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4 top U-turn decisions pivotal to your pharmacy practice

A U-turn is a manoeuvre to completely change direction. For most decisions in life, changing direction goes without much notice or consequence. Most of life’s day-to-day decisions don’t carry much consequence if we get them wrong. But there are 4 choices that carry much more weight.

Sometimes in pharmacy we are going down a path that will end badly. What’s worse is a path we don’t recognize as wrong until it is too late.

A U-turn is a manoeuvre to completely change direction. For most decisions in life, changing direction goes without much notice or consequence. When my wife tells me my shirt doesn’t match, I change it. When the alarm goes off and I feel extra tired, I skip a workout. When we buy clothing for the kids that doesn’t quite fit, we exchange it. If I don’t feel like what I took out for dinner, I can order-in or make something else. Most of life’s day-to-day decisions don’t carry much consequence if we get them wrong. But there are 4 choices that carry much more weight. 

What if there are some U-turns in pharmacy that are too deep to escape easily?

There are some considerations that come with a significant cost of energy, time or money. Because of their exit barrier, they are U-turns and the more we can avoid having to make them, the happier, more productive and stress-free our lives in pharmacy will be.

U-turns are like renovations. Their difficulty and ugliness stem from the fact that we must undo what isn’t working before fixing the problem. And that brings about opportunity costs. There is a cost to going back. While sometimes necessary, we are best served preventing paying this cost. Some decisions are like laying cement. Once they are made, they almost can’t be reversed. Spending extra time analyzing those moments might ensure we get it right the first time. 

The 4 pharmacy-specific U-turns



Jason illo
Jason illo

Choice of employer.

Whether we decide on community, hospital, industry or self-employment, making a U-turn here takes significant effort. While finishing our careers at the same pharmacy workplace is rarer today than it once was, who we work for will always be a decision with infinite implications. The employer provides opportunities for further advancement and access to resources once we are on the inside of their network. Another downstream effect is all the various components of a financial package they are able to offer such as wage, pension, bonuses, vacation and other perks. There is an endless list of other implications the workplace choice brings, such as policies that govern our duties, culture and ability to teach and promote our development as well as the employer's openness to our ideas.


Whether we choose to remain in our hometown or relocate, geography is a U-turn that takes a ton of energy to reverse. We become part of a community that trusts our work, we invest in a place to live, our children go to school, we choose extracurricular activities and our errands revolve around what the community has to offer (e.g., groceries, fuel, bank).


Our pharmacy requires the intimate use of software, such as hosting patient files, scheduling software, using cloud-based apps and simple telecommunications. Moreover, this software must involve tight integrations with our various types of hardware. In some ways, software is chosen by our employers, however where given a choice, software is best if we don’t have to restart, copy or convert to another platform. We can be expert clinicians, but if we cannot effectively and efficiently bill our services, maintain patient records, schedule our work or integrate with those around us, we are next to useless. Once software decisions are put in place, they begin to fill in incredibly fast-growing databases that bring significant exit barriers. 


The staff with whom we surround ourselves make or break our practice. Pharmacy is not a solo game, but a team-based, inter-collaborative profession, making us only as good as our arms can extend. The habits, personalities, knowledge, skills, experience and learning and teaching capability of our support team allow us to either spin our wheels or thrive. Hiring each individual is a U-turn. Staff become embedded in our fabric, our culture and our future. They represent us when we are absent and execute our ideas. In other words, choosing the wrong staff makes it very hard to go back and restart. (Check out my interview kit!).

Employer, city, software, staff. The 4 decisions that make life easier when we choose correctly the first time around. Getting them right the first time will make a difference for us in countless indirect ways, due to their highly complex involvement with our day-to-day lives. Choosing right or wrong creates a domino-effect.

U-turns are foundational

Foundational decisions are those that our daily functions are built upon. Employer, city, software and staff serve as a foundation upon which many other important decisions are built. 

We can make mistakes, but these 4 choices set us up for expensive U-turns or seamless, productive and uninhibited progress. Recognizing foundational decision moments as U-turns gives us the chance to make better choices.

Finally, making a U-turn takes a practice of humility to admit we were wrong and a sense of self-awareness to find a better answer. Back-tracking is perfectly okay, but identifying the U-turn moments as they are happening is imperative to our journeys. They are U-turn moments because they have the potential to steer us along hard-to-turn-back trails. And those are worth living for.


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