FEBRUARY 01, 2008
Barbara Sax

Amanda Bidlencik, RPh

Walgreens offers a range of opportunities that fit the practice preferences of any pharmacist. "We are at a point as a company that, no matter how you want to practice, we have a position for you," said Amanda Bidlencik, RPh, Walgreens' manager of pharmacy relations. "We have fulltime and part-time pharmacists, pharmacists who work overnight, and mail-order pharmacists."

The company has pharmacies located within medical centers and clinics—even a Toyota plant. Although Walgreens retail drugstores remain the biggest part of the company's business, innovative, new areas of the pharmacy business have been growing at this national chain.

The Walgreens Health Services division encompasses 4 branches: the company's mail-order operation; the pharmacy benefits business; the specialty pharmacy; and home care. "Since we purchased OptionCare, a home care division, we now have pharmacists working in that field with durable medical equipment and infusions," said Bidlencik. "Through our pharmacy benefit management business, we have clinical pharmacists who develop MTM [medication therapy management] programs that are used in our stores."

On-site clinics are a growing part of the company's business. Walgreens now operates about 50 pharmacies housed in hospitals, medical centers, or large businesses (eg, Toyota). "Our on-site clinic managers build relationships with physicians in these locations, and they are really valued as experts in their field," said Bidlencik.

Community pharmacy is, of course, Walgreens' biggest business. "We are really focused on MTM," said Bidlencik. "I think it is significant that more than 2000 of our pharmacists were licensed to give immunizations this year. We put a lot of emphasis on making sure that pharmacy is still the core of our business. We are leaders in technology and put a lot of resources into training and development and dump a lot of resources into technology to help pharmacists do their jobs."Walgreens has adopted programs that allow pharmacists to document how they have counseled patients; therefore, the next time they see a patient, they can have that information at their fingertips. "Our pharmacists get to spend a lot of time with patients so they get to build relationships with their patients and physicians, ensuring their position as solid players on a health care team," said Bidlencik.

Proper training for pharmacy technicians helps to keep the workflow moving smoothly so pharmacists can have more time with patients. "Technicians technically fill the prescriptions, and pharmacists are responsible for verification and product identification so the rest of their time can be spent counseling," said Bidlencik.

Pharmacists can be sure they have the full support of store management. "Our store managers are trained to help in the pharmacy department," said Bidlencik. "Since 67% of our sales come from the pharmacy, store management should absolutely be engaged in how things work in that department." Upper management also supports the pharmacy function. "Every 25 to 30 stores are overseen by a pharmacy supervisor who is there to provide guidance. They are also in charge of developing these pharmacists. We have the people and the resources to build careers," she said.

Indeed, the scope of Walgreens business allows its pharmacists to move in many directions and develop their careers in a variety of ways. With stores in 49 states and new operations continuing to grow, the possibilities are plentiful.

"A lot of the people who work in Walgreens Health Service started out in the stores, and some go back to the stores after working in one of the clinical or mail-order settings," said Bidlencik. "When these new opportunities become available, as an internal candidate, it is easy to transition to a different practice setting or move to another part of the country."

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