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Non-traditional schedules may improve staff retention
Demographic changes make this imperative
Every hospital pharmacy manager struggles to attract and retain the best pharmacy staff to provide full coverage.
As the work culture and pharmacy career demands change, so must the manager's expectations and style if they are to succeed in maintaining the best possible staff.
This challenge will be more important than ever as demographic changes are expected to increase the demand for pharmacy services within the next decade, while at the same time a significant percentage of hospital pharmacists will retire, according to a 2007 report by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Task Force on Pharmacy's Changing Demographics.1
According to a 2004 survey of more than 1,000 pharmacy directors and middle managers, more than 75% indicated they planned to retire by 2014.1
One possible solution to recruiting and retaining pharmacy staff is to provide flexible work schedules that recognize the desire many pharmacy professionals have to achieve a better work-life balance, says Lynnae M. Mahaney, RPh, MBA, FASHP, chief of pharmacy at William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, WI. Mahaney is president-elect of ASHP.
Mahaney has researched solutions to pharmacy staff retention, and her findings were that compressed workweeks, job-sharing, and team scheduling were alternative work schedules that could work for hospital pharmacies.2
"All generations want life-work balance, and different generations need it for different reasons," Mahaney says.
"I have 40 pharmacists and 70 people on staff," she notes. "The concept is that you have to be open to anything or everything because there isn't one model where we can put it in place and it works for everyone."
The key is to find out what your staff's needs are and to try to accommodate those in the staffing schedule, Mahaney says.
"Secondly, you try to meet the needs of all of your staff members," she says.
Mahaney offers these tips on meeting pharmacy staff's scheduling needs:
• Be open to a single request. It's a traditional management belief that it is unfair to give one employee a choice schedule if others cannot also have that option.
But Mahaney found through her own experience that this isn't always true.
"I hired one pharmacist who previously worked nights, and he didn't want to work nights anymore," she says.
The standard night pharmacist schedule in the community was working one week of nights for 70 hours and having one week off, Mahaney notes.
The pharmacist loved the one week off and one week on schedule, but no longer wanted to work nights. He works seven days in a row and, thus, every other weekend, Mahaney adds.
"My manager and I talked about it and said, 'If he's working every other weekend, we'll accommodate that,'" Mahaney recalls. "So he works seven days in a row, and he works every other weekend, which is more than any other pharmacist."
So the pharmacist is off of work by 3:30 p.m., which lets him return home early enough to take care of his kids as they return home from school, she notes.
"It fits his personal lifestyle," she adds.
• Think outside the box. "Managers have to stop thinking inside the box because life has changed," Mahaney says. "The generations have changed, and what worked before is gone — so we as managers need to get over it."
Mahaney refers specifically to how the Baby Boom generation, roughly born between 1946 and 1964, approached the workplace in a very different way than the generation of people who followed.
"The Generation Xers were the first generation that said, 'No, I'm not working 60 hours per week at this job — this is what I'll work and then I'll go home to my family and my life,'" Mahaney says.
"They don't want to do things the way the Boomers did," she adds. "Then the Millennials come along behind them, and they were raised differently."
The Generation Xers witnessed first-hand how their Boomer parents would toil many hours for employers who thought nothing of letting them go, and so they feel no particular loyalty to their own employers.
"The Xers say, 'If you're not loyal to me, then I'll not be loyal to you,'" Mahaney says. "Generation X people remember coming home to empty homes and having parents miss their soccer games because of work, so that left a bad taste in their mouths, and they don't want to be that way."
This is why managers have to think differently about how they treat and what they expect from their employees who are in their 30s and 20s.
"These generations have demanded workplace balance," Mahaney says.
And the managers who are able to provide them with that balance will be the ones who succeed in retaining staff.
• Look at the fairness issue differently. "Fairness is a common concern and a legitimate concern," Mahaney says.
The way to address it is this way: "If the solution makes sense for patient care and if you're still providing the correct and high-quality level of patient care and it doesn't adversely affect another staff member, then go for it," she says.
"When an employee has an idea for a change in scheduling, then have them show you how this might work, selling their story," Mahaney explains. "Then it's the manager's job to do the assessment and say whether or not this looks reasonable and whether we should try it."
You could try it out for a trial period and if it works, great, and if doesn't then it's time to go to plan B or plan C, she adds.
"Generally, if it doesn't have an adverse effect, then go with it," Mahaney says.
• Create integrated positions. "I'm a firm believer in integrating direct patient care with what was originally called staff pharmacist duties," Mahaney says.
"So all of our newer pharmacists have some integrated, inpatient/outpatient staffing component," she explains. "This way you don't have various levels of pharmacists with one working only a clinical job and another one only in a staff job."
Many people believe this is where the pharmacy profession is moving with pharmacy service staff operating as one team and not out of silos, she adds.
The advantages to a hospital pharmacy are notable:
• It provides staffing flexibility so that a staff opening in an anticoagulation clinic can be filled by someone from a medication management area.
• And this approach gives residency-trained pharmacists direct patient care duties and variety in their work, Mahaney says.
"The majority of pharmacists who work in our outpatient anticoagulation area can also do inpatient anticoagulation and work de-centrally in inpatient," Mahaney notes. "They have a specialty, but that's not all they do."