/publications/issue/2005/2005-07/2005-07-9670

The Benefits of a Community Pharmacy Resident

Author: Don Calhoun

The first question on an owner's mind when asked about joining a residency affiliate program is likely to be, "What's in it for me?"We all have that basic instinct to think about how a particular program will affect us. There are many reasons to participate in a residency program. The best reason is that you will get a chance to mentor and teach.

Residents are like sponges, ready to soak up every bit of wisdom that you can impart to them. Unlike students on rotations from pharmacy school, a resident will be with your pharmacy for 1 full year. During that time, the resident will learn every aspect of owning and operating a community pharmacy from the owner's perspective. He or she will learn about finance, cash flow, customer service, employee management, bookkeeping, accounts payable, accounts receivable, advertising, and, yes, even pharmacy.

We all know the advantages to the resident, but what about the advantages to the owner?

The most obvious one is "free"labor. We all laugh at this old cliché, but in fact you will have a pharmacist on staff for 1 year usually at less than market value. In most cases, the resident will be willing to take less in monetary value to gain more in educational value. You will have a person on your staff who will be willing to go the extra mile to make your customers feel the way you make them feel. You will have someone who wants to learn from your successes and, yes, even your failures. I let all my residents know how many times I have tried something new, only to have it not meet my expectations. They need to know that it is OK to fail sometimes, as long as you learn from the experience.

Residents also can share knowledge and experience from which owners can benefit. They are fresh out of school, with new ideas and new ways of looking at pharmacy. This approach helps owners in making decisions about the practice of pharmacy in their specific location. I think that residents make pharmacies better by offering new concepts, new energy, and excitement about pharmacy that we as owners sometimes tend to forget. Every day, we fight the daily battles with pharmacy benefit managers, unfair contracts, Medicare, Medicaid, high drug prices, and low reimbursement. The resident, however, brings enthusiasm that will rub off on you, your staff, and your customers.

I spoke with Tony Tucker, RPh, owner of City Drug in Huntingdon, Tenn, about its residency program. Tony believes that having a resident brings an asset to his pharmacy in the form of a bright, young, energetic pharmacist who has educational and life experiences that can help the patients of City Drug. Tony and his brother Tim work with the University of Tennessee in its residency program, and they believe that teaching the next generation of pharmacy store owners is part of ensuring that independent community pharmacy will be around for a long time.

Community pharmacy residency programs are postgraduate training programs designed for graduate pharmacists who are prepared to accept leadership roles as community-based clinicians and managers. Most residencies last for 12 months, usually July 1 to June 30. Residents are monitored by pharmacists like Tony and Tim, who are experienced tutors.

The programs are designed to provide experiences that develop a resident's competence and confidence in many areas, including patient care, management, ownership, pharmacy education, and research. The National Institute for Pharmacist Care Outcomes has more than 10 certificate programs available for store owners who want to add clinical programs at their site. These programs add benefits for both the owner and the resident.

If you go on-line to any search engine and enter "community pharmacy residency program,"you will get more than 700,000 Web sites. This is a huge difference from a few years ago, when there were only a few residency Web sites available. Many universities and community pharmacies have teamed up to put together residencies in just about every part of the country. The National Community Pharmacists Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the Institute for the Advancement of Community Pharmacy (IACP) have helped to develop community pharmacy residency programs and have a great deal of information on their Web sites.

IACP has given grants to residents and residency sites to help develop programs. You can find answers to questions at www.advancepharmacy.org. Another organization whose Web site is dedicated to community pharmacy residencies is CommuniRes (www.communires.com). These programs can help the pharmacist develop a community residency program and seek accreditation for the program. Pharmacists wishing to start a residency program have only to perform a "Google"search, for example, to find the information they need.

Many community pharmacy residents receive a stipend, so the store owner does not have to provide all the monetary requirements. The resident does receive benefits, however, such as health care and holiday pay. Depending on the program, the owner may have to cover part or all of these benefits. Most residents are required to complete a research project during the program. Such projects can be of firsthand advantage to the store owner, as the owner can use them to help determine future services that could profit the pharmacy.

According to Tim Tucker at City Drug, residents sometimes make great business partners. In many cases, a resident completes the residency program and then becomes employed by the pharmacy. When the residency ends, you have a built-in pharmacist manager that you have already trained who knows how to work with your staff and patients. Residents have the tools to become owners themselves, and many go on to open their own stores or become partners in community pharmacies.

Community pharmacy residency programs offer a 2-way street for both owners and residents. They provide valuable experiences for both parties. In the long run, they give residents the tools they need to open and operate a successful community pharmacy on their own, and it could all start with you.

Mr. Calhoun is owner of Golden Springs Pharmacy in Anniston, Ala, and co-owner of Quick Meds Express Pharmacy in Oxford, Ala.