June Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

As I mentioned in my last message, 2020 has been different than any of us could have imagined. As COVID-19 becomes a more stable issue, other issues continue to arise. One thing that has been apparent is how quickly information changes. As COVID began to emerge, there were so many unknowns regarding the virus. We heard different things from different people or agencies. We were constantly bombarded with facts and theories.

For many of us, it was really information overload. That overload lead to stress and anxiety for most everyone, but especially for those of us in healthcare as well as for “essential” workers. If I checked news in the morning, by lunchtime there was something new. By dinnertime, there was still more new information. It was amazing to see the pace at which information came at us. The COVID topic was constantly in our faces. It was nearly impossible to avoid the topic. Whether you checked news sources or social media, it was the majority of what both covered.

As we worked our way thru the initial weeks of the epidemic, we were all amazed at how some information changed over time. We were told that masks weren’t necessary unless you had COVID or took care of someone with health issues. Then we were told to wear masks. Then not to wear masks. And then to wear masks as many people were asymptomatic carriers. And the mask controversy continues to evolve.

I think more importantly, we all realized that we got conflicting information depending on our sources of information. One official said one thing and another said something different. I hope that over time, most people were able to find a reliable and consistent source of information. And I’m sure it’s a shock, but not all the information on the internet (or Facebook) is true. 🙂

I have some information that has been verified. The Spokane Pharmacy Association is moving to a new membership platform this summer. You will receive information on how to create a profile along with other emails explaining this new platform. Like anything new, there may be a few hiccups along the way, but this will allow us to better serve all of you in the future with the added features this platform offers.

Stay well. Stay safe. We will be in contact regarding possible summer activities and we appreciate all you do for the community!

April Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

We all heard the jokes about 20/20 vision as 2019 ended. Looking into our crystal balls, I don’t think any of us foresaw our world changing the way it has this year with COVID-19.

It’s amazing to see how everyone associated with pharmacy has stepped up to the task of putting our patients’ needs ahead of our own in many instances during this troublesome time. I know that for a period of a week or two, changes were occurring in our personal lives that crossed over into our professional lives on an hourly basis. But, we continue to evolve our practices, to minimize the spread of the virus while still providing the best care for our patients. I won’t go into some of the stories I’ve read about that describe how healthcare workers are keeping their families protected, but I know that is a concern for all of us.

What I marvel at is how quickly we have adapted our practices so that we can continue to do what we do best; provide access to our patients while providing them with the medications and advice they need. On television shows, pharmacists are usually portrayed by older men with little personality in a setting that looks like it’s out of the 1970’s. In today’s world, I still think pharmacy is sometimes slow to change because we are cautious to make sure they are positive changes. But it is amazing how quickly our professional practices have shifted in the last few weeks to ensure that we can continue to serve our patients while being aware of risks of COVID.

I’d like to thank all of our members (and all pharmacists, technicians and interns) in our response to this crisis. You continue to make me proud to be a member of the profession.

Be safe, be compassionate, use good judgement and continue to serve our patients.

December Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

As the final days of 2019 are upon us, on behalf of the Spokane Pharmacy Association Board, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

For many of us, there will be time spent with family, attending parties and exchanging gifts. I have the perfect idea for a gift. It’s a gift you give yourself. One size fits all. You don’t even have to wrap it. It is membership for 2020 in the Spokane Pharmacy Association.

The board welcomes six new board members for 2020 and will continue to offer you many opportunities to learn, socialize and contribute to the community. As always, we will continue to offer outstanding continuing education events (and will be ACPE approved). Social/networking events will consist of either physical events (we did hatchet throwing this last fall) or mental events (such as trivia which always seems to be popular with our members). And we plan to do more activities with the community in 2020 as well.

And don’t forget that we have our Annual Awards Banquet and Meeting on February 20th! This year we are offering an early bird discount when buying tickets to this great evening.

So renew your membership NOW and give yourself a gift that will last all of 2020.

Happy Holidays!

November Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

November is here and it seems like the days go by even faster than ever. I read an interesting story online today about a woman and her kids that ran in to a Target store to grab a few things. They were in a hurry, something I think we can all relate to. The woman was happy to find a check-out lane that only had one customer ahead of her, and that customer was already being rung out. But soon the mother realized that the customer was paying for each of her items separately and with cash and coins. The clerk was being very kind and helping the customer find the correct change for each purchase. The mother was like many of us, wondering how she had picked a slow check-out lane. But the mother then realized her kids were watching the kindness of the clerk. Suddenly the mother realized that this was one of those “teachable moments” with her kids. After the customer was finished, the mother paid for her things and commented to the cashier how patient he had been with the previous customer.

As the hours of daylight shorten this time of year, and we all start to feel the added pressures of the upcoming holidays, I think that for most of us, we become more hurried in everything we do. Do we know what’s going on in the personal lives of those we work with? Do we REALLY know? And how about with our friends and family? Do we REALLY know what is going on with them? Do we know what stresses they might be feeling? Students feel the pressure of deadlines and finals. I think we all know what that is/was like.

I’ve decided that I’m going to concentrate on avoiding some of the stresses that come this time of year. I’m going to be more patient with all those around me. That includes my family of course, but also those I work with and those I interact with each day. So for me, that includes my fellow pharmacists, technicians and interns, doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and especially patients. I try to be compassionate to all those people, but I know there are times when I’m rushed, and don’t give them the time they deserve. I hope that this year, I’ll take a deep breath when interacting with others, and try to better understand their needs. I urge you to do the same thing, for your sake as well as those around you!

September Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

As many parents sigh with relief that summer vacation is over, all of us return to a sense of normalcy. For students, they are back in class. For pharmacists and technicians, work changes slightly as fewer employees take vacation, prescription volume returns to a steady flow, and there are fewer phone calls to insurance companies for vacation overrides at retail sites.

As we all return to our routines, it’s a great time to make efforts to fix issues in the work or home environment and make our lives less stressful.

Have you heard of the 21/90 rule? It’s simple enough. If we commit to a goal or change for 21 days, it becomes a habit. If you continue for another 90 days, it will be a permanent lifestyle change.

So I challenge all of you to pick one or two things that you want to change. It can be something like workflow, your interactions with patients, your attitude toward others, or something personal.

Focus on the change until October 1st, and you stand a good chance of making that change a new habit.

Something that I did was to alter my morning routine. I am scheduled to start work at 7:45 and have about a 30 minute commute. But I leave home almost an hour early, so I feel relaxed in case there are traffic issues or if I want to run an errand prior to work. I find that doing this, creates a less stressful morning for me. I get a jump start on work and it makes for a good start to my work day.

So, what one or two habits do you want to alter? Get others around you to commit to making the change too if it’s a work related change. Remember, just 21 days and you’re on your way to making a new and better habit.

Good luck!

June Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

Time is flying and the longest day of the year (sunrise to sunset) is just around the corner on June 21st!

Did you know that on that day, we have 15 hours, 59 minutes and 33 seconds between sunrise and sunset in Spokane? We miss having 16 hours of sunlight by a mere 27 seconds! That is more than 7.5 more hours of sunlight than our shortest day in December.

Think of those people that live further north in the world. The difference is even more dramatic. A few years ago I was fortunate to travel to Alaska for work twice during that summer. Daylight lasted forever it seemed. I was in Anchorage for a total of about 5 weeks and loved that it was still dusk at midnight, but the long days really messed up my mind’s perception of when I should go to bed. We would be out eating dinner and enjoying the city and suddenly realize it was 11pm!

Of course the opposite is true in the winter when they have less than 5.5 hours of sunlight in Anchorage. Residents there told me that people force themselves to be active in the winter so that they don’t go crazy. There are lots of evening activities planned so that people don’t hibernate for the winter.

Our summer days are shorter here in Spokane than they are in Anchorage, but we still enjoy the late sunsets. It seems easy here to be active during those evenings. Summer can be a busy time with trips planned and active kids to watch over, but summer for most of us is an enjoyable time. For those in the education world, it is a break from the stresses of school.

The Spokane Pharmacy Association also takes a bit of a break during the summer. We typically don’t have continuing education programs or promote drug-company sponsored dinners during July and August. Social/networking events don’t start again until fall.

The board hopes that all of our members enjoy their summer, but hope you also look forward to those events starting again in the fall. We will be in touch again before summer is over, alerting you to what great things we have planned for the fall.

Have a great summer!

May Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

Last month I referenced the phrase, “April showers bring May flowers.” Spring is a great time because many things come back to life or bloom. As students graduate, it really is their time to bloom. All of the hard work that went in to this event (including being exposed to much fertilizer I’m sure the students would say) has finally paid off.

Pharmacy techs are in high demand in the area and can easily find jobs. But the same isn’t true for soon-to-be pharmacists. The increased number of pharmacy schools and greater enrollment numbers at each institution have taken us from a shortage of pharmacists a few years ago, to a surplus in many locations this year.

Those entering the job market are finding employers aren’t looking for additional pharmacists. It seems to me that for those looking for traditional positions in retail or hospital, are finding more success if they were interns for those employers. I think that there are two reasons for that. Most importantly, while working as an intern, employers see it as a great way to observe if that intern is a right fit for their organization. It’s similar to IPPE and APPE rotations. Employers and preceptors evaluate students and determine if they would be good hires. And secondly, I think employers are more likely to create positions or make part-time positions into full(er) time positions if they are familiar with candidates.

But as the pharmacy world changes, I think we as pharmacists (and technicians and students) need to help drive the future of pharmacy. Who better to steer our profession than those of us in practice? When I graduated pharmacy school, clinical pharmacist jobs were new. Think how far we’ve taken that concept. And when you consider jobs involving MTM (medication therapy management), immunizations, third party, specialized disease state management, anti-coagulation clinics and so many other areas, we’ve made huge progress in making our profession broader.

As the supply of pharmacists exceeds demand, it is a perfect time to expand our profession further. What ideas do you have? Are there untapped opportunities that need the attention of pharmacists? I think there are. It’s up to us to be creative and use our knowledge to become an even more important piece in healthcare.

April Newsletter

Message from the Board
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

We’ve all heard the phrase, “April showers bring May flowers.” And we all know the answer to, “What do Mayflowers bring?” Of course the answer is Pilgrims!

I think we are all happy that the showers we are having are rain showers and not snow showers. Spring is a time of rejuvenation outdoors. Trees bud, flowers bloom and our attitudes become sunnier as well. We are also familiar with the phrase “spring cleaning” which is sometimes long overdue. Maybe this spring we should all vow to rejuvenate our work routine and clean out our bad habits.

I know I fall into the habit of regurgitating patient consultation information on common drugs as if I were a robot. I have to watch myself to make sure I’m providing the information pertinent to that individual patient with each consultation. I have to ask myself, “What information would I want presented by a pharmacist if it was my family picking up a prescription?”

We can easily update or alter how we talk to patients. Perhaps you’ve read something new about a drug, share that with your staff and your patients if appropriate. Are we remembering to ask patients about new allergies, OTC drugs they might be taking and about issues they may be experiencing with their drug regimen?

I also find that I become complacent with how things are arranged in my pharmacy. I’ve been there for five years now, and just recently relocated some things in my pharmacy to improve workflow and rid our setting of unnecessary clutter. I guess that was my form of spring cleaning!

I think with the freshness of spring, we need to look at our work and see what we do with a fresh perspective. We all have the power to spruce up our work environment, weather it is cleaning dusty areas, rearranging things or as simple as looking at what we are wearing (ink stained white lab jackets, scrubs that are too big or small, tears or rips in our uniforms, dirty nametags, etc).

Let’s make spring a time for our professional renewal this year!

March Newsletter

March Madness
By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

It’s that time of year again as the days get longer, we “spring ahead” with our clocks, and March Madness overtakes the weather as the hot conversation topic. March Madness brings together some of the top college basketball teams in the country, showcasing superior athletic talent. Competition runs rampant and most people have a favorite team they cheer for. Some teams always seem to reach the “Sweet 16” and there are always a few underdogs that make it, and are the new kids on the block.

When I moved to Spokane in 1993, I was part of the new kids on the pharmacy block. Walgreens was new to Spokane and some of the regulars weren’t so happy to have us here. I remember calling to transfer prescriptions from competitors only to be told there were no refills remaining, yet the patient’s bottle showed something different. We were competition, and especially for independent pharmacies, we changed the pharmacy landscape in Spokane.

But just as that landscape has continued to change, so has the attitude of pharmacists and pharmacies. Every day I transfer prescriptions in from other pharmacies and transfer some out to others as well. My focus is that I want what is best for the patient. Sure I hate to lose business by transferring prescriptions out to other pharmacies, but in many cases it just makes sense. Perhaps the other pharmacy is more convenient for a patient, or is their “regular” pharmacy. Being located in a medical complex, I fill a lot of prescriptions for patients that are being dismissed from the hospital or from one of the providers in my building (so it’s convenient at the time for the patient).

But I think the mindset in pharmacies has changed in the last few years. As we perform MTM services, vaccinate patients, facilitate prior authorizations, coordinate patient care and other functions for them, I think we all have what is best for the patient at the forefront of our mind. I see this regularly in my IPPE and APPE student pharmacists as well. This is a focus for them in pharmacy school, and WSU does an outstanding job.

Although there will always be competition between pharmacies for business (so that we all stay in business), I think the real competition today is to provide the best service and care for our patients. That is the focus in pharmacy today: service and care for our patients.

February Newsletter

By: SPA Executive Vice President Steven Webbenhurst

When I say February, what comes to mind first? For me, it is Valentine’s Day. As you walk through almost any retail store, from Home Depot to the Dollar Store, you see something reminding you that Valentine’s Day is approaching. Pink and red hearts surround you as you pass by the displays, reminding you to get something for those you love.

Love–a word we use often. We love people, places, pets, hobbies, foods, almost anything. But do we love our jobs? Pharmacy has changed significantly since I graduated in 1984. Back then, most of my classmates entered the job market with positions at independent pharmacies or retail chains. About a quarter of them went into hospital pharmacy with a small minority finding clinical positions that were relatively new at that point.

As I said, the pharmacy world has changed. There are far fewer independent pharmacies these days and most pharmacy chains are booming. But that’s not the only difference. The healthcare world has opened up so many new opportunities for pharmacists over the last decade or two. Long term care positions have expanded. We have pharmacists that specialize in so many areas including nuclear, ambulatory care, MTM, compounding, manufacturer clinical liaisons and specialized pharmacists in all the disease states. And as the size and number of pharmacy schools has increased, so has the need for pharmacy faculty.

I hope you love your job as much as I love mine. If you don’t, there are so many areas to explore. There may be an area you have never considered that might be perfect for you. A great way learn about other areas is by attending one of our events (CE talks, social/networking events, annual banquet) and talking with other pharmacy professionals.

A number of years ago, North Idaho College was looking for a pharmacist to help with their pharmacy technician program. I ended up teaching 8 credit hours at NIC for several years in addition to working 42 hours a week as a pharmacy manager for Walgreens. I am still on their Pharmacy Technician advisory committee. When I was a district pharmacy supervisor for Walgreens, I stumbled across an early training session to become an immunizer and later became a trainer for the APhA program. I currently work at the Walgreens located on the Deaconess campus and we specialize in HIV and HepC. Having been a pharmacist for nearly 35 years, I attribute my job satisfaction to the various roles I’ve had over the years including my time serving on the Spokane Pharmacy Association board.

So my words of advice to both young and experienced technicians and pharmacists is to love your job, or find one that matches your skills and interests. That job is out there! Find it and live it!