Episode 11: Pharmacist Moms Supporting Pharmacy Technician Moms

Jeremy Sasser - July 20, 2020

Work/life balance can be difficult to achieve, especially for working professionals who also carry the title of “mom.”  In this episode, Jeremy and Jessica interview Dr. Suzy Soliman, the founder of the Facebook group “Pharmacist Moms.” 

Launched in 2017, the Pharmacist Moms Facebook group has amassed ~35,000 members… all moms, all pharmacists.  Since the early 2000s, the number of pharmacy school graduates has been on the rise, with women making up the majority during most of those years. Since women now make up a growing part of the pharmacy community, Soliman had the idea was to create a supportive community to share ideas, frustrations, and tips on parenting, advancing their career, or just have fun.  Because of the group’s success, there is now a subgroup for pharmacy technician moms.  Throughout this episode, we discuss why it's important for technicians to have an outlet of their own to help each other move toward achieving a healthy work/life balance. 

Read the Full Transcript

Jeremy Sasser: Pharmacy podcast nation, thank you for joining us once again with OnScript powered by NHA, the only podcast on the Pharmacy Podcast Network dedicated to pharmacy technicians, their struggles, their successes, their interesting stories and anything in between. And today, I am joined by my awesome co-host Jessica Langley.

Jessica Langley: Hello everyone. Glad to be here.

Jeremy Sasser: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Very excited today about our guest. Joining us today is Dr. Suzanne Soliman. She is the founder of Pharmacists Moms, a group of pharmacists who are moms that is on Facebook and has become one of, if not the largest Facebook group on Facebook, certainly in pharmacy circles. So we're really excited to have her. And welcome.

Suzanne Soliman: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jeremy Sasser: Yeah, thank you. And so, can you kind of... Before we get into the minutia, can you just kind of give us a background on how you started Pharmacist Moms, why you started Pharmacist Moms?

Suzanne Soliman: Sure. So Pharmacist Moms started in 2017. I can't believe it's been that long, but... I was struggling with work-life balance. And I was working nights, working evenings as most pharmacists do. And as my kids got older, and my son who was really active in sports, I was missing every single Saturday game for soccer and for baseball. And it just felt really guilty.

Suzanne Soliman: So one night in the spring, after missing his baseball game, I said, "I must not be the only pharmacist out there." I went to pharmacy school and thought that this is a great job. I heard, "This is a great job for a mom." And then I found myself just working all the time and I was like, I need to ask other pharmacist, have they, are they struggling with this too? Let me ask other moms too, who are pharmacists. Because I love my career, I love what I do, but at the same time I want to spend more time with my kids.

Suzanne Soliman: That night I started the group on Facebook, I invited about 50 people that I knew either through pharmacy school, residency or that I worked with. And within a month it was at a thousand people. And today, two years later, we are... Gosh! Almost 35,000 members right now. So, really just grew exponentially.

Jessica Langley: That's amazing to think that so many people out there share a commonality with you. In this sense, it's that the fact that they're pharmacists and moms. And I think there's a lot of professions out there that probably have similar struggles that could learn from some of the things that you're doing and I'm sure that you're addressing in this particular group. So tell us a little bit more about some of the hottest topics or the most common questions that come up. And then kind of the feedback that you get through the Facebook group.

Suzanne Soliman: Yeah, sure. So I think we pretty much talk about anything and everything. I think anything and everything is the fair game, whether it's professional life struggles or pharmacy struggles, mom life struggles. We have a whole column that's NPR, Not Pharmacy Related, so you might talk about your partner, or your children, or going back to school. There are so many topics that get talked about.

Suzanne Soliman: I would say some of the hottest topics or issues that we work on specifically have been really related to women in the workplace. Right now, women make up the majority of pharmacists. So they're... About two thirds of pharmacists are female. And for the past 40 years women have graduated as the majority of pharmacists. But there really wasn't an organization up until Pharmacist Moms that talks about or looked at women in pharmacy as closely as we have.

Jessica Langley: That's great. And is the dynamic changing? Are there more women pharmacists being found in like leadership roles and things like that? Because I'm sure part of what you do is talking about, "Hey, what do I need to do to advance my career? What can I do to work to get into that job or that role that I've always wanted?"

Suzanne Soliman: That's such a great question. And I think that there are more women in leadership roles, but not to the numbers that there are pharmacists women. So to break it down, we have so many more women that are pharmacists for the past 40 years they've graduated as majority. But really, if you look at the CEOs of the big chains and all of these pharmacy companies, the majority of them are still the CEO where their leadership is a man.

Suzanne Soliman: So women are slowly trickling up into some of these leadership roles. I think one of the biggest numbers that really hit me was that, in the year 2000, compared to the year 2020, there were basically double the amount of pharmacy schools. So you would assume, "Okay, well there's doubling amount of schools, where has the number of head CEO, deans been? And that number is still 25% female. So even with having double the amount of pharmacy schools, and all women have been graduating for the past 20 years as the majority. There still isn't a shift for women as the CEO dean, it's still 75% men. So I don't think that women represent themselves in leadership positions based on the number of women pharmacists right now.

Jessica Langley: Right. Definitely something to keep top of mind, whether it's in pharmacy or other health related roles, I am fairly certain that the statistics are comparable to what's being seen in the pharmacy industry as well. So any chance that women can promote themselves, and elevate themselves, and empower themselves to move up is certainly an awesome topic to talk about and to learn more about. Talk to me just a little bit about what you feel like is the biggest benefit that individuals get from engaging with their peers through your group.

Suzanne Soliman: Wow. I think there are so many benefits. I think one, for me, at least I can speak myself as a pharmacist is just to know that you're not alone. I think having that support system as a mom, as a woman having that understanding. There have been stories where someone says, "This happened to me, has this ever happened to you? Have you heard of a situation like this? Have you ever faced a situation like this? And all of a sudden, and you'll see hundreds, if not thousands of people commenting and saying, "Yes, that happened to me. I went through something similar. This is what you could do." And real time help.

Suzanne Soliman: And just thinking about the pharmacy too. Even for the pharmacy techs who work in community, they probably are really familiar. You get a script from a physician, it's handwritten, so it wasn't prescribed and no one can read it. One of the best things that I think our group does is you can take a pic, post it and ask questions, "Hey, what do you think this says?" A lot of times, pharmacists are operating alone. They might have a tech with them, they might not. So it's been great for that support around the clock. It could be the middle of the night. A lot of our overnight pharmacist I know communicate with one another or could be later during the day as well.

Jeremy Sasser: That's great. I think a group like this really resonates with the profession of pharmacy. Because from the time you're in pharmacy school, through pharmacy school and now with more and more residency programs going through residency, pharmacists are used to having a mentor, right? Or somebody that is furthering their education and application of their education in a clinical setting. So I think it's a natural fit for a group like this to be full of mentors and mentees and really just getting anything from, "ow do you get healthy meals on the table every day, every night, what have you?" To, "I'm really struggling with work life balance."

Suzanne Soliman: Right. Exactly. So there are so many issues that we face. And even right now... Actually, I was talking to a pharmacist yesterday in the group and we were just saying that social distancing has really impacted a lot of the pharmacists in our group. Not just because women are still working, but now a lot of us had cleaning services. We don't have cleaning help and more at home. So now we're cleaning the house, still working. We're homeschooling our kids. Before, they were going to school so they're doing that.

Suzanne Soliman: And also the majority of women in our group or not eating out as much. So prior to that, a lot of them were saying they were going out to eat five times a week, six times a week. Whether, it was for lunch or for dinner. And now, everyone's cooking almost three meals a day. So it's really impacted the women in our group significantly with what's going on right now and currently in public health.

Jeremy Sasser: Yeah. I mean, I know all three of us can speak to the struggles, probably with homeschooling. I have three kids, my own and my wife and I kind of break up that role and it's really easy to beat yourself up if you don't accomplish what you think you should be able to accomplish while you're doing that. And I think, at least from my experience, even more so for my wife.

Jeremy Sasser: So having other people to reach out to, to get information, to get help or just to talk, just to commiserate, especially during this time of social distancing, I think is so important. Can you just briefly tell us, if I wanted... If I was a pharmacy mom and I wanted to join the group, what's the best way to go about that?

Suzanne Soliman: So the easiest way is just to look for us on Facebook. You can type in Pharmacist Moms Group and go to that link. Or you can go to facebook.com/back/groups/Pharmacist Moms Group. That's easiest way to join the group. That we also have a website and I encourage everyone to sign up on our website. On our website, you can join that as well. We have a career database, so if we have job listings... And we also offer a lot of discounts to various items. As a member of the group, you can get discounts to different databases, different certifications. So a lot of things that the pharmacist... Even clothing, scrubs. Those are few types of discounts that pharmacists can get by joining the database.

Jeremy Sasser: Okay, that's great. And what is the website?

Suzanne Soliman: It's www.pharmacistmomsgroup.com.

Jeremy Sasser: Perfect. Now, to switch gears a little bit, a lot of pharmacy technicians out there who are moms, what role can pharmacy technicians play? Or what do you envision now that you've really established this group of moms that are pharmacists? What do you envision for pharmacy technicians? Because I'm sure they're going to have some similar issues, some dissimilar issues, but again, relating all to each other being on the same... Really being able to relate to the role, what about pharmacy technicians?

Suzanne Soliman: So we actually started a group called Pharmacist Moms Pharmacy Techs, and it's basically a sub-group of our group. We started it in 2018 but we haven't really done much. And it would be something similar, where it would be a group only for pharmacy techs. Pharmacists aren't in the groups. So if you have a question like, "Hey, my pharmacist is doing this." Or, "I'm thinking about switching jobs and you don't want your pharmacist to know." So it would be really a group that would be private and exclusive to pharmacy technicians.

Suzanne Soliman: Right now we have almost 300 members in it. But we pretty much would love to do the same exact thing for women in pharmacy who are techs to just offer that support group to each other as well.

Jeremy Sasser: Now, a Facebook group with 35,000 people cannot be managed, I would think, by one person. So do you have help with managing people who want to join the group or responding to questions, et cetera? You have folks that help you with that?

Suzanne Soliman: Yeah, that's a great question. So we do, yeah. In terms of the.., We have different... Every moderator in my group has a different function. So we have one person who verifies everybody who's admitted into the group. So they get their information, they verify that they're a pharmacist, that they are who they say they are, and then they let that person in. We have other ones who just moderate the board and the posts and make sure that everything is okay with what's being posted. We have other ones who look at some of the research studies.

Suzanne Soliman: So we have quite a big interest of a lot of people who are interested in doing research. And so they do reach out and they ask if they can do research. So we have one person who kind of sifts through all of those questions to ensure that whatever research is going to be done, is in accordance with what we're looking to do. So everyone kind of has their own little role as well.

Jeremy Sasser: That's great. And I imagine to really get the pharmacy technician group off the ground, right now you have 300 members, I'm sure that you're probably looking to find a member of that group, this pharmacy technician that might be willing to spearhead certain roles or recruiting people who might want to do some of those roles as well.

Suzanne Soliman: Definitely. We are very... We really need someone like that. We're looking for one or two pharmacy tech champions who would say, "You know what, I'm really interested in this. I have a strong interest in women and women issues. And a pharmacy tech, I'd love to help." We are looking for a couple champions. So if anyone listening is interested, they can reach out to me. They can send an email or message Pharmacist Moms directly. That would be great.

Suzanne Soliman: We definitely know that there would be interest and we just need someone to kind of moderate it and keep it going. You're right, there's so much going on and there are so many posts. Last year, we had over 6 million posts. So yeah, for one person to do it is possible. And so, even for this group we'd love to have a couple champions on the pharmacy tech group.

Jeremy Sasser: I mean, I struggle on the daily just with social media like LinkedIn and Facebook. That's the only two platforms that I use. And I know that I'm certainly not posting enough on LinkedIn or Facebook or anything like that. So it can be quite time consuming, especially when you have such a large group. So that's great. And we will have all of the information that somebody who... If there's a pharmacy tech out there listening right now, hopefully, and this sounds like something you'd want to do, definitely, look at the resources that we'll post that and get in touch with the group and help them out.

Jeremy Sasser: Because I think this is so worthwhile to, again, have that mentorship available that you can discuss these things with people who understand. Who understands what it's like, at least right now, to be worried about coming home and being embraced as soon as you walk in the door. I think that's absolutely fantastic.

Jessica Langley: I think that's, now more than ever, considering with what we're dealing with, we're... I know I'm constantly even on the news and in social media, seeing the stories of our healthcare heroes that are going out there every day and facing the battles against this corona virus. And then knowing that they're coming home to their families and having to deal with a lot of those other things that you mentioned, such as just cooking dinner or helping with schoolwork, the laundry, and the cleaning, all of those kinds of things, our world has literally been turned upside down.

Jessica Langley: And Susie, I've noticed you have been posting a lot of things on LinkedIn. Tell me just a few of the things that you've been kind of doing or promoting during this kind of corona virus crisis to help moms, singularly, but also moms in healthcare specifically.

Suzanne Soliman: We're trying to really just help manage anxiety stresses. So we've done a couple of yoga sessions within our group. I'm trying to really focus on things... We've talked about... Kind of what Jeremy touched on earlier too is to make sure that it's okay that you know that you don't have to do everything. Like you missed an assignment, you forgot to turn it in. I'm thinking right now, I just remembered my eight year old, I never turned in his math homework today. He did it, but it's my fault because I still didn't submit it.

Suzanne Soliman: But I think one of the things that, we just have to be reasonable and not so hard on ourselves that we're all in this together. There are quite a few members in my group who are currently suffering from anxiety and stress just working in the stores on the front lines. And I think that, letting them know that we're all in it together, we will try to do whatever it takes to support everyone, is what we're planning planning to do as well.

Jeremy Sasser: Yeah, that's, that's great. And again, so timely with everything that's going on right now.

Jessica Langley: I'm not sure we would have ever thought that we'd be doing virtual yoga or virtual meditation.

Suzanne Soliman: Exactly. And-

Jessica Langley: Things like that. So it's just amazing how everybody has kind of flexed and innovated during this kind of crazy times. I know along with the help of NHA, and you also do a lot with pharmacy times, with which NHA also has a great partnership with. I know there's lots of information that can be found out there within all of our organizations on, not only how to get connected into Pharmacist Moms Group or the Pharmacy Technician Moms Group, but also, we encourage everyone to think a healthcare superhero.

Jessica Langley: If you go out to NHA's LinkedIn page as well, you can find information there on... Just send a note to someone if you know that they're on the front lines and going to work every day and still dealing with the stresses. Just imagine the things that they're seeing, and hearing, and coping with, the families and the individuals that they're caring for. It's just... It really is unprecedented times right now. And we know pharmacy professionals are in the thick of it. So...

Suzanne Soliman: Yeah, definitely. And I think those really go really far. I think all of the notes or just the acknowledgement to someone. We've been seeing some patients even... So some pharmacists have been posting like yesterday or the day before, a patient had hung up a sign outside of her pharmacy just thanking her for everything she's been doing. So I think there's so many things that the public has done.

Jessica Langley: Right. And we rely on them for so much more than we probably realize and take a lot of it for granted. And making sure we get our medications that we need during a time whether accessibility is a little iffy and things like that. And definitely to the point where pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can, hopefully very soon, start helping in the detection or testing of the coronavirus along with, as soon as it's available, being able to vaccinate for that as well. So I know... Just for me, thank you Susie so much for all you do in supporting these professionals because we know they all need it right now.

Suzanne Soliman: No, thank you. I think it's also important to us to support each other. Like we had a pharmacist mom who posted... We're posting it actually today. But she treated her whole staff, all her techs to these really nice cupcakes. So I think we also have to just support one another. We're all in this together, so...

Jeremy Sasser: Absolutely. All right. I have one last question. As the male on this podcast, what is a way that us men can really support these Pharmacy technicians Pharmacist Moms?

Suzanne Soliman: Great question. So we have a lot of... We call them ambassadors. But we have a lot of male supporters. You can still like our page and follow along. Pharmacy techs and pharmacists are still eligible for the discounts if they're men or women. So those are all still available. But really just showing support to everyone and bringing up the issues and being aware of them, I think all of those are really important.

Jeremy Sasser: Absolutely. That's fantastic. Well, Susie, we can't thank you enough for joining us today. As a reminder to our listeners, if you want to get ahold of us, you can email us at onsprit@hnhanow.com. You can find this podcast, as well as all of our other podcasts, posted to our blog site at www.nhanow.com/learning-leading. Under the on-demand tab, you will find all of our podcasts. And of course, you can always find this on Apple Podcasts as well.

Jeremy Sasser: Susie, we wish you and your family the best during this time. Hopefully, it will end sooner than later. But we sincerely hope that you stay well, as well, as all of the 35,000 Pharmacists Moms members and the 300 or so Pharmacy Technician, Moms members that are in your Facebook group. We wish everyone the best.

Suzanne Soliman: Thank you. Thanks so much.

Jeremy Sasser: Until next time, listeners, thank you for listening ON-Script and we'll be back with another episode ASAP. Thank you.