New Pharmacist Organization Seeks End to Deterioration of Profession

By Sipkoff, Martin | Drug Topics, September 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

New Pharmacist Organization Seeks End to Deterioration of Profession


Sipkoff, Martin, Drug Topics


The Pharmacy Alliance

In April about 50 pharmacists met in Galveston, Texas, to start a movement with a compelling goal: to return professionalism to their lives. "We need to create working conditions that foster dignity, selfrespect, and integrity in the personal, professional, and working lives of all pharmacists," James Plagakis, RPh, the founding director of The Pharmacy Alliance, said.

"The Alliance is born from a discomfort that has gotten progressively worse during the last three decades," he adds. "The unease that too many of us feel comes from unsatisfactory working conditions and a loss of professional control. We can change that by working together."

"We have to take back our profession from the insurance companies," Alliance member Ronald Benson, RPh, a pharmacist in rural Alabama who has been practicing for 26 years, said. "In the time I've been a pharmacist, conditions have deteriorated, and it is affecting all of us. And it's affecting the public health. It's a safety issue when you have the profession being run by people who are only worried about the bottom line."

Member of the nascent grass-roots organization hail from all over the United States and include chain, independent, and health-system pharmacists; students; and technicians. "The students are particularly important," Plagakis, who has been practicing for 44 years, said. "They represent the future of our profession."

The Alliance hardly lacks for energy or creativity. Its 14 core principles reflect a concrete agenda, addressing such matters as compensation, meal breaks, an increased professional emphasis on the role of pharmacists as counselors, and the proper function and staffing of drive-through areas. "This is certainly about more than money," Plagakis said. "It is about improving our professional lives, the profession itself, and the quality of care our patients receive."

One of the principles includes what the Alliance calls a "Dignity, Self-Respect and Integrity Sign-On Agreement." The demand for pharmacists exceeds the supply in the current market, so signing bonuses have become common, especially among chain pharmacies and health systems. "That offers an excellent opportunity for new pharmacists to speak up," said Plagakis, who writes a monthly column for Drug Topics. "Even a simple thing like a lunch break is too often a point of contention. It's a good idea to make things clear up front. …

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