I have been a pharmacist for almost nine years, and my career path has been somewhat unconventional in that I have been a manager for almost eight of those years. I took my first job with Walgreens and worked there for a little under a year before moving to Hawaii, where I took a job in long-term care. I was hired on as a staff pharmacist but (unknown to me, although certainly not a bad thing) I was actually being brought on to eventually become the manager of the pharmacy.
The current manager was also acting as the consultant pharmacist for the facilities, doing both was overwhelming for her, and she was more interested in consulting than managing. She also needed to go out on maternity leave within a week of me arriving, so, while it was unplanned, I stepped into operations management soon after arriving.
So here I was, less than one year out from graduation and managing a long-term care pharmacy that serviced nearly every facility in that region of the state. It was a big task and one that I was happy to take on, excited by the prospect of learning more, moving up, expanding my future career possibilities, and more.
Because of my quick move into management, I never really thought much in the past about whether or not I should be a manager, or if that would truly make me happy. Thankfully, it did for a very long time. However, I have recently decided to step down from management, at least for now, and I wanted to give those of you considering your first management job my perspective on the good and the bad and provide you tools to help you in making your decision.
Opportunity: Even when being considered for outside activities unrelated to management, being a pharmacy manager seems to carry a certain amount of prestige. I’m talking about academic and speaking opportunities, publishing, writing, etc. It is not fair, per se, because management has nothing to do with clinical knowledge (and in fact, a lot of the time the position will involve spending less time practicing pharmacy), but it is the reality I have experienced.
Pharmacy managers are also in higher demand than staff pharmacists and when seeking a pharmacy manager employers almost always prefer candidates with experience (although, as I discuss in another article, experience does not necessarily predict performance).
Personal Growth: Managers need a dizzying array of skills to be at the top of their game: financial acumen, conflict management, accountability, performance management, and pharmacy regulatory knowledge, just to name a few. In the process of stepping into the role, you will grow as a professional and as a person, as you take on new challenges.
Leading a Vision: Depending on your position, you might have some ability to actually set the vision for your department. It’s an exciting feeling: should we pursue specialty pharmacy? Mail order? MTM? There will, of course, be higher level approvals needed if you are in entry-level management, but in many companies you can make the pitch and if approved see your vision become a reality.
Legal Responsibility: With the move to management, the legal responsibility for the pharmacy will fall to your hands. If the Board of Pharmacy finds a deficiency on an inspection, the manager is the first person that will be required to respond and correct the deficiency. In the case of serious deficiencies and oversights, disciplinary action could fall to not only the pharmacy permit but also to the manager.
Because of this, it is best to get your feet wet as a staff pharmacist first prior to moving into management. While this might not have been my path, I still believe it is the better route; when I came on as staff pharmacist for the long-term care pharmacy and quickly moved to operations management, I studied several hours a week for several months just to get up to speed with everything I needed to know. In a way, it was like a ‘mini residency’ and was a much harder transition that way.
Stress: The legal responsibility, interpersonal conflict between employees, constant need to coach, provide feedback, and/or discipline employees, position of being on-stage at all times as everyone ‘watches what the boss does,’ and necessity to implement corporate initiatives that neither you nor your employees like or agree with can lead to a large increase in stress levels. It is especially important after accepting a management position that you develop ways to clear your mind and release stress from work.
Longer Hours: Most managers can’t be completely ‘off’ when they go home, and sometimes not even when they go on vacation. People call out sick (and need you to help with the schedule), an inspector comes, your boss needs a proposal with a deadline that is prior to you returning, etc. When you are at the pharmacy, sometimes you need to come in early (inventory, maintaining records in the pharmacy, etc.) and/or stay late (biennial controlled substance inventory, for example).
Making the Decision
In addition to considering the above, personality assessments tools can be helpful in looking at your strengths, weaknesses, and potential managements styles. 16Personalities is free (and my personal favorite), but there are others as well. Also, keep in mind that if you step into management, it does not mean you have to be there forever. You are in control of your career path and managing others is not the only path forward. Continue developing new skills and seeking out new opportunities, because you never know – your next great move could be right around the corner.