UPWARDLY MOBILE OPPORTUNITIES IN LARGE CHAIN DRUG STORES

Pharmacy Careers, Volume 0, 0

CHAIN DRUG STORES OFFERmany opportunities to the newly graduatedpharmacist, ranging from a chanceto develop clinical skills in programssuch as diabetes care, blood pressuremonitoring, and weight control, tomoving ahead as business managers.

At Rite Aid, newgraduates participatein a series of computer-based trainingprograms that coverdaily pharmacy operationsand generalpractices over a 2-to3-week period, saidMichele Belsey, vicepresident, college relations and professionalrecruitment. "The new pharmacistis partnered with a training pharmacistor mentor," to whom he or shecan go with questions, she explained."As part of the training period, partnershipsare developed with othermentors, too."

Once the individual is in position asa staff pharmacist, there are opportunitiesto develop clinical skills, she said."First, the new pharmacists shouldwork to become familiar with dailypharmacy operations, and then theycan move into more advanced opportunities."

Rite Aid supports its pharmacists clinicallywith an inhousedrug informationcenterand a clinicalservices department,she said.The department teaches pharmacistshow they can work clinical programsinto their daily responsibilities. Theseprograms range from diabetes care andweight control to immunizations (inthose states where pharmacists are permittedto immunize patients).

The type of clinical care can varyfrom state to state based on the pharmacypractice act, said Belsey.When itcomes to diabetes care, for example, apatient brings a daily log with him tothe pharmacy which may show highpeaks and low peaks on blood glucoselevels, she explained. A pharmacistreviews the patient's diet and exerciseas recorded in the log and teaches thepatient how to create more of a steadylevel so these high and low peaks donot occur, she said.

Staff pharmacists who think theywant to move ahead as managers canparticipate in training programs todevelop the necessary skills,Belsey said."This includes a lot of computer workin modules on daily operations, such asinventory, shrink, profit and loss statements,and key profit indicators."

Along with programs that encourageprofessional development, Rite Aidoffers pharmacists extensive benefitpackages that are available as "first ofthe month employment," she said. Thismeans that a full-time, nonunion pharmacistwho is hired on June 26, forexample,will participate in the benefitsas of July 1. These benefits include prescriptiondrug, dental, vision, andmedical plans. Multiple medical plansare available to employees, but onemajor plan is offered to everyone, shesaid. "It has no preexisting conditionclause and no lifetime maximum. RiteAid also offers a 401(k) plan that starts90 days after employment. Associatescan contribute up to the federal maximumsfor the 401(k) plan, so for 2006,they can contribute up to $15,000. Thecompany match feature starts after 1year and 1000 hoursworked; the matchis 100% of the first 3% and 50% of thenext 2% saved by the associate. Oncean associate starts contributing, he orshe is 100% vested.

Other benefits include a 20% discounton products sold by Rite Aid; acar purchase program, with discountsoffered on Ford brand; homeand auto insurance; as well as a mortgageprogram with a discount ratethrough Wells Fargo.

CONTINUAL LEARNING ATWALGREENS

At Walgreen Co, a pharmacist islearning systems in the first year,including filling prescriptions, inventory,scheduling, and how they worktogether to free up time to counselpatients, said Amanda Bidlencik, RPh,manager, pharmacy relations.

Clinical skills are developed on a dailybasis at Walgreens, she said, answeringpatients'questions, perhaps aboutblood pressure or diabetes care. A pharmacistcan be certified in diabetes care,she pointed out. This includes severalhours of continuing education (CE). Ifa pharmacist submits the test and passes,then he or she is diabetes certifiedand qualified to counsel patients in thecommunity. These certified pharmacistsoften speak about this subject atsenior centers or local libraries as well asto interns working at Walgreen stores.

A pharmacist who is interested inmanagement can learn these skillsthrough a training program on CDROM.It consists of 6 different CDs,including inventory, management,patient complaints, and pharmacyoperation, said Bidlencik. Regularmeetings are also held at a district levelon subjects such as a new qualityassurance program.

Other programs atWalgreens include"People Plus Learning,"said Bidlencik,which is available topharmacists over thecomputer.At the timeof the Medicare PrescriptionPlan rollout,a pharmacist couldlog on to the computerat work and complete the tutorial."It's an interactive program and coverswhat's changing in the profession,as well as at Walgreens," she added.CE programs are available at www.mywalgreensce.com and are createdby the health systems division. Currently,26 programs are available; theprogram keeps a record of the coursestaken by an individual pharmacistand the number of credits receivedfor the courses.

Still another system that is in placeat Walgreens is Intercom Plus, whichtracks what happens to a prescriptionfrom the time a patient drops it off atthe pharmacy to the time the prescriptionis picked up. With this system,the pharmacy technician getsthe information from the patient,scans it into the computer, and then apharmacist verifies that the informationis correct. The computer thenprints out the label and checks to seeif it is the right medication; this isdone by scanning the prescriptionand the stock bottle. Then, the prescriptiongoes to the pharmacist forfinal verification of the product, saidBidlencik. "Each time it's scanned,the computer verifies the prescription.If the prescription is going to beready later than expected, the computerwill call the patient."

Benefits available at Walgreens arecomprehensive and include healthcare (medical and dental), as well asprofit sharing. "Employees can contribute2% of their annual salary tothe profit sharing plan. Once theyreach a certain salary level each year,the contribution increases to 5%; thecompany matches employee contributions,based on company profitsfor the year," she said. Also availableare a credit union and family medicalleave, among other programs.

DEVELOPING AS A CVSPHARMACIST

At CVS, a pharmacy school graduateis seen as an individual "with a wealthof drug knowledge and expertise. As anew pharmacist at CVS, the first yearprimarily focuses on building relationshipswith their patients and physicians,understandingour computersystem and workflowof the pharmacy,learning how to create a positivework environment and leading a storeteam," said Papatya Tankut, vice president,pharmacy professional services.

When it comes to developing managementskills, Tankut explained,"being a successful community pharmacistand health care providerrequires an employee to incorporatemanagement skills into their workdayevery day. For those individuals whoare interested in future managementpositions, we have identified core skillsets and core competencies that individualsare trained in and exposed tothrough the CVS/pharmacy EmergingLeaders Program. The program assistsin preparing high-potential employeesfor management positions throughstructured workshops, networkingopportunities, and an individual developmentplan."

As for clinical skills,"a CVS pharmacistutilizes and developstheir clinical skillsevery day while fillingprescriptions andcounseling patients," she said. "Our technologyand pharmacywork flow alsoallows our pharmacists to spend moretime counseling their patients ontheir individualized health care needs.Every CVS pharmacist has access toon-line self-help clinical resources tofurther help guide them throughtherapeutic situations."

CVS also "invests in clinical programsthat pharmacists are not only exposedto, but can personally participate [in]and impact. Some of these programsinclude store level MTM [MedicationTherapy Management] programs,pharmacist-administered flu andimmunization programs, collaborativepractice agreements with physicians, aswell as other disease-specific medicationprograms," Tankut said.

The chain provides all pharmaciststhe opportunity to participate in liveCE programs that are offered at leasttwice a year. In addition, all CVS pharmacistshave complementary subscriptionsto many on-line and journal-offeredCEs.

Benefits at CVS include a pharmacistincentive plan, 401(k) participationand matching plan, professional liabilityinsurance, and auto and home insurancediscount plans.

As the above indicates, each of theselarge drug chains offer pharmacistsopportunities to develop skills basedon their own interests. Once hired, it isup to the pharmacist to develop acareer plan.

Ms. Rosendahl is a freelance writer basedin Fort Lee, NJ.