The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

OCTOBER 04, 2018
Karen Berger, PharmD
Why do many pharmacies have bare-bones waiting areas, with nothing more than a few chairs squeezed into a corner?

I set out to find some pharmacies that have a little more to offer in terms of waiting areas. Ideas range from easy to elaborate, and pharmacies can make a few small changes with a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on their budgets.

Brant Alexander, PharmD, and Brittan Alexander, PharmD, are the owners of Sooner Pharmacy in Norman, Oklahoma. They try to create a relaxing environment in the waiting area by focusing on customers’ senses. The space has a unique design, an industrial modern look, with atom-designed lights and pipe shelving. Customers hear low-volume, soothing music. Meanwhile, the smell of freshly roasted coffee permeates the pharmacy, as Sooner Pharmacy has a cart area serving free-trade, local, and organic coffee, free of charge. Sooner Pharmacy also sells the coffee.

The community has a pro-local mind-set and appreciates that the pharmacy supports other local businesses. Several new customers have come in solely to try out the new local coffee brand. Sooner Pharmacy’s model is to design a store with personality that supports other local businesses. The Alexanders say they believe that they and other local businesses need to support one another to help build a better community.

On the East Coast in Irvington, New York, Natural Fit Pharmacy’s waiting area has a chandelier and comfortable leather seats, which help create a relaxing atmosphere. The pharmacy offers local magazines that companies drop off. There is also a children’s section, with a drawing table and toys, so that parents can relax while the youngsters entertain themselves.

Anna Donkin, PharmD, the owner and pharmacist in charge (PIC), said that the response has been very positive.

Customers often comment that the pharmacy smells like a spa. That is because Natural Fit Pharmacy sells candles and handmade soaps, and those scents fill the air. In addition, Donkin said, customers frequently say that they appreciate the old-school feel of the pharmacy that is hard to find anymore.

Meanwhile, at Davis Drug Company of Kenly in North Carolina, the waiting area has a few chairs, a table with a checkerboard game, lots of magazines to read, and a functioning antique radio.

Children love to play checkers while they wait, according to Sarah White, the PIC.

She adds that she sees a lot of coat-tugging and hears whispered requests of “Can I go play checkers?” when children come in with their parents.

The pharmacy also has the original pharmacist’s license posted from 1906, along with various antique medical items such as books, flasks, and scales. Customers enjoy walking around and looking at the items, White says.

The counter is the original post office’s counter, so the pharmacy has windows that read “money order requests” and “stamps,” which are topics of conversation.

If the thought of transforming a pharmacy waiting room is overwhelming, start small. Look at doctor’s offices for inspiration. Pinterest also has tons of ideas for making waiting rooms more appealing. At the independent pharmacy where I work, we play light music and have a very popular book exchange shelf. Some people visit the pharmacy just to check the bookshelf each week.

A little money can go a long way. Lollipops, stickers, and press-on tattoos are a big hit with younger children, as are books, games and toys.
Pharmacy owners do not have to spend a ton of money to make the waiting experience a little brighter. Just think of what the customers would enjoy, and then let your imagination run wild. 
 
Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.


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