/publications/career/2007/Careers_2007-09/Careers_2007-09_5078

GROWING WITH AN EVER-CHANGING INDUSTRY: A CAREER WITH THE KROGER CO

Author: Barbara Sax

THE KROGER CO MAY BE ONE OF the largest supermarket chains in the country, but pharmacists who work for the company say that the practice setting is anything but impersonal.

Pharmacists who work for the national supermarket retailer, which had fiscal sales of $66.1 billion in 2006, say that the company?s commitment to professional development and patient service are compelling reasons to forge a career at Kroger.

?Kroger pharmacy departments are run by pharmacists from top to bottom, so patients always come first,? said Bengy Mitchell, PharmD, pharmacy recruiter for the Cin/Day Division. ?Our pharmacies are well staffed, so pharmacists are free to counsel patients. We have open, welcoming pharmacy areas where patients can feel comfortable speaking with the pharmacist.?

Dr. Mitchell knows plenty about the chain?s pharmacy setting. In his 11-year career, he has worked behind the pharmacy counter as well as on the management side of the business. ?Kroger has given me an opportunity to showcase my leadership skills,? he said. ?The company is committed to training not just its pharmacists, but its technicians and interns as well. Such training allows the pharmacists to counsel and interact with the patients.?

Founder Barney Kroger once said that success is not measured by how much merchandise you sell. ?Real success,? he said, ?is found in the development of and opportunity you provide for the people who are selling it.? That commitment to professional development is evident in the chain?s pharmacy division where patient care is always front and center.

The Cincinnati-based company, which operates many retail divisions across the United States, has been on the forefront of pharmacy patient care. For Jennifer Davis, pharmacy clinical coordinator at Kroger?s Fred Meyer division, the company?s progressive stance on bringing new health care services to its pharmacies is a key reason she has stayed at the chain for a decade.

Davis has worked for 3 divisions of Kroger in her 10-year career at the company and has seen the chain?s divisions continue to increase the scope of the clinical services it offers its customers.

?At Fred Meyer, our immunization program is not a mass clinic; it is a walk-up or appointment program,? said Davis. ?We can do that because our program is so well established. We do cholesterol screenings and not just at a few stores. We have over 100 cholesterol screening machines. Our new goal is to have all of our pharmacists trained to provide medication therapy management services.?

Pharmacists, said Davis, are trained to sit down with patients in a ?brownbag? consultation to help patients be more compliant, avoid drug interactions, and save money. ?Many chains do not have programs to help clinically develop their employees,? she said. ?These programs are not just offered in select stores, they are division-wide for us.?

The Fred Meyer division of Kroger also is the first pharmacy chain to be a part of the Asthma Control Test. ?We have piloted this GlaxoSmithKline program with Oregon State University, and we will be expanding this asthma program in the future,? she said.

Davis said that the opportunity to have a direct impact on her patients is extremely important to her, and she believes it is important to the pharmacists that Fred Meyer hires. ?Our stores are so busy that, in most stores, we always have overlap that allows a pharmacist to step away from the counter and really spend time with the patient,? she said. The focus on the clinical aspect of pharmacy gives pharmacists an opportunity to expand their skills and helps them grow as health care professionals.

The Fred Meyer division looks for professionals who are motivated and entrepreneurial. ?We look for self-initiators who have ideas about what they would like to do and think about how they can make it happen within our chain. Personally, I also love to see residency experience because I know how this valuable experience allows students to become incredible practitioners,? she said.

Mitchell agrees. ?We look for pharmacists who are caring, who want to counsel, and who are motivated and interested in growth and change,? he said. ?We want pharmacists to bring their skills and really grow and develop with the company.?

Both professionals experienced much of their career growth within the Kroger companies and have enjoyed the geographic mobility that a national company with over 2500 grocery stores can provide.

Davis began working at Kroger as a technician when she was 16. After pharmacy school, she took advantage of Kroger?s residency program at its Fry?s division in Arizona, then went on to become a floater pharmacist at a Kroger location in Atlanta. She transferred to Kroger?s Fred Meyer division as a floater pharmacist, but when a regional manager saw her curriculum vitae, she was urged to apply for her current position.

The ability to move throughout the chain is appealing to many pharmacists. Mitchell worked for Kroger in Atlanta and Nashville before moving to his current role in Cincinnati. ?I really appreciate the mobility and the ease of being able to move to another region while maintaining your seniority,? he said. Mitchell?s talent was recognized at Kroger as well?he began as a floater pharmacist and moved up the management ladder to his current position as pharmacy recruiter. His new job, which is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, is focused on minority outreach to improve the diversity within the pharmacy profession.

In her current position, Davis is focused on growing clinical programs. ?I would like to see our division increase our travel immunization program and move beyond screenings to offer management programs,? she said. ?I think we are moving toward management of care, and medication therapy management has been a great launching pad.?

She also believes Kroger will continue to find a way to generate non-dispensing revenue. ?I would love to see a rotating full-time or part-time person devoted only to clinical services providing asthma, diabetes, lipid management, and all our other clinical services,? she said.

Both Mitchell and Davis have seen their careers grow in different and exciting ways at Kroger. ?There are many ways that you can move in a company this large,? said Mitchell. ?Our recruiting slogan is ?more than you ever expected,? and I think that is true. Once pharmacists, interns, and technicians are hired into the company, they see all that is available for them. The pharmacy profession is continuing to grow and change, and Kroger will continue to grow and change with it.?