There are many ways in which pharmacists can utilize their acquired craft and engage in service activities. Here, an experienced pharmacy faculty member identifies several areas of service for pharmacists, using his experiences to discuss the topic.
Last updated: 11 October 2020
Winston Churchill highlighted the reason why people volunteer to serve by saying: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. In this article, I argue that pharmacists “make a life” by giving back to their practice sites, profession, scholarly activities, schools or colleges of pharmacy, and community.
By giving back, pharmacists become professionally engaged. Margaret Miklich and her colleagues defined the professionally engaged pharmacist as the one who “thinks and behaves in ways that positively affect patients’ health and advance the profession’s values and societal mission.”
Here, I provide a summary of 5 types of service that pharmacists can engage in, using my experiences to describe the various opportunities. I hope others may benefit from hearing my story.
1. Service to the practice site or clinical service
Pharmacists work in a variety of practice settings including but not limited to community pharmacies, ambulatory care clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes.
As a pharmacy practice faculty member, I have had the opportunity to round with multidisciplinary infectious diseases and internal medicine teams and provide recommendations to optimize patient care in an acute care setting. I have also had the opportunity to work at a comprehensive infectious diseases clinic with infectious diseases physicians and nurses. In addition, I have contributed to the hospital pharmacy and therapeutics committee, the infection control committee, and the antimicrobial stewardship program.
Many professionals have had the opportunity to round with multidisciplinary cardiology, critical care, psychiatry, and oncology teams. Others have established community and ambulatory care practice sites where they manage patients with chronic disease states such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some have also provided immunizations and anticoagulation services. They have contributed to the medication safety and resident advisory committees at their institutions.
My advice for those looking to engage in service within a practice site is to focus on the activities that you are most passionate about and try to become an expert in a specific area while maintaining a sufficient level of knowledge and skills in general pharmacy practice. Whatever you do at your practice site, remember to always keep the patient at the center of your services.
2. Service to the profession
Pharmacists can contribute to the advancement of their profession by volunteering to serve within local, state, national, and international pharmacy organizations.
I have had the opportunity to serve as President of the Palm Beach Society of Health System Pharmacists and I am currently serving as President-Elect of the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacists. These positions allowed me to connect with local pharmacists in my area as well pharmacists in my state. I have also had the opportunity to serve on a variety of committees with the American College of Clinical Pharmacy and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists where I interacted with like-minded pharmacists not only from across the country but from all over the world.
Many professionals have engaged with the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and have served as treasurers and secretaries for their state pharmacy organizations. Some have had the opportunity to serve on legal and regulatory committees. They have worked hard to increase patient access to pharmacy services and to facilitate pharmacist reimbursement for cognitive services.
Most pharmacy organizations offer continuing education programs, leadership positions, and networking opportunities for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Many organizations advocate on behalf of the pharmacists to expand their scope of practice. They reward members who are actively engaged with various opportunities and awards. Some organizations grant fellowship status to members after sustained contributions to practice, service, education and/or research.
If you are interested in joining a new organization, my advice is to join at least one state and one national pharmacy organization and not just become a member, but also volunteer to serve on their committees. Once you get comfortable, people will notice your leadership skills and you may be asked to serve as chair of a committee or you may be nominated to run for an office. You will be surprised to know that many presidents of professional organizations started on a much smaller scale and worked their way up. Whatever you do at your pharmacy organization, remember to keep the best interest of the organization, the profession, and the members in mind.
3. Service to publications and presentations
Pharmacists may contribute to publications and presentations by serving as reviewers for journals, books, abstracts, and continuing education programs in their areas of expertise.
My colleagues and I have had the opportunity to serve as reviewers for several pharmacy publications such as American Journal of Health System Pharmacy, Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Pharmacotherapy, and Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program. After serving as reviewers, we gained great insights which helped us to author our own articles and book chapters. We have also had the opportunity to serve as abstract and continuing education reviewers for several pharmacy meetings, which helped us to improve our own posters and educational programs.
If you are interested in becoming a peer-reviewer, my advice is to sign up with a journal to review articles in your areas of expertise, and after gaining some experience to author your own publications. Eventually you may be invited to serve on the editorial board for your favorite pharmacy journal! Whatever publications you choose to review, focus on providing constructive criticism and general comments as well as specific feedback to both authors and editors.
4. Service to a school or college of pharmacy and a university
Schools and colleges of pharmacy rely heavily on external preceptors to deliver the experiential component of the pharmacy curriculum. Serving as a preceptor is a great way to give back to schools/colleges of pharmacy and to contribute to the development of the next generation of pharmacists.
Not only full time faculty members, but also part-time faculty members, adjuncts, and preceptors are encouraged to serve on school/college of pharmacy and university committees. You may not be aware, but there are many committees, task forces and workgroups that assist in managing the operations of a school/college of pharmacy.
My colleagues and I have had the opportunity to participate in the following school/college of pharmacy committees:
- The admissions committee – Focuses on screening and selecting qualified applicants to become student pharmacists.
- The curriculum committee – Focuses on designing the didactic and experiential curricula and approving course syllabi submitted by various instructors.
- The assessment committee – Focuses on assessing and evaluating the curriculum, co-curriculum, and extra-curricular activities.
- The experiential committee – Focuses on issues related to experiential education, practice site recruitment, and preceptor development.
- The faculty recruitment task force – Focuses on screening and recruiting qualified applicants to become faculty members.
- The promotion committee – Focuses on evaluating faculty portfolios for the purpose of promotion to higher academic ranks.
- The objective structured clinical examination workgroup – Focuses on developing, implementing, and assessing performance-based examinations.
If serving on a school/college or university committee is something that interests you, my advice is to serve on the committees that you are most passionate about. After gaining sufficient experience, you may be appointed as the leader or “chair” of a committee. Whatever you choose to serve on, remember to always advocate for the best interest of the students.
5. Service to the community
As one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are called to give back to the community and make a difference in people’s lives.
I have had the opportunity to co-lead three international medical mission trips to provide health care to underserved patients in Zambia, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. I have also had the opportunity to participate in domestic medical mission trips to provide health screening to underserved patients in several parts of Alaska and Florida.
My colleagues and I have participated in local health fairs where we screened the public for various disease states, provided counseling on the proper use of medications, and empowered patients to make lifestyle modifications. Some colleagues have had the opportunity to staff indigent clinics where they provide free clinical services and medications to the most vulnerable patient population.
If you are looking to engage in community service, my advice is to dedicate at least a couple of days per year to reach out to people with limited access to health care. I bet you will find the experience very rewarding. Remember that everyone is capable of serving the community, all that you need is a heart for service.
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