The Problem Solver: A Compounding Pharmacist

By HEATHER BURNEY | Pharm.D. & MPA Immediate Past President
and NATHAN ALDRICH | Pharm.D. Candidate

As Pharmacists, we are problem solvers on a daily basis, in a variety of situations and settings. By adding or expanding your pharmacy skill set to include compounding, you are able to extend your reach to solve problems for your patients, providers, and your community.
When adding a compounding practice to our existing community pharmacy setting many years ago, I felt it was important to educate our entire staff about the benefits of compounding. Most employees did not know what the term “compounding” in pharmacy even meant. “Isn’t that a banking term?”, or “Is that only for menopausal women?”, were just some of the questions I heard from employees and patients. Our cashiers and technicians often heard about my patient’s difficulties or problems with medications, or had more time to discuss the caretaking of someone’s elderly parents or the needs of their beloved golden retriever. If my staff understood how compounding could solve our patients problems, then they could introduce compounding to our customers and alert the pharmacist to a potential intervention. At one of our monthly staff meetings, I talked to my staff about how compounding could problem solve with a great customer service example I had recently read in a business journal. The story described the difference between a good response and a great customer service response to a dropped ice cream cone at a popular theme park. In one setting, the child drops the ice cream cone on the pristine sidewalk and an employee rushes over to clean up the mess as quickly and efficiently as possible, restoring the area to its sparkling glory. In the other setting, the child drops the ice cream cone, and an employee rushes over to clean up the mess as quickly and efficiently as possible, restoring the area to its sparkling glory … AND … gives the child a new ice cream cone putting a smile back on the child’s face. This simple story exemplifies what we as pharmacists are capable of doing … a systematic and efficient job that solves a problem and also provides the patient with a sense that we care about helping them and about putting a smile on their face.
If the needs in your community could be eased by a compounding practice, I suggest that you start by spending some time on IACP’s (International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists) website ( You will be inspired to dive into compounding areas such as veterinary, pediatrics, hospice or palliative care, hormone therapies, pain management, or assisting providers with critical drug shortages. Although most pharmacists participated in compounding labs during their pharmacy school years, I encourage additional education in the specialty areas and training on the variety of available compounding equipment. By striving for a competent compounding practice, some compounding pharmacies follow the high standards set to eventually achieve PCAB (Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board) Accreditation, providing assurance to patients and prescribers that their pharmacy meets the highest quality and safety standards.There are many material suppliers that provide not only raw materials and equipment for a compounding practice, but training and education, software, and consulting services.  As with any medical supplier, it is important to be selective and ensure that the supplier adheres to good manufacturing guidelines and strict quality controls.

With a patient’s compounding question, my motto was to always say “yes”, we can solve their dilemma.  The solution may not be the first approach we try or even the first method that the patient or provider suggests, and we may even have to refer the patient to another compounding pharmacy with specialty equipment, but we have the knowledge and ability to help.

There is no better feeling than seeing the gratitude in someone’s eyes when you have solved a medication problem for them.  We are the medication experts, able to leap tall buildings, or, at least, solve a problem, in a single bound.

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