By Alice Vanderpol, 2018 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year
Pharmacy assistants are often on the frontline; we maintain and protect the day-to-day relationship with our customers, remember their stories, their name and encourage them to come again.
In this changing industry where customers want more from us than ever before, we have the opportunity to become even more valuable to them, the business and the pharmacy industry as a whole.
I love the idea of our profession being one that is considered ‘frontline’ work. What does this actually mean and what does it look like? More importantly, what does it say about you as a pharmacy assistant? More to the question – what is your value?
The job of a pharmacy assistant is exciting, challenging and comes with many responsibilities. We are the first point of contact for the general public and this in itself can be quite confronting yet thrilling at the same time! ‘Pharmacy’ life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get! You never know how your day will unfold and as you see that sweet old lady coming through your doors, you don’t know if you’ll be met with a welcoming smile, or a disgruntled interrogation of questions including why her blood pressure medication is more expensive than the warehouse down the street!
I’m sure, like me, you all have your fair share of stories and interactions with customers. Good and bad. For instance, just the other week a lovely, elderly gentleman came in with a bag full of his wife’s medication. I approached him with a “Hello! How are you today?” and his response was, “I was wondering if you could dispose of my wife’s medications… she’s just passed away.” With that, he breaks down and starts crying. Immediately I offer my sympathies and condolences (meanwhile trying not to shed a tear!), reassuring him that we will take care of his request. More importantly, I give him my undivided attention and let him say what he needs to say. Even though I can’t fix his problem, I can help ease the pain by being empathetic, patient and understanding. These interactions break my heart, but they also give me a sense of gratitude. I’m thankful that because we are on the frontline, we get to walk the whole journey with our customers, from hellos to goodbyes. It’s something very special and unique to our line of work.
Being on the frontline requires us to be prepared. We need to be prepared to deal with the best and worst of people. We need to be prepared to give an answer or an ear to listen. We need to be prepared with knowledge and understanding of health concerns, medicines and products. We also need to be prepared to raise the white flag and ask for help when something is out of our scope of practice.
How can we be equipped and prepared for the frontline and add value to the customers experience? I believe a lot of this comes with passing your knowledge on. If you’ve been in the pharmacy game for a while now, I bet you’ve seen a lot and have had many interactions with many different types of customers over the years. Your experience is so valuable to the younger staff. Teaching your junior staff and new staff is extremely important in helping your team excel to be better assistants. Stepping in and gently showing them how to handle a situation and explaining why certain procedures are done is so crucial in preparing them for the frontline. Never underestimate the value in your experience.
Upskilling and training is another tool in becoming prepared. If you aren’t confident in communicating, talk with your manager about doing a public speaking training course or something similar. Don’t know how to handle difficult situations? Ask for training options that can help you. Your communication style and presence on the frontline is very important when it comes to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is paramount to your boss and their business!
Feel like you’re lacking in product knowledge? Jump online and start learning! I do this constantly. If I see a product I don’t know much about, I get online and start educating myself. Being on the frontline requires a certain amount of product knowledge; our customers need us to be as knowledgeable as possible. Another option is to ask your employer for further education through the Pharmacy Guild, which offers an abundance of certificates and courses to help you excel on the frontline.
Know your worth
Another way in being a valuable asset to your workplace is simply knowing your worth. Having confidence in who you are as a pharmacy assistant helps you keep believing that what you do matters. Ultimately, we form our pharmacy’s backbone and are needed to deliver high-quality care and ensure an excellent customer experience. For all we know, we may be the only face a customer sees all week. Being on the frontline makes us like family to a lot of people and when you start your day off with this in mind, it’s easy to go above and beyond what the customer expects. To take that extra step to make them feel that you understand what they are going through and that you want this to be the best experience they have ever had. As they say, customer service starts with a smile, and as this industry changes before our very eyes, we must be reminded of the fact that there is one thing that will never change and that’s good old fashion customer service. Keep this in the forefront of your mind and you will continue to be a very valuable asset on the frontline.
If you know a deserving pharmacy assistant who’s a very valuable asset to a pharmacy’s frontline (maybe it’s you!), nominate them today for The Pharmacy Guild of Australia/Maxigesic Pharmacy Assistant of the Year (PATY) Award 2019! Nominate at http://pharmacyassistants.com/paty.