REGIONAL CHAINS PUT PHARMACISTS CLOSE TO THE BUSINESS

Pharmacy Careers, Volume 0, 0

CHOOSING A CHAIN TO WORKfor is a lot like selecting a school?alarge state university will provide a differentenvironment than that of asmaller college.

Many pharmacists who opt to practiceat a smaller, regional chain say theirchoice is based on a desire to be closerto the business as well as to the communityin which they practice.

Raleigh, NC-based Kerr Drug isone example of a regional chain thatis very serious about pharmacy. Thecompany is committed to providingpatients, the medical community,and health plan sponsors access tothe most comprehensive and convenienthealth and wellness offering inthe industry.

Kerr pharmacists and communitypharmacy residents deliver medicationtherapy management and a varietyof other related screening andmonitoring services including fulllipid panel testing, blood pressuremeasurement, nebulizer training,and 30-minute diet and exercise consults.The chain's vision of the retailcommunity pharmacy is on the cuttingedge of everything innovativeabout diagnostic, disease state, anddrug therapy management.

"Pharmacy is where it's happeningin our company," said BrionyVoorhees, vice president of humanresources at Kerr. "It's where thepatients are, it's where the customersare, and it's where the cash registersare. We are moving in a new directionin the delivery of pharmacy-relatedproducts and services."

A FOCUS ON PROFESSIONALSERVICES

Ten percent of the chain's 105stores are designated Health CareCenters and include affordable andeasily accessed health screenings, aswell as a staff of dedicated health carespecialists. The chain's counselingareas set an industry standard. "Ourprototype is the drugstore of thefuture," said Voorhees. "Our flagshipstore in Lenoir, NC, has a huge counselingarea. Throughout the chain,many of our pharmacists are trainedin disease state management as wellas medication therapy management.They spend a lot of time counselingpatients."

The chain's corporate office is"incredibly supportive of continuingeducation [CE] for our pharmacists," said Voorhees. The company pays forCE classes for its pharmacists to keepemployees on the cutting edge of thepractice.

That focus on a full range of professionalservices is a common themeat regional chains. Discount DrugMart, an Ohio-based chain of 65stores, also offers disease state managementand various testing andscreening services. The chain, whichfills over 4.5 million prescriptions ayear, is dedicated to its communityinvolvement.

"We administered 10,000 doses offlu vaccine last year," said TomNameth, director of pharmacy at DiscountDrug Mart. "Our pharmacistsare involved in local health fairs andoutreach programs. We are veryactive in the community."

A big event for the chain is SeniorCelebration Day, an event for seniorsdone in conjunction with the ClevelandZoo. "We have 6 or 7 pharmaciststhere doing bone density screeningand talking to seniors about theirmedications. It's a way to really getout in the community."

TAKING SERVICES OUT TOTHE COMMUNITY

South Dakota-based Lewis Drugmay be an even smaller chain, but all30 stores are focused on providing arange of pharmacy services. "We providebone density testing, diabetesmanagement, and adolescent obesityservices," said Bill Ladwig, vice presidentof professional services at thechain. "Since our services encompassretail, clinical care, and long-termcare, pharmacists have a number ofdifferent directions they can pursue."

The chain also shares a facultyposition with South Dakota University.Ladwig said Lewis pharmacistspractice community pharmacy inevery sense of the phrase. Pharmacistsare a part of the community inwhich they practice, but they alsohave formed their own communitywithin their organization. "Our 65pharmacists interact with each otheras a team and support each other inprofessional development," he said.

PHARMACISTS PLAY KEYROLE

The ability to become an integralpart of the business is frequently citedas important to pharmacists whowork at smaller chains. "There'sno hierarchy here," said Ladwig."I try to lead by example andwork a shift in the stores wheneverI can. In turn,we empower ourpharmacists to make decisionsthat will affect how they practice.Our pharmacists can target theirservices to the individual needs oftheir communities."

"You get more personalattention when you work for asmaller chain," said DiscountDrug Mart's Nameth. "We getto know our pharmacists." Thechain recently remodeled one pharmacydepartment based on the recommendationof a head pharmacist."Pharmacists just don't have thatkind of input in a large chain. Pharmacistshave a voice in what happensin their store. This pharmacist hadworked for us for a long time andfelt a remodel would really benefitthe store. Within 2 weeks, we startedthe remodel. If a pharmacist comesto us with a program or initiative, aslong as it makes good business sense,we will consider it."

Kerr's Voorhees agrees that regionalchains offer an opportunity to havea direct impact on the business. "Wehave an open door policy," she said."Pharmacists can call our president,Tony Civello, on the phone and talkto him. One of the reasons our pharmacistslove to work here is thatwhen they call headquarters, weknow their names."

Further evidence of the chain's commitmentto 2-way communication is anew "Point Pharmacist" position thechain created."The Point Pharmacist isresponsible for 6 peer stores and coordinateswith those pharmacists to communicatewhat's happening in theindustry and to get input from theirpeers to bring to the corporate office," said Voorhees.

"There's a range of opportunityavailable," said Nameth. "Some pharmacistsare very comfortable behindthe pharmacy counter and others wantto become certified to do fittings." Nameth said that pharmacists whohave a broader interest in wider retailexperience can explore hats as well."Everybody at headquarters level hascome up through the ranks," he said.

Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based inChevy Chase, Md.