Mention ‘community pharmacist’ and two main images will pop up: One, that of a walking drug dictionary, and two, a friendly person in a white coat who holds the answer to every question you can think of regarding a pharmacy. However, being a community pharmacist entails more than just a sound clinical and product knowledge or an approachable demeanour. Here are some other aspects of being a successful community pharmacist:

1) Motivational interviewing skills

Community pharmacists are the health professionals who are most accessible to the public. As a result, they play an increasingly important role in primary health promotion, which often involves health education and helping the community lead a healthier lifestyle. It takes more than mediocre communication skills to induce positive changes in patients. Telling them to do the right thing is easy, but convincing them to do it? Not so simple.

To be successful in this, a community pharmacist requires motivational interviewing (MI) skills to collaborate with patients in achieving a health goal. Yes, collaborate instead of being the “all-knowing” healthcare professional who gives unilateral advice. By understanding patients via active listening, empathy and respect, a community pharmacist can empower patients to be motivated in making positive lifestyle changes. It is also the same skill set that contributes to the building of trust and good rapport with patients.

2) Sound business knowledge

Community pharmacies are on both providers of professional health services as well as a retail business. A fundamental knowledge in business is essential for a community pharmacist to manage profit, control inventory and identify market trends for business opportunities. Managing a business aside, a community pharmacist needs to strike a fine balance between driving sales for profitability and being ethical in pharmacy practice.

It is against good practice to recommend medications or health products unnecessarily for the sake of driving profit. For a community pharmacist, the ultimate killing of two birds with one stone is to achieve business KPIs while providing the best health services in their pharmacies.

3) Broad health knowledge and beyond

Medications are not the only aspect that community pharmacists need to master. On a daily basis, they encounter clients with ailments of varying degrees of severity. Whilst they do not perform diagnoses, they play a crucial role in providing initial assessments, recommendations on management and referral to medical professionals when required. That aside, community pharmacists are also approached with an array of questions ranging from supplements to diapers, cosmetics and even directions! As such, being patient and courteous are amongst the most important virtues that a community pharmacist must possess beyond health knowledge.

4) Well-rounded and adaptable

Community pharmacists are often assigned ad-hoc tasks, hence they will need to keep on their toes and be adaptable to varying degrees of challenges as they come. For instance, they may be requested to produce health advice for print media or broadcasting channels, especially during an epidemic outbreak. They may also need to organize health campaigns and provide educational talks for the public from time to time. In their own organizations, community pharmacists may need to adapt to shift work. This may mean long working hours, duties on public holidays or weekends and even permanent night shifts in 24-hour outlets.

What else does it take to be a successful community pharmacist? The most essential above all is the passion to serve, the passion to make positive changes and the passion to go the extra mile in ensuring the well-being of patients. MIMS