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A pharmacists' journey – one year in. Part 2

In my last blog and now, in this week’s blog, I am providing readers with a sense of what it’s been like for me to transition from pharmacy owner to employee, and I’m sharing what I’ve been doing during my first year with Neighbourly Pharmacy.

I ended last week’s blog with a teaser about my specialty pharmacy project.

With the next phase of the Alberta biosimilar initiative set for May 1st, 2022, I hired a small team to prepare the Alberta Neighbourly network of pharmacies for an unprecedented launch of six biosimilars of Humira™. I also worked with our nurse to open the Neighbourly infusion clinic in Calgary before April 1st. I believe I visited more prescribers’ offices in 2022 than I had visited in the last 10 years combined. I shared my specialty vision with physicians, and I asked them to identify the gaps in care they required my help with. I’ve learned that I have a skillset for this, and I’ve learned I’ve still got a long way to go. However, my investment in time and energy is just starting to pay dividends. More days than not now, we are getting referrals for business I was never seeing just 12 months ago and I’m gaining more street cred with prescribers every week.

When Neighbourly acquired Sandstone, I was asked to expand our central fill strategy past what we were already doing for the Sandstone locations. This was a complex problem that would take considerable planning because our site would be receiving orders from more than one pharmacy management system (software), and we’d need to support multiple generic formularies. I believe the team came up with a solid plan. In August we upgraded the robot to handle the expected volume and by the end of November we will be onboarding our first network pharmacy that employs different pharmacy software and is running a different banner/formulary. Hopefully, this initiative will in some small way reduce the constant volume pressure that my colleagues are facing every day at the pharmacy counter.

Leading up to the summer, I hit the road in my campaign to be re-elected to the RxA board of directors. I love visiting pharmacies and speaking with practitioners about what they do every day and the impact they have on their patients’ lives. There are so many fantastic community practices, and for the most part, pharmacists love to share their ideas. I was successful in securing my second term on the board and I’m looking forward to seeing what RxA is going to accomplish in the next few years.

As many of you know, throughout 2022 I have spoken publicly about the PrescribeIT Agreement pharmacies are being asked to enter. I’m 100% in favour of e-prescribing. I just think the agreement needs to be tweaked. If I have my way, we can work with Canada Health Infoway to make the necessary adjustments. I’m grateful to the over 550 pharmacies that delivered to me their messages of support. A few weeks ago, I met with the Alberta Minister of Health to present our concerns regarding the agreement, and to bring attention to the expiry of the current grant funding, which is set to end on March 31, 2023. I remain hopeful that respectful dialogue will bring positive results.

In 2022, I’ve also been able to participate in several in-person conferences for the first time since COVID-19 entered our lives. While virtual meetings have their place, I can’t tell you how valuable to my psyche it has been to reengage with peers in live settings. I was able to meet so many of my new Neighbourly team members at the Rubicon conference in Banff and the Neighbourly conference in Calgary. I also attended the NACDS Total Store Expo in Boston, the fall RxA conference in Calgary, and the NPAC Specialty conference in Toronto. At each of these gatherings, I learned knew skills and ideas. I shared experiences with colleagues from across North America while we laughed and simply enjoyed being together once again.

I really have two takeaways from my first year as an “employee” in 35+ years. First, I’m so grateful to Chris Gardner and Neighbourly for giving me this opportunity and for making my transition so easy. Chris asked me to continue to do what I was previously doing to advocate for pharmacy, and he provided me the time to work on projects that I’m truly interested in. Second, I’ve totally surprised myself in how invested I still am in being successful at what I’m doing, how much I care, even though I’m no longer the principal owner.

Let’s see what 2023 brings!

I’m not setting out any resolutions for myself, but I hope to be able to moderate my pace a bit and to become more efficient with my time while I continue to advocate for and support my colleagues in every way I can.


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