," he added. "I want you to work so you can have both a family and a career simultaneously."