Know Your Education Department

By Malcolm Fleschner

When you’re selling in a hospital, it’s good to know the nuances that make each hospital unique as well as the similarities most hospitals share. With this knowledge to guide you, says pharmaceutical and biotech training expert Paul Pinsonault, the right approaches and selling tactics can help you succeed with almost any hospital in your territory. One specific hospital division Pinsonault suggests pharmaceutical representatives approach is the medical education department.

Typically, a hospital’s medical education department is headed by a director who runs the office of education and coordinates the hospital’s continuing medical education (CME) efforts. The CME component is significant because it is responsible for keeping physicians, surgeons, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals on top of the industry’s latest developments. So what does that have to do with you, the sales rep?

“Your role as a pharmaceutical sales representative is important to the medical education department,” Pinsonault says, “because the support you provide enables the office of education to impart new knowledge, teach new skills and develop appropriate physician-patient relationships through seminars, workshops, review courses and other educational activities. In addition to clinical topics, hospital exhibits or displays you provide can impart new and current information about your products to all health professionals. By working through the office of education, you can contribute valuable suggestions for topics and speakers for Grand Rounds seminars.”

Pinsonault recommends pharmaceutical reps first meet with the director of education and explain why they’re in the hospital. Pinsonault recommends discussing ways to provide continuing education services for physicians, nurses and the pharmacy staff, including the ability to provide these services free of charge; encouraging the most effective use of your products; helping control budgets by getting the best price available for the hospital pharmacy; and keeping medical staff apprised of new products.

“Most clinicians prefer educational activities with a practical, clinical focus,” he says. “These materials may be printed, recorded or computer-assisted instructional materials that can be used over time at various locations and constitute a planned activity of continuing medical education.”

Pinsonault cites, as examples of educational materials that promote independent learning by physicians, programmed CME courses, audiotapes, videotapes and computer-assisted instructional materials that can be used alone or in combination with written materials. The distance learning activities he cites include monographs, journal supplements, audiocassettes, videocassettes, CD-ROMs, Internet-based activities, audio-teleconferences, videoconferences and visiting faculty programs.

Overall, Pinsonault recommends determining how all the key departments in a hospital operate and what role they play in the way the institution functions. Building strong rapport in the medical education department by showing how you can support educational efforts also should open doors for you with other departments.

For more information, contact Pinsonault Associates at or call 1-800-372-9009.