Going to university equips you with the clinical knowledge required to complete your MPharm degree. However, it does not equip you with leadership skills. It is vital that you utilise your pre-reg year to develop these qualities – that are imperative to becoming a successful pharmacist. Here are a few of my hints and tips on how you can develop your leadership skills throughout your placement.
Good communicators are great leaders
Great leaders need good communication skills. This is for two reasons: firstly, you should be able to make your team members feel involved and have an understanding of what your priorities are. For instance, simply informing your team of what your training program entails and what is required of you to submit your competencies will enable them to feel included. Your team wants to help you succeed in achieving your competencies, and including them will give them a sense of importance.
Secondly, transparency is immensely powerful and leads to a better team culture. If you feel that you are struggling to understand something, such as how to dispense veterinary prescriptions, then inform your team that you want to be able to better understand, and would love their support. If you are honest with your team, it will build trust and develop a more authentic relationship. This will encourage them to help you succeed. If you are aware that communication is not your biggest strength, let them know and see if they are able to put you in situations where you can best develop this attribute.
Don’t forget that listening is also fundamental to great communication. Listen to what your team’s concerns are, and try your best to understand them.
Show integrity and don’t over-promise
If you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do it. Failing to do so creates distrust within the team. If you struggle to complete the task, then inform your team, who will value the honesty. Always do the right thing, even if that means acknowledging your own mistakes, or voicing your opinion about an initiative that you feel would not be beneficial for patients.
Have passion and purpose in what you do. For instance, when counselling patients, treat them as though they were a member of your family – provide them with the same information you think your family member would need to know. Do everything you can to meet that patient’s expectations.
Always think of the bigger picture. As a pre-reg and future pharmacist, you are working to make a difference to the community – whether that is providing advice, giving patients their medication, or even just talking to them to help them break free of their isolation. Having passion for what you do will inspire others to follow. Your team will be inspired by your core values and ethics.
Having the ability to adapt to difficult situations and come back from them is essential to becoming a great leader, and pharmacist. Working in a pharmacy means being exposed to numerous challenges and situations. For example, you will experience patients disappointed when their prescription has not arrived or is not prepared, who require an explanation for why the wait is so long.
There will be other challenges: the controlled drugs register not balancing, power failures, or IT systems outages. These are just some of the issues you will face in the pharmacy, and it is essential you are able to work through them calmly.
Here’s a few things I would advise in these situations:
- Don’t detach yourself. Instead, take decisive actions and act as quickly as possible
- Think of the bigger perspective, and ask yourself: What is it that the patient really needs?
- Maintain an optimistic outlook
- Avoid viewing challenging situations as insurmountable problems.
Adapt to situations as they happen. For instance, if you have been allocated the task of dispensing repeat prescriptions, but there is a sudden influx of customers and an accumulation of patients waiting for prescriptions, how should you proactively respond to this situation?
It is important to be flexible in your role and adapt to change where necessary. If you have insight into an idea or process that may make the workflow within the pharmacy simpler, then don’t be afraid to share it. If it doesn’t work, it’s ok to revert back to the previous way. The aim is to inspire creativity and innovation among the team.
Stay humble and curious
This is something I have learned in my current position, and it has really equipped me to be a better team player and leader. Great leaders consistently remain intellectually curious and willing to learn new information, ideas and insights. Learning and adopting innovative approaches from other people, or from something you have read, contributes to your vision and makes you a more well-rounded individual.
Before you start your training year, ask your tutor to give you some responsibilities that you will be held accountable for. Do not hesitate to ask your tutor questions, seek advice from your dispensary team on the processes they follow, and talk to fellow pre-regs – you might pick up something they are doing better than you. Always be eager to learn more. Your team will value your curiosity.
Fawzia Lokat is managing director and co-founder of training provider Team PreReg