Pharmacy work is hard work. You’re expected to provide exceptional patient care in the most hectic and stressful of situations. Furthermore, you have to jump through all these productivity hoops and still be an exceptional leader.

Strong leadership means keeping cool in stressful situations. It also means listening to your staff and patients with whatever they need. That’s where practicing empathy comes in.

Empathy is the heartbeat of your relationships with patients and coworkers. Practicing empathy helps you take your independent pharmacy to the next level.

Here’s how you can practice empathy in your independent pharmacy.

The Proven Power of Empathy

Here at PioneerRx, we know that patient care goes beyond selling or filling prescriptions. It doesn’t end after the receipt prints out. Patient care is a continuous and ongoing venture.

Empathy is a critical item in your pharmacy toolkit. A listening ear separates good independent pharmacies from great ones. While you know empathy is important in the pharmacy realm, there is still a way to go.

A survey by the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice found that 53.4% of pharmacist subjects had low levels of empathy.

The study attributed the alarmingly high figure to a combination of physical and mental fatigue, higher age, and differing levels of experience.

It is worth noting that while the study focused on independent pharmacies in Lebanon, much of its findings are relevant to American independent pharmacies.

Showing empathy in your independent pharmacy is an unspoken pull factor. Your techs and clerks are more likely to stay with your independent pharmacy if you are a more empathetic leader.

Likewise, your empathetic leadership will encourage patients to stick with your independent pharmacy. They trust an empathetic leader to help guide them through their health journey.

Continue to practice empathy in your independent pharmacy to further build your loyal patient base.

Listen to Your Patients

The easiest way to practice empathy in your independent pharmacy is to simply listen to your patients. Everyone’s health journey is different, albeit with a common purpose: to be their happiest and healthiest selves.

More often than not, you interact with your patients with that intention. No matter how big or small, respond to their questions or comments with an extra bit of kindness.

Adopt a friendlier tone when speaking with them, which can also de-escalate tense interactions ahead of time.

But you have to do more than speak kindly to practice empathy. That’s where active listening comes in.

Practice Active Listening

The United States Institute of Peace defines active listening as a “way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.”

The independent pharmacy industry is a dense and extremely complicated one. It is crucial to achieving a mutual understanding with your patients (and vice versa).

Practicing active listening puts your patients at ease, making the trip to your independent pharmacy less worrisome. Some patients dread going to the pharmacy just like this writer drags their feet to the dentist’s office.

Make your patients feel seen and heard — because they truly are. Active listening is a subtle but profound way to practice empathy in your empathy. As they say, a little bit goes a long way.

Practice Empathy Towards Your Staff

Pharmacy work takes a village. An effective pharmacy team is greater than the sum of its parts. And that team becomes even more complete when they gain a mutual understanding of one another.

You can adopt active listening to your fellow teammates as you would with your patients. It’s one of the many ways to practice empathy towards your staff.

Everyone has bad days.  Regardless if you stand in front of the pharmacy counter or behind it, empathy never goes out of style.

That especially applies to your pharmacy techs. They are at the frontlines of customer service — filling prescriptions, selling them, and typing them up.

Patients will sometimes go to your pharmacy without talking to you (or another staff pharmacist) at all, which gives your techs an enormous responsibility.

Let your techs know that you’re always on their side. As we mentioned in our “Celebrate Your Staff This Pharmacy Technician Day,” techs are the glue that holds the industry together.

They are an invaluable part of your independent pharmacy’s success. Practice empathy by listening to their comments and concerns. Answer their questions with thoughtful responses.

Remind them that they are the lifeblood of your independent pharmacy. Practicing empathy means always being honest.

Empathy in the Independent Pharmacy

As an independent pharmacist, you already know how independent practices differ from your big chain counterparts. You don’t have to cut through the jungle of red tape to start working.

You also don’t need to worry as much about arbitrary quotas or seizing imaginary brass rings. You are the master of your own destiny, putting your stamp on the industry.

That’s precisely what makes empathy in your independent pharmacy absolutely essential. In many ways, it is what separates you from chain pharmacies.

That’s not to say chain pharmacists aren’t empathetic — they absolutely are. But they have to do so while walking the corporate tightrope.

Independent pharmacies simply have that charm and homeliness that others wish for. Use that to your advantage. Patients go to your small business for a reason.

Not only is it just around the corner from their house, but your staff knows their name and gives them a friendly greeting when they walk in.

Just a small greeting can make a mountain of difference for your patients. It can make their day. You never know what they’re going through. Practice empathy and you’ll help make their days a little better.

And if you can make the patient experience smoother and more convenient, the sky’s the limit for your independent pharmacy’s success. The same will be the case for your patient’s health journey.


Practicing empathy is not easy, especially in the middle of a hectic pharmacy workflow. But it is a necessary component of your pharmacy’s long-term success. Practice empathy to become a proper pillar of the community.

Medications make your patients live healthier lives. But empathy helps make life easier, healthier, and happier.

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