JANUARY 01, 2007
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos, StaffWriter

A PHARMACY CAREER TAKES dedication and a desire to help individuals and improve the quality of their lives. Motivated individuals with a take-charge attitude may find themselves calling Wal-Mart home.

"A pharmacy career with Wal-Mart is your chance to own a business without taking the personal risks of owning a business. It gives you the opportunity to run and operate your own pharmacy with the power of Wal-Mart behind you," said Registered Pharmacist Jason Reiser, buyer, Sam's Club OTC Products. Prior to his position with Sam's Club, Reiser served as director of pharmacy professional services and government relations for the company. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club were founded by Sam Walton.

In addition to practicing in Wal- Mart stores and Sam's Club, pharmacists may decide to practice in a variety of other settings including mail order, specialty pharmacy, clinics/ pharmacies, Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets, and the company's corporate office. Currently,Wal-Mart pharmacies are located in 49 states with 3800 locations.

Reiser is the perfect example of a pharmacist taking advantage of everything Wal-Mart offers. He worked in Maine and managed several pharmacy departments. A promotion took him to Princeton,NJ, where he served as a district manager. He then got involved in government, pharmacy boards, and lobbying state legislatures, which took him to the corporate office in Bentonville, Ark. "It's impossible to be bored" with all the opportunities available, he said.

Pharmacy, considered one of the fastest growing fields in the health care industry, is a career that puts individuals on the front line of patient care. Because pharmacists are considered the most accessible health care professionals, the pharmacy is often the first place patients go with questions about medication and medical care. As the field of pharmacy advances, pharmacists will play a more active role in patient counseling and medication therapy. Pharmacists are now viewed as part of a patient's health care team assisting physicians to find the right medications to combat disease and help patients live healthier lives.

Experience is crucial to a successful pharmacy career. Wal-Mart offers 2 pharmacy internships for students. The store-based internship is a 12- week, comprehensive training program that is tailored to the level of the education the student has received:

  • The first-year professional student will learn about the Wal-Mart culture, operations, and serve as a pharmacy technician. The student works closely with a sponsor and learns many facets of the pharmacy business, operations, and customer service.
  • The second-year professional student will continue to learn about the Wal-Mart culture, pharmacy operations, customer service, and merchandising.
  • The third-year professional student will focus on pharmacy business, such as profit and loss, people management, law, regulations, and will complete a community and patient-focused project.
  • The fourth-year professional student will spend more time on in-depth training in areas such as leadership, delegation, and management. In addition, the student usually works on a business building project.

"We want someone that feels they want to continue to practice in the retail environment. We hope they turn into future pharmacists and future leaders of this company," commented Reiser about the store internship program.

The corporate internship program allows students to be part of the "guts of operating a pharmacy" on the corporate level, explained Reiser. Because so much happens behind the scenes in the world of pharmacy, students and pharmacists do not get to experience or learn these things in a normal practice setting. The program allows up to 6 students to spend up to 12 weeks learning in a specialized area of pharmacy such as:

  • Professional services
  • Pharmacy merchandising
  • Pharmacy third party
  • Pharmacy training and development
  • Pharmacy recruiting

Reiser said hundreds of pharmacy students are participating in the company's internship programs.While it is typical for a pharmacy student to select one internship program, he recalled one student participating in both programs. Recruiting is a top priority for Wal-Mart. The company has its own department focused on recruiting that "filters to people on the ground," through activities such as campus visits and job fairs.

When it comes to hiring a retail pharmacist,Wal-Mart wants "someone that has the ability to deal with people, such as the patients and associates," he said. "If they're a pharmacist and good with people, we can train them to be a retail pharmacist."

Once on-board, pharmacists have access to a variety of resources and support. Reiser said a complete training program is in place for every position in Wal-Mart pharmacies. For example, Wal-Mart offers on-the-job training, free continuing education lessons, and a pharmacist letter via on-line access at the store.

Reiser said the face of pharmacy is changing. "School is going to teach them [students] the technicalities of pharmacy. Pour, count, lick, and stick are going away with technology." Aside from interpersonal skills, pharmacists will need cognitive skills especially with medication therapy management services coming into play. "Pharmacy is going to go from behind the counter to behind the desk counseling patients."

The feedback from Wal-Mart pharmacists is "overwhelmingly positive because they have the freedom to practice pharmacy the way they want. It's good for business because the patients and pharmacists love it," concluded Reiser.

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