Learn business skills for the new pharmacist

In surveying pharmacists about what it takes to succeed, many so-called “soft skills” in the social and administrative sciences rise to the top, but more evidence is needed.

In a survey of pharmacists about what it takes to succeed, many so-called “soft skills” in the social and administrative sciences rise to the top. But more evidence is needed. In research conducted by Jill Augustine, PharmD, PhD, MPH, and colleagues, a group of educators specifically commented on the business skills that may be most useful to young practitioners in the years to come.

The researchers conducted focus groups with pharmacy faculty to discuss desired business skills.1 The type of information obtained from focus groups may differ from that of surveys. Survey information can be obtained from hundreds or even thousands of respondents and, depending on a number of factors, can be generalized to the entire population. Focus groups, on the other hand, usually consist of a small number of participants from a geographically small or limited area; however, very rich, detailed and nuanced data can be derived from their use.

  • The first theme derived from the focus group data related to communication skills. It was emphasized that oral and written communication skills are increasingly important. Moreover, pharmacists must be able to communicate effectively with a range of different people, and the same strategies recommended for use in patient communication (eg, active listening, empathy, assertiveness) should be used in communication with all pharmacy stakeholders.1
  • The second topic detailed the required business skills, such as interpreting profit and loss statements, budgets and organizational structure, as well as cultural knowledge such as mission, vision and business planning, along with human resource (HR) management skills.1
  • The third theme described decision-making and time management skills, including the process of gathering and selecting information to solve problems and delegating to maximize time and empower others.1
  • The fourth theme focused on conflict resolution, requiring pharmacy graduates to be humble and understand that not all decisions are personal.1
  • The fifth theme was about leadership and professionalism, which emphasized creative thinking, as well as the fact that professionalism involves modeling, not just things like looks and speed.1
  • All of this culminated in the sixth and final theme, which was managing and directing others. Effectiveness in this sense was believed to be measured by how well the teams functioned under the leadership of the pharmacist and the attitudes and behaviors of the team members when the pharmacist was not present. This is clearly reflected in the establishment of a climate and culture that boosts the morale and productivity of support staff.2-3

Nationwide surveys, and now focus group interviews with teachers, indicate the need for managerial skills for effective pharmacy practice in today’s health care environment. Pharmacists who demonstrate these skills will do well for their patients and also for themselves, career-wise.

Additional information on “Management” in medication therapy management and management functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

about the author

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University School of Pharmacy in California.


1. Augustine J, Slack M, Cooley J, et al. Identification of key business and management skills required for graduate pharmacists. Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82: Article 6364.

2. Desselle SP, Hoh R, Holmes ER, Gill A, Zamora L. Self-efficacy of pharmacy technicians: Insights to inform future education, staff development, and workforce planning. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2018;14(6):581-588.

3. Desselle S. Pharmacists’ perceptions of a range of pharmaceutical care practice standards. J Am Pharm Assoc (1996). 1997;37(5):529-534.

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