Why seek to connect?

Not to long ago I was, generally speaking, an uninvolved retail pharmacist. I was a disconnected pharmacist.

But, I didn’t start off that way.

The Potential Is There For All Of Us

I started pharmacy school as the youngest member of my class.  Intelligent and hardworking, full of excitement at all of my various potentials.

As a student, I had a position on a national student executive committee and a student position with my state pharmacists association.  I attended conferences around the country and retreats in my state. To my surprise, I established a rotation in Europe for myself. I was confident and felt comfortable networking and sharing my ideas with others students and seasoned pharmacists alike.

The time came for residency, and though I applied, I didn’t match.  It was the next step to further my career options, but my heart wasn’t in it.  

Life Takes Many Turns and Focus Shifts

I tried to stay involved as new pharmacist, but it was hard.  I was in a new state (professionally speaking, though it was my home).  And, it didn’t have a state pharmacy association to speak of. I tried to get involved with ASHP, but, as an only one day a week hospital pharmacist in addition to my retail work, I didn’t really seem to fit in.

I settled in to the easy day in and day out of retail work.  It was work, but not really rewarding. My sense of connection to my fellow pharmacists was maintained by working in hospital and retail.  I picked up extra shifts and worked a variety of locations. I felt I got fair exposure to my peers and was able to meet a variety of pharmacists.

As life progressed, home and family life became more of my focus.  I moved to another new state, to a small town. While it was the right choice for my family and overall goals for my life, it seemed to be the nail in the coffin in terms of being an active involved pharmacist.  I tried getting involved with my new state pharmacy association.

Achieving Work-Life Balance

For me, as well as many other pharmacists, maintaining an active professional presence was hard. I had limited time off and I needed it to recover from the stresses and rigors of work. Not to delve further into professional pursuits.

Retail pharmacy can be a pretty isolating as it is.  Pharmacists in that setting don’t tend to work with lots of other pharmacists and that’s gotten even truer with the ongoing cuts to staffing.  

I sought to make my life more rewarding by moving down to part time work.  That was great. But, as I escaped the drudgery of full time work, I found myself wanting to be more active in my profession again.  

With Increasing Balance, Potentials In Sight Again

I had a renewed sense of needing to give back, drive change, innovate, share my voice and the voices of others.

As luck would have it, cutting down to part time work backfired on me a bit, as my employer, like many began to cut hours even more.  

There were two goals in mind: find a better, more reliable job and make it professionally rewarding.

How was I going to achieve that without actively seeking to improve my network?

I didn’t see LinkedIn as the place for that.  There are so many competing voices and it’s such a “professional” site, with recruiters and bosses viewing you… I wasn’t sure I could be “me.”  Facebook was not the place either. For one, I, like many, have been seeking to distance myself from Facebook, for many reasons.

If What You Need Isn’t There, Make It

If I didn’t see the place out there that fit my needs, I might as well create it.  So often, if you are coming up against a problem, there is sure to be someone else out there in a similar situation.  

I felt I could create a place for unique and diverse voices, focused on building connections.  With connections come trust. With trust people become invested in you and your journey.  Show people who you are and what you have to offer, and, hopefully, opportunities begin to present themselves.  When you have mutual respect and care for others, everyone does better.

And, I wanted a place for all kinds of pharmacists.  If we could start to see each other as unique people, with varied interests, and not just as a hospital or retail or informatics pharmacist… humanize our peers… some exciting conversations could take place.

I wanted to connect pharmacists to other pharmacists.  If that was the mission, the name was easy. “PharmacistsConnect.com” was born..

Finding Purpose In Small Ideas

I thought, if I could get people talking and sharing their ideas in a casual atmosphere… if I could get people supporting each other… maybe we could start to bridge some of those professional chasms.  Maybe we could start to have a dialogue about the needs of pharmacists that support and further our goals as a collective profession, not just in our professionally focused silos.

Since moving to a small town, I’ve also been more acutely aware of the need to build connections in general.  The statistics around depression, health, and longevity all point to the importance of having meaningful connections.  The statistics on depression among pharmacists aren’t great… most of us could use at least a little more real connectedness in our lives.

In my observation, unless you are able to be highly involved in the available professional organizations for pharmacists, there isn’t really much of a place for you.  As much as I don’t want that to be true, it seems to be these days.

Take myself for example… What does my state pharmacist association offer me if I can’t make it to the few meetings hours away a couple times a year?   I can get my CE elsewhere, from the comfort of my own home.. This article by Erin. L. Albert provides some thoughts on the realities of most pharmacy association meetings.  

Don’t get me wrong, I continue to be a member and hope we see a shift to something more valuable to the less active members soon.  But, the old models do not work the way they used to.

Technology Opens Up Opportunities Everywhere

I have gone to pharmacist association meetings, and I enjoy the CE.  But the real reason I go at this point? Networking.  To meet people. To put a face to a name.

But, as explained above, for most pharmacists getting to conventions is hard.  Unless it comes with your job territory to attend professional conventions, it just isn’t in the cards for most of us.

And, networking isn’t that valuable if you can only show up once a year.  I want meaningful connections. It’s not about how many names are in my address book… it’s about the ones who know who I am and will extend their time and energy to me when needed.

So many pharmacists feel disconnected from professional organizations.  And they feel they don’t have a voice. I wanted to change that and present it in a way that would be more adaptable to the needs of busy new generations.

But, if it’s not about a legislative or business agenda, what brings people together?  Connectedness. Camaraderie. Feeling seen and understood. When those things come together, people circle back around to the professional side.

My Life, With Slack

My son was diagnosed with cancer only a few short weeks after establishing the site and Slack space.  Life has been a flurry and a daze since then. My work life is a bit of a mess.

All the reasons I established the site are even more important to me now.  As is living my best fulfilling life.

In taking to the time to get to know some of these pharmacists a bit more, my goals have changed.

I’m reminded that there are many avenues for me to pursue.  I’m also reminded how much joy it gives me to give back and see others happy and succeeding.  Maybe in seeking a new network I really found my true calling? Connecting people, advocacy, and acting as a sounding board and mentor a reminding people that there is so much more to your life than just work.

It’s been rewarding to watch this space grow and see the connections that people are making, the projects they are beginning and the friends that are being made.

Even though life has required me to be more hands hands off than I originally intended in growing the site, I’ve still gained trusted new friends and contacts that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  I’ve gained friends who have given me career advice, offered help and support regarding my son’s cancer and just offered an ear when needed.

I have been able to offer professional feedback.  I’ve been able to share my story and offer advice to others about mindfulness, mental health, creating a fulfilling life and avoiding burnout.

I’m able to give back, and in return others give back to me.

I call that a success.


Photo Credit to Etienne Boulanger via Unsplash