Climbing the Career Ladder? Hone These Six Attributes.

Remember those days in university? Depending how far into your career you are, that may be easier for some than others. What I recall is hours upon hours of lectures, tutorials, and practicals. The relentless pursuit of clinical knowledge, the anxiety over exams, and the victorious relief upon completion. Completing the degree and armed with the expertise to embark on my professional journey as a pharmacist, I thought I had all I needed to get out of the blocks.

But what truly defines success in the realm of pharmacy? Is it merely about mastering clinical competencies, or does it require something more? As I reflect on my own journey, I realise that the attributes my mentors emphasised were far beyond what I learned in textbooks.

The intern interview that planted a seed.

I vividly recall my internship interview. Reflecting back, at the time I thought it was the most unconventional job interview, but it planted the seed that reshaped my perspective. Instead of bombarding me with clinical questions, my potential preceptor delved into one tiny detail on my resume. I had studied music for 12 years. The interview took an unexpected turn as he probed into the lessons I learned from twelve years of musical dedication—lessons of attention to detail, persistence, and commitment.

It was a pivotal moment. He wasn’t interested in my grades or transcripts; he was probing for the qualities that truly define a successful pharmacist. He wanted to gauge how I handled setbacks, pressure, and unexpected challenges. He sought to understand my emotional intelligence—the ability to manage emotions and responses effectively.

In hindsight, his approach was revolutionary. He wasn’t looking for a repository of clinical knowledge (which was what I felt my other interviewers were looking for); he was seeking a well-rounded individual capable of navigating the complexities of pharmacy practice. He understood that beyond clinical expertise, success hinged on a diverse set of attributes. A set of attributes that acts as the vehicle for our clinical expertise to be provided in whatever setting we find ourselves in.

So, what are these attributes that define successful pharmacists?

Here are six key qualities to cultivate:

1. Be Present: In a profession inundated with tasks and responsibilities, being present with patients, colleagues and most importantly, yourself, fosters meaningful connections and enhances patient care. By being aware of your own emotions and how they influence others, you can ensure that you’re showing up as the best version of yourself in every interaction.

2. Be Empathetic: Empathy lies at the heart of pharmacy. Understanding patients’ perspectives and emotions builds trust and strengthens therapeutic relationships. Beyond this, understanding our colleagues’ perspectives and emotions builds trust and meaningful connection with them too. This is vital so we know how to communicate in a way that can be understood, delegate effectively and provide meaningful support to others.

3. Be Genuine: Authenticity breeds trust and credibility. Genuine interactions cultivate rapport and foster collaboration within your team. While authenticity is about honouring your values, it’s not about showing up without discretion. Genuine conversations are had with the right people and the right time and in the right way. Authenticity is not an excuse for rudeness. Be generous, be kind, be fair and be honest.

4. Think Expansively: The ability to think beyond conventional boundaries fosters innovation and problem-solving. Clinical knowledge and ‘hard data’ is only one piece of the puzzle. Embrace creativity and adaptability. Consider emotions and the ‘facts’ in decision making and don’t allow one to over-rule the other. Placing a space between a trigger and your response turns a reaction into a considered decision.

5. Be Resilient: Pharmacy practice is fraught with challenges and uncertainties. Resilience enables pharmacists to persevere amidst adversity and emerge stronger from setbacks. Resilience isn’t about pushing on at all costs, it’s about fostering practices that allow us to become the best version of ourselves. This can be things like exercise, sleep and hobbies. Being resilient is also about having the tools to manage our workloads and emotions daily. Things like planning, mindfulness, effective communication techniques and debriefing practices all help.

6. Empower Others: As pharmacists, we empower our patients daily by sharing our knowledge. We can also do this with our colleagues. Leadership isn’t about authority, but about empowering others to reach their full potential. Regardless of your position, you are capable of doing this for others. You can do this by providing constructive feedback, being a cheerleader, being a sounding board, sharing your understanding and helping others understand their roles and the big picture as well. People gravitate to people who support others and cultivate a culture of mentorship and support to nurture those around them.

These attributes encapsulate the essence of effective pharmacy practice. While clinical proficiency remains crucial, it’s the fusion of clinical skills with emotional intelligence that elevates pharmacists to excellence.

As pharmacists, it’s imperative to hone these attributes alongside clinical competencies. Likewise, employers should look beyond resumes and academic records and seek candidates who embody these qualities—the true markers of future success. The effectiveness and functionality of your team depends on it.

In a profession driven by science and compassion, embracing a holistic approach ensures no opportunity for growth or impact is left unexplored. Challenge the status quo, transcend limited thinking, and unlock the full potential of your pharmacy practice. After all, the journey to success begins not with what we know but with who we are and what we aspire to become.

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