By: Zachary Hitchcock, PharmD Candidate 2021 and Nathan Hanson, PharmD, MS, BCPS
In sports and in life, you need a solid game plan in order to be successful. This is also true in advocacy. So what are the components to a winning pharmacy advocacy game plan? Caring, prioritization, education, and persuasion. Advocacy begins with caring. We have to care about our patients and colleagues enough to put the effort into making a difference. Next, prioritization. Good leadership is all about deciding what is most important. Right now, and in the future. From there, advocacy is all about education and persuasion. Our elected representatives go to work every day with the goal to make life better for the people that they serve. It is our job to explain to them the ways that we think they should make that difference. They don’t know a lot about our world, so we need to educate them and persuade them to care about the things that we care about.
Once your game plan is in place, the next step is forming a winning team. Students play an important role on our advocacy team. Here is one student’s story of his advocacy journey:
A Student’s Perspective on Professional Advocacy
My first face-to-face encounter with professional advocacy occurred following my first year of pharmacy school at UMKC in July of 2018. That summer, I had the privilege of attending the APhA-ASP Summer Leadership Institute in Washington, DC. Part of this experience involved visiting Capitol Hill and advocating for pharmacy issues, specifically provider status and the opioid crisis. Despite spending significant time reviewing the talking points, I recall feeling incredibly nervous walking into Representative Sam Graves’ office and later into Senator Claire McCaskill’s office. Thankfully, I was able to attend these meetings with peers who were more experienced than me, and they coached me on how to be effective in these meetings. Upon sitting down with staffers for each of these legislators, the nerves subsided, and I realized that they were there to hear our perspectives on what could be done to improve patient care. Unfortunately, we are still fighting for change on these issues and others, but I believe that if pharmacists and student pharmacists take personal responsibility for advocating, then we will see the changes we wish to see and improve the care we can provide for patients.
Advocating for pharmacy is a team sport, much like football. Being from Kansas City, I am incredibly excited that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. A big component of their success was that they pulled together as a team. They were unstoppable when the receivers ran the correct routes and the offensive line blocked their assignments, allowing Patrick Mahomes to complete pass after awe-inspiring pass and lead the team to victory. This is similar to pharmacy advocacy; if the many team members involved in pharmacy advocacy are going in different directions and not working together, then it will be more difficult for us to improve our profession. A simple unifying idea is that our pharmacy advocacy team should always begin with the best interests of patients in mind. A good team must have all of the players, including pharmacists, technicians, and student pharmacists. I am a student, and I have learned much about advocating for our patients and profession from experienced mentors who have a wealth of knowledge to share. By passing knowledge along to students and young pharmacists who are new to the profession, we will be able to build upon what is already being done instead of re-developing knowledge and tactics for advocacy that have already been formed.
I have been asked why I care about advocating for the profession and why student pharmacists should care about advocacy. For me, the answer is simple: I want to be able to provide the best care possible to patients, and I want to enhance the care I can provide throughout my career. Student pharmacists are preparing to embark on a career that will span decades. In order to optimize what we can accomplish over the course of that career, we must take personal responsibility for advocating for our patients and the future of the profession. This personal responsibility includes multiple forms of advocacy. As the medication experts, it is one of our responsibilities to advocate for our patients as a member of the healthcare team. It is also our responsibility to send letters to legislators and make phone calls to encourage legal changes that will help us better serve our patients. This includes actively seeking opportunities to advocate for issues on both the state and federal levels. Oftentimes, this can start with something as simple as attaching your name to a form letter and sending it to a legislator. It can also grow into attending Legislative Day, which was on April 1st this year, or setting up a personal meeting with a representative or staffer. As long as the members of our advocacy team do their part and continue fighting, we will see the changes we want to see and continue providing the best care possible for patients.