Skip to main content

Remember when pharmacists didn't give shots?

About 12 years ago, the team I was serving on was given the task of training thousands of pharmacists to provide immunization services. This was no small undertaking. Over the course of two years, we needed to train more than 10,000 pharmacists. Our track record to that point was that we had trained less than one thousand. 

There were many leadership lessons taught during this time and we may revisit aspects of this story in future columns. Today, we are going to look at the principle of the rising tide raising all boats.

When we set out to train all of those pharmacists, we knew there would be some challenges. Five years earlier, my phone rang and I remember being tasked with training a dozen pharmacists to give flu shots. This was well before the days of everyone having a camera on their phone, but I am sure that someone had a camera on me. My face would have an expression of disbelief with that initial request. At the time, I remember thinking “Pharmacists don’t give shots.”

Boy, was I wrong. Pharmacists give shots and give them quite well. I am so glad to have been part of that group that went through the training all those years ago.

The thing was, many other pharmacists had that same attitude 5 years later. This was a challenge. This was a leadership challenge. We had to lead our pharmacists through this change. Some were easy to lead. Others were exceptionally difficult to lead. 

Within a large organization, there is a structure of middle management. An important part of our strategy was to build on this group. We recognized our district managers were a key to successfully rolling this out. In spite of the limited number of pharmacists providing immunizations at that point, something we noticed was districts with managers that had been trained for immunization performed better and had greater support. 

So, we set out to get the district managers trained along with the pharmacists in their stores. Now, I am not going to lie to you and say that the district managers were the best immunizing pharmacists. As a whole, they were not. Many were probably more nervous than the other students. But being in the class made a major leadership statement. They showed that the tide was rising. The tide of services being offered at the pharmacy was expanding.

In nature, this principle of the rising tide is quite obvious. It is less obvious in leadership, but it is still there nonetheless. We were able to see it on a widespread rollout of an immunization program. When the district manager was in one of the earlier training sessions, his pharmacists came along as well. 

I tell that story so that I can share this with you as a corollary to the principle of the rising tide. When the leader gets better, everyone around the leader gets better. 

In previous articles, we identified all of the different groups that we have to lead as pharmacists. When you improve your leadership skills, you will help them all! That is so exciting! That is so true!

Truly, everyone deserves to be led well, and when you take steps to improve your leadership skills, whether by big steps or small steps, you are moving in the direction of leading them well.

I will suggest that simply by reading this article, you have increased your awareness of leadership and taken a step towards leading people well. I look forward to reconnecting with you soon. In the meantime, I welcome your questions and comments. Please feel free to contact me via [email protected].

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

More Blog Posts in This Series

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds