Playing to One's Strengths: Communicating a Vision and Educating to Gain Buy-In

Alison KnutsonAlison Knutson, PharmD

Ambulatory Care & Leadership Resident, Park Nicollet
LEA Class of 2010

By Sarah Shore Anderson
LEA Class of 2013

Dr. Knutson completed the Leadership Emphasis Area in 2010 and the Pharmaceutical Care Leadership Residency in 2012. As she begins her pharmaceutical care practice at a Park Nicollet family medicine clinic, Alison reflects back on how her strengths and passions have allowed her to fully realize her potential as a leader.

Using Strengths to Develop Credibility

Alison is a pioneer having worked to establish the first medication therapy management (MTM) position at a Park Nicollet Family Medicine Clinic during the second year of her leadership residency. During her leadership course work at the College of Pharmacy, Alison found great value in exploring her Signature Themes (STs) of Communication, Activator, Competition, Significance, and Woo. These STs speak to her ability to influence, which helps her appeal to her audience.

In the beginning, Alison had to overcome some preconceived notions of the job functions of a “traditional” pharmacist. It took her five weeks to receive access to Epic as no one understood that she was not a dispensing pharmacist, but needed full access to a patient’s medical record to complete her job functions.

Alison feels very blessed to have had buy-in at Park Nicollet prior to becoming a MTM pharmacist at the site. All three pharmacy departments at her clinic (inpatient, outpatient, and drug utilization) were on board with integrating a pharmaceutical care practitioner into the design of the family medicine clinic. Molly Ekstrand (an established pharmaceutical care practitioner and residency preceptor) and Jen Morgan (a second year resident involved in practice development) were champions for Alison’s practice. Molly worked to educate the clinic executives on the value and benefit (i.e. improved clinical outcomes and decreased healthcare costs) of integrating MTM. Molly quickly gained the support of these executives, which allowed her to bring in Alison as a pharmaceutical care resident for the family medicine site.

Once Alison started working for Park Nicollet, she used her strengths relating to her STs of Communication and Woo by inviting clinic administrators to her appointments and educating them on her unique role in patient care. Through these interactions, Alison gained respect and trust, bringing credibility to her pharmaceutical care practice.

Alison also relied on her Influencing STs when having three different medical residents observe her work with patients. Alison has purposefully created this learning environment, similar to the learning environment she experienced as a first year resident at Smiley’s Clinic. Through these encounters, the medical residents learned from the questions Alison asked as well as her thought process. Having experienced MTM appointments, these residents can now actively advocate for pharmacy services and effectively direct their own patients to the pharmacist.

In particular, Alison’s Activator ST has had a positive effect in raising awareness of the MTM program at her Park Nicollet clinic. In order to become more visible at Park Nicollet and advertise the short-term wins of the MTM program, she helped develop a MTM snapshot on Epic. In this snapshot, all practitioners can see: how many patients have been referred to the MTM program, the top medical conditions seen by Dr. Knutson, the number of interventions made, and the positive patient outcomes generated by her pharmaceutical care practice. 

Commit to Leading Change 

Alison believes it is critical that students embrace the stages of change in order to effectively improve the health care system since “we can always be better and do more.” Alison’s advice for current LEA students is: “form a coalition!” When Alison tried to “go it alone” and implement new ideas, they never had the impact she had hoped. The projects where she had a team of people sharing a vision to implement and champion a project together were always the most rewarding.

Alison has shown her value throughout her second year of residency at this site, which is why she will be continuing her practice at Park Nicollet as a full-time pharmaceutical care practitioner. Her story displays the importance of committing to the process of leading change to “be better and do more” for our profession. 

June 2012