KMART: "THE SAVINGS PLACE" AS A WORKPLACE

Author: Wendy K. Bodine

KMART HAS A LONG HISTORY OF customer service. The first Kmart store was opened in 1962 by the S.S. Kresge Company, which already had a successful chain of five-and-dime stores. The first Kmart Pharmacy was introduced in 1968, and the success of this store encouraged the opening of Kmart pharmacies across the nation. Today, Kmart?s 1114 pharmacies serve the customers of 46 states (including Hawaii), the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The 2005 merger of Kmart Holding Corp with Sears, Roebuck & Co created Sears Holdings Corp, the third largest retailer in the United States, paving the way for the introduction of Kmart pharmacies in the new Sears Essentials stores, which will occupy 25 former Kmart locations nationwide.

Kmart encourages their pharmacists to get involved with their patients by focusing on counseling to help their patients improve their health care. The chain offers a variety of pharmacy positions to meet the needs of both their patients and their pharmacists, including floater pharmacists who fill in when the regular pharmacist needs time off, and graduate and student interns who gain vital career knowledge under the tutelage of learned senior pharmacists.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Howard Kramer, RPh, is the director of pharmacy human relations and government affairs for Kmart Pharmacy. He described the kind of pharmacist that Kmart is looking to hire: ?People who want to provide the best of pharmacy care to their patients and customers. Pharmacists should be able to communicate with their patients effectively in order to help them with their medication therapies whenever possible.? Kramer believes that communication is one of the most important tools that any pharmacist can have. ?Patients are looking for opportunities to learn from the pharmacist,? he said. ?The pharmacist must have the desire and the ability to communicate.?

Kramer also described how Kmart goes about looking for potential pharmacy recruits. ?Our pharmacy recruiting team consists of district coaches who recruit on campuses as well as in the community. We are always on the lookout for pharmacists who have the capability and the aspiration to provide outstanding patient care. Our coaches attend major recruiting events across the country, as well as the American Pharmacists Association mid-year regional meetings. In addition to on-campus events, we utilize all electronic media as well [to find the right candidates]; we participate with e-bulletin boards, job boards for pharmacists, and pharmacy college Web sites.? Kramer encourages pharmacy students to check out Kmart Pharmacy for themselves. ?We urge students to visit Kmart Pharmacy and speak with a pharmacist. Talk to them about what opportunities exist.?

DESIGNED TO SERVE

Kmart provides sufficient staffing at each pharmacy based on the volume of prescriptions, so pharmacists can have the time to help patients understand their medications and provide additional counseling. The company also hosts Healthcare Clinics, where pharmacists team up with other local health care providers to educate their patients about managing different disease states and maintaining healthier lifestyles. They offer screenings for cholesterol and high blood pressure, bone mineral density testing, lipid level testing and monitoring, flu clinics, and programs to help patients quit smoking. Kmart pharmacists can receive special certification training to prepare them to work in the clinics. Patients appreciate the convenience of Kmart Pharmacy clinics; in 2006, more than 400 Kmart flu clinics administered over 20,000 vaccines. The company also has designed a Diabetes Kare Program, which focuses on helping patients manage the disease. This program is available at every Kmart Pharmacy.

Kmart also offers KARxE, which Kramer described as ?Kmart?s assurance of prescription excellence.? KARxE is a quality guarantee program that takes pharmacists through a sequence of regulated checks and balances to make sure that a quality check is done on every prescription, helping to prevent possible dispensing errors. Kramer said that the program ??is a workflow process that all our pharmacists, techs, and interns must be trained in; a step-by-step [procedure] that requires those filling prescriptions to check and double-check [every point] throughout the filling process.? The program gives more of the routine prescription-filling duties to pharmacy technicians, freeing the pharmacist to focus more on patient counseling, while still ensuring safe and accurate prescription processing. Kramer said that Kmart has been using this system for a number of years, and ?many [of our] pharmacists?testify that the program, when followed, leads to improved prescription accuracy.?

THE SKY?S THE LIMIT

Many Kmart pharmacists start out as interns who receive real-world experience at a Kmart Pharmacy while extending their university-based education. Students work with drug utilization reviews, counsel and interact with patients, and communicate with others in the health care profession. The company?s educational leave of absence allows interns to work summers while earning their licenses, which enables them to keep their original employment dates if they accept a pharmacist position after they graduate and obtain their licenses. Certain colleges of pharmacy even have scholarship programs through Kmart. Kramer said, ?Training is an important part of our pharmacy indoctrination for all team members. We are in the process of developing a new intern training program by year of education, and we also provide pharmacists with required reference material. We also send out a regular pharmacists? letter to all our pharmacists and interns, and we allow them complete Internet access so they can obtain any available online reference material.?

From a staff pharmacist position, the pharmacist can move up as high as he or she wishes. The pharmacy coach position handles the financial information of the pharmacy, much like a retail manager, and also deals with scheduling and inventory for their store, as well as running clinics. In addition, a Kmart pharmacist may work as a ?shared pharmacist,? working at different stores at any given time. From there, he or she can move on to become a floating pharmacist who works in a number of stores to fill in for other pharmacists on leave. The floating pharmacist also works closely with the pharmacy district coach to help with scheduling, inventory, and management of several stores in one district. This position allows the pharmacist to obtain a wider knowledge of the details of pharmacy operations, making them prime candidates for further promotion to district coach and on to corporate management positions.

Kramer explained why Kmart refers to their supervisors as ?coaches? rather than ?managers.? He said that Kmart helps their pharmacists ?improve their performance by coaching? them. ?Certainly management is part of the responsibility of the district coaches, and in order to maximize performance, we strive to provide the coaching necessary to achieve that goal. Our company has a ?road map to greatness,? which has a number of points that we provide to all our employees, and the first mission point is to serve customers well. The coach?s focus is on customers and on building and aligning teams. Kmart is looking to attract, retain, and develop the best people aligned around our mission, our passion, and our goals.?