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Pharmacy Specialization During Pharmacist Shortages in the US

Pharmacy Specialization During Pharmacist Shortages in the US

Specialization in the profession of pharmacy has perhaps become the primary area of focus for all pharmacies. Whether you represent a major hospital or healthcare system, or you simply own or manage a small independent retail community pharmacy, specialization may be the key to both the success and profitability of your business operation during the current shortage of both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians being seen in all fifty states in our nation.

Is Post-COVID The Age of Specialization?

Specialty Pharmacy Consultation and SpecializationEveryone has heard that this is the “Age of Specialization”, but exactly when did it start and what does it really mean? Basically, specialization occurs when a task is broken down into separate sub-tasks that require different skill sets. A great case was made by the author Jeremie Averous in his book The Fourth Revolution that humans started to become specialized all the way back to the beginning of civilization. The task of finding food became divided into three categories: hunting, gathering and cultivating. Each method of survival required a “specialist”, and thus the “Age of Specialization” was born!

A great example of the growth of specialization can be seen in the world of technology. A good friend started a technology company back in the early 1990’s and initially had one IT employee on staff. Now he employees nine different IT specialists:
– Network administrator
– Software developer
– Network engineer
– VM specialist
– Database administrator
– Web programmer
– Web designer
– Tech support
– Hardware specialist

Pharmacy and Specialization Go Hand-in-Hand!

Many sociologists make the case that the pharmacy profession may be one of the best models to use as an example regarding specialization development in a profession. The first “branch in the road” for pharmacy was the establishment of the hospital pharmacy as a separate role from the traditional apothecary or druggist. Although there is no documentation when this actually occurred, it is well documented that in the colonial United States the first hospital pharmacist was Jonathan Roberts. When the first hospital was opened in Colonial America, the Pennsylvania Hospital hired Roberts and appointed him as the hospital’s in-house “apothecary”. Although there were several other pioneers in hospital pharmacy in the US (Charles Rice in 1841 and Martin Wilbert in 1865 are notable examples), numerous factors kept hospital pharmacies and their reduced numbers at the periphery of the pharmacy profession. In these modern times, every hospital has a pharmacy, with some having an additional outpatient pharmacy.

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the development of the practice of hospital pharmacy in the United States didn’t actually begin to emerge as a specialty until the early 1920’s. An interesting historical footnote for this emergence is the fact that Prohibition may have actually been the primary reason. At that time, alcohol was commonly prescribed by physicians as part of a patient’s treatment, and a pharmacist was now necessary in the hospital for both the compounding of numerous preparations and inventory control.

Hyperspecialization in the Pharmacy Profession

An article in the Harvard Business Review indicates that perhaps a profession like pharmacy is evolving one step further. According to the article, the “division of labor” seen in pharmacy is now transforming pharmacists into what they termed “Hyperspecialization”. As the profession and practice rapidly transforms, more and more specialties are emerging that require practitioners to have unique and specialized skill sets. Even an individual’s personality type was sometimes noted as a requirement to fulfill specialized roles in certain pharmacy situations and settings. This is obviously being seen in the “Post COVID” pharmacy settings as RPh’s adjust to their expanded roles and responsibilities, such as administering vaccinations and prescribing certain medications to treat the pandemic.

Specialty Pharmacies and Hyperspecialization

Everyone is aware of the explosive growth of specialty pharmacies that’s taken place in the United States over the past two decades. Along with the traditional retail and hospital positions that a pharmacist could choose to practice in, other specialized roles emerged: nuclear pharmacy, clinical pharmacy, institutional pharmacy, mail-order pharmacy, long-term care pharmacy, consulting pharmacy, to name just a few.

Next came the emergence of specialty pharmacies geared for specific “functionality”. The industry quickly filled a void that existed for individualized medication therapies by the creation of specific types of specialty pharmacies:
– Compounding
– Sterile compounding
– Enteral and parenteral nutrition (TPN)
– Dermatologicals
– Veterinary medications
– IV and infusion
– Pediatric medications

The next step in the evolution of this hyper specialization was the definition of what a specialty pharmacy actually is. Several pharmaceutical societies and organizations came up with their own definitions:
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
– The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
The National Association of Specialty Pharmacies (SPAARx)
– The Association of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP)
Although each definition varied, there was one basic premise that all agreed on: that a specialty pharmacy dispenses medications for specific chronic and/or life-threatening disease state.
Specialty pharmacies are now seen for almost every disease state:
– Cystic fibrosis
– Diabetes
– Oncology and cancer
– Pain management
– Crohn’s disease
– Multiple sclerosis
– Hemophilia
– Growth hormone deficiency
– Hepatitis C
– Immune disorders
– Infertility
Even patient’s with conditions such as erectile dysfunction and certain psychiatric disorders are serviced today by specialty pharmacies.

About HealthCare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing

From major hospitals and healthcare systems to individual community retail and specialty pharmacies, Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing (HCC) has been the nationally renowned pharmacy staffing agency of choice for over three decades now. We work with businesses of every size – from the corner drug store to national corporations and organizations – with only one goal in mind: to improve your pharmacy’s business operations (profitability!). We can also assist with expert in-house consulting in any area of your pharmacy business or practice.

HealthCare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing is additionally the leader in pharmacy startups! No other firm has opened and started up as many pharmacies throughout the nation as HCC. Plus, these new pharmacies run efficiently and profitably. Our in-house consulting experts can make sure that you do it right… every step of the way!

We urge you to contact us today to see how our Pharmacy Staffing and our Pharmacy Consulting services can help you improve your business right now during the current pharmacy staffing shortages, plus help you be ready for the future. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Staffing & Consulting specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all pharmacy settings. Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.

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