Innovate inside the Box

Many pharmacists feel stuck.  Constrained by jobs they didn’t envision when they finished their degree and donned their white coat.  Of course we have standards and regulations that guide our practice, but it is the pressure and constraints from employers that often is the tipping point for the stress most pharmacists feel.  Many pharmacists have described their situation as being boxed in.  Pressure coming at them from all sides, and being unable to move.

I was listening to Dan Pink the other day, and something he said resonated with me in regards to this. 

“I really think that we have given short shrift to the concept of small wins, both in terms of personal development and organizational performance. We want big, audacious goals, we want moon shots, we want giant transformations—and that’s cool sometimes. Sometimes that’s the approach. But most times, the more practical, realistic, and ultimately effective way is to go for a small win.”

What does this mean for pharmacists who are feeling stuck?  Pharmacists who are disillusioned with what once was a passion and now is merely a job to endure.  Not everyone can seek out greener pastures, finding a pharmacy more in line with how they want to practice, or even leaving to start their own practice.  The market for pharmacists right now is pretty dismal in many parts of the country. 

Frustration mounts when we ask ourselves, “How do I escape this?”  But as Dan Pink goes on to say, “To my mind, you’re asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is, “Can I do one small thing tomorrow to make things a little bit better?” And the answer is almost always yes.” 

Look at what are true constraints in the pharmacy, versus what are actually perceived barriers that can be moved. True constraints are the walls of your box, things you do not have the power to change.  But many times there are things that we perceive as being a wall but are actually moveable, we actually have some control over them. 

Take a look at your practice within that box and see where the possibilities are.  There are always possibilities.  What can you change to improve your practice, to increase the engagement you have with patients, to extend the knowledge and skills you have developed in order to improve the quality of life of your patients?  What small change can you make to bring your personal practice more in line with what you want it to be?  To, in the end, find your profession more satisfying and rewarding?

This does involve knowing what you want your practice to be, and sometimes we are so deep into the frustration and disappointment that we don’t know what that is.  This may be the first step for some.  Examining why you do what you do.

Pharmacists have a certain amount of autonomy in how they do their job.  They can indeed innovate inside the box.  Change small things in order to come closer to what they want their practice to be.  Making small steps slowly in order to advance.  Only you can examen the walls of your own box and determine what small wins you can reach for. 

Some examples from when I was stuck in my own box: choosing engagement with a patient rather than signing off on a prescription and having an assistant give it out.   Choosing to spend the extra minute extending empathy to someone who is suffering. Offering to call and follow up with a patient who is anxious about starting a new therapy.  Offering proactive information on prevention of disease to ward off long term complications for a patient.  Spending a minute discussing drug options that may be less risky than their current therapy.  When I started examining the walls of my own box, I knew that I could not change everything.  But I could create small wins in my day that brought me closer to being the pharmacist I wanted to be.

Credit given to George Couros and Katie Novak whose book  title inspired my thinking on this post.

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