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Pharmacists Moving into New Management Roles

Mar 28, 2012
Thomas J. Johnson, Pharm.D., MBA, BCPS, FASHP, FCCM

Thomas J. Johnson, Pharm.D., MBA, BCPS, FASHP, FCCM

A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO, I transitioned from a clinical faculty role to being a director of a hospital pharmacy department. I quickly found that the clinical skills in critical care that I had developed over the first dozen or so years of my career either applied just a little bit or not at all. Obviously, many of the people skills carried over, but I found that the day-to-day sense of immediate success or failure I had previously observed in the intensive care unit had little in common with my new job. Now I needed to evaluate programs and make changes over the span of weeks, months and years instead of minutes, hours or days.

It also became apparent that I needed to learn how to develop relationships at a much higher level with senior administration (the “C-suite”) of both the hospital and the system. While I had interactions with administrators in committee meetings and other settings over the years, I realized that I needed to get a better sense of the breadth of information that was important to them. Pharmacy just wasn’t their world like it was mine.

Connecting on Common Ground

Since professional organizations have always been a big part of my life, I started looking for options to help me in these areas. Many pharmacy organizations, and ASHP in particular, work to develop leaders and leadership skills, but I was looking for a route to connect on common ground with senior leadership. After some searching and a discussion with my friend Mike Sanborn, it didn’t take me long to find the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Once I did, I reached out to my senior vice president, a regent and fellow of ACHE, and she happily supported my application for membership. I learned that to achieve fellow status with ACHE, one must be a member of the organization for at least three years and then pass an exam to demonstrate competence. I always like to be in pursuit of the next challenge, so I joined the college. So far, ACHE has provided useful information and set me on a possible path for fellow status.

There have been many conversations about the need for pharmacists to work to find common ground with C-suite leaders. We commonly present and publish information about the impact of pharmacists’ services on clinical decisions, medication safety and the effective operation of a high-performing department. Unfortunately, we often tend to present that information just to each other.  ACHE and its fellowship process is one way to move beyond our comfort zones and demonstrate competence in the health care administration field. I am sure there are others, but I would encourage all pharmacy leaders to identify those elements to advance that common ground with other health care administrators.

The FACHE Credential

The ACHE fellowship designation is the most widely recognized administrative credential in the United States.  The credential requires several steps that are quite different from an ASHP fellowship. An applicant is required to be an ACHE member for a minimum of three years, have a master’s or other postbaccalaureate degree, and have a minimum of five years of health care management experience, which includes management experience as a director of pharmacy.

Once the above prerequisites have been obtained, a prospective fellow must submit three references from current fellows of ACHE and must complete 40 hours of continuing education. Applicants must also participate in at least two community or civic activities.

Finally, applicants must pass the 200-question Board of Governors healthcare management exam, which covers governance and organizational structure, human resources, financial management, healthcare technology and information management, quality and performance improvement, laws and regulations, professionalism and ethical knowledge, general healthcare, management, and business acumen. For more information, go to the ACHE website.

Editor’s Note: Thomas J. Johnson, Pharm.D., MBA, BCPS, FASHP, FCCM, is director of hospital pharmacy at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a member of ASHP’s Board of Directors. Michael D. Sanborn, M.S, FASHP, FACHE, CEO and president of Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton, Tex., contributed to the article.

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