No industry is immune to burnout, including pharmacy. At many traditional retail pharmacies, individual pharmacists are often asked to do more than is possible on any given workday. Not only does this deprive talented and extensively trained health professionals of a manageable working environment, it deprives patients of the exceptional care they deserve.
The better pharmacy model we’ve created at Alto makes life easier for everyone involved in the prescription process: patients, physicians, and pharmacists. And in restructuring how pharmacists work, we haven’t just separated fulfillment and patient care responsibilities into different roles — we’ve ensured that there’s ample support for each specialization, as there should be in any profession.
To wrap up our series of pharmacist profiles in celebration of American Pharmacist Month, we spoke to Roni Hein, a patient care pharmacist lead who takes care of her team so that they can in turn care for patients.
What motivated you to pursue a career in pharmacy?
It all began with my high school and college job at Target. I interacted a lot with the pharmacy team while working in the health and beauty section and eventually moved into that department.
I never expected it to be more than a college job, but it turned into the beginning of my professional path. As I worked there, I was able to see the impact pharmacists made in customers’ lives each day. It really struck me that in many communities, including mine, pharmacists were the most accessible healthcare providers. That accessibility is so impactful on a person’s well-being.
What challenges have you encountered as a pharmacist?
Limited time and isolation behind the counter, without question. In retail pharmacy, more and more responsibilities were added to my job description, with fewer resources to accomplish them.
All pharmacists value the personal connections we make with patients. I think many of us would say that making an impact through patient counseling is the best part of our day, but that is often what gets lost when pharmacists are asked to do more. Our primary driver for entering the profession is the first thing to go. I found a very refreshing change at Alto.
Tell us more about your role at Alto.
Everyone at Alto, no matter their department or role, has the same shared goal of improving patient lives by transforming the pharmacy model. As a patient care pharmacist lead, I do that by supporting my people. I create the space for our pharmacists to do their best work. They are able to have better interactions with patients because they are taken care of.
The pandemic has been a trying time for many companies and teams, including mine. I am constantly looking for new ways to ward off burnout and maintain a sense of camaraderie, not only for the pharmacists I manage, but for the benefit of our customers as well.
How is Alto’s pharmacy model unique?
The individual locations of many retail pharmacies can feel very separate from each other. Each one often serves a single population.
The centralization of Alto’s patient care team is a contrast to that model. We have a cohesive, unified team serving all patients. That means there’s a depth of resources available to each pharmacist, which is also really important for retaining great talent.
Our pharmacists have a great support system in their colleagues. There’s other smart, driven pharmacists to bounce ideas off of. Unfortunately, you don’t always get that in our profession.
It also means that you don’t have to worry about anything falling through the cracks if something comes up outside of work. It's a game changer to be able to take time to grieve a loved one or to care for your child if they’re sick while knowing that your patients are still in expert hands. I never had that in retail pharmacy.
Finally, what is one thing people would be surprised to know about life as a pharmacist?
At a tech-oriented pharmacy like Alto where there’s so much innovation, you’re constantly thinking of new and creative ways to problem solve. It’s challenging in the best possible way. There isn’t a day when I don’t have to put my critical thinking skills to use.
This is part of a series of pharmacist profiles to recognize American Pharmacist Month 2022. Meet the other pharmacists featured in this series: patient care pharmacist Travis Allison, specialty patient care pharmacist Gabrielle Kaplan, and medication therapy management pharmacist Wei-Lin Chang.