By Hadar Zaman, Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, University of Bradford
Soft skills can often be overlooked in the grand scheme of what makes a good pharmacist. Here I have outlined several areas in which pharmacists must improve in order to provide the best patient care possible; some valuable soft skills for pharmacists.
Interpersonal Communication Skills
A lot of our communication is done through nonverbal actions such as gestures, facial expressions or body language. Using our voice to communicate information is only the tip of the iceberg. Interpersonal communication skills are vital for pharmacists and can be the difference between patients understanding how to take the medicines, ensuring optimal therapeutic benefit, or the patient misunderstanding their medicines resulting in compliance issues. Students often think communication is about effective speaking but there is much more to communication, such as active listening, reflecting and clarifying, and ensuring you have heard and understood what was intended by the patient. Developing all these skills, verbal and non-verbal, will enable you to deliver effective consultations with patients leading to better decision making and better outcomes for patients.
Effective teamwork is critical in pharmacy. Regardless of which sector you practice in, undoubtedly you will be in a team. Teamwork is about understanding that every individual has different strengths and weaknesses, and then working together to efficiently and smoothly deliver results. You need to demonstrate and have an understanding of the different dynamics of a team. There are different roles that individuals play within a team from a leader, to a thinker (generating ideas) to a doer. To be an effective team player you need to show a range of skills involved in teamwork such as listening, questioning, encouraging, participating and sometimes leading. As students you should be able to demonstrate how you have worked in team and delivered a successful outcome/project, while simultaneously highlighting your specific role and how this contributed towards achieving the goal. Students should appreciate the complexities involved in teamwork, and translating them to the real world of pharmacy practice.
Problem Solving and Analytical Skills
As a pharmacist, you will be involved in solving complex problems, from managing patients on multiple medications with possible interactions, to recommending the most appropriate treatment for a patient. As students you problem solve on a daily basis; putting together a dissertation plan or when you’re doing a case based pharmaceutical care plan for a patient. ‘Problem Solving’ can often have some negative connotations. However, problems can also be opportunities that allow you to see things differently and approach situations differently – make a fresh start. As students you should be aware of the key skills required to solve problems, and the thought process and planning one goes through to find a successful resolution. Problem solving requires you to possess various qualities such as analytical skills, creative (lateral thinking) skills, and logical reasoning. In the current NHS there is a huge drive to implement quality improvement strategies and as pharmacists, we are part of this. This requires identifying problems or a better way of doing something, researching and implementing your solution, and most importantly, having the personal resilience to not give up if something goes wrong but seeking an alternative way around the problem.