WHEN ELAINE G. WATANABE,PharmD, started working for KaiserPermanente 22 years ago as an inpatientpharmacist specialist, it was herdream job—something she would behappy doing for the rest of her career.Before long, however, she was encouragedto expand her horizons andtake advantage of other opportunitieswithin the organization.
Today, Dr.Watanabe is administrativepharmacy services manager withKaiser's Pharmacy Strategy & Operations.Each day, she says, brings a newand exciting challenge and allows herto fulfill the goals she set when shebecame a pharmacist to give to othersand practice what she believes.
"It has been wonderful to havehad the chance to be mentored andto mentor others. It is very satisfyingto think that, even in somesmall way, you have made a differencein a student's, intern's, resident's,or new manager's growth," she said. "The professional environmentand collaborative practice atKaiser Permanente makes it a verydesirable place to work and to providepatient care. Most of all, it hasbeen the people within pharmacywho have touched my career andlife in the most positive of ways. Weoften refer to those we work with asour ‘Pharmacy Family.'"
Dr. Watanabe's experiences workingfor the nation's leading nonprofit integratedhealth plan are not unique.Considering Kaiser Permanente services8.2 million people in 9 states andthe District of Columbia, it is easy tosee why the organization is consideredby its employees to be an amazingplace to work.
For starters, multiple career settingsexist within Kaiser Permanente,including ambulatory care, hospital,or inpatient, community or outpatient,drug use management and education,home infusion centers, informaticsand technology, automatedrefill pharmacies, drug informationservices, pharmacy outcomes research,pharmacy analytical services,pharmacy call centers, and administrationand management.
Pharmacists can specialize inpatient population care managementor disease state management, in areassuch as anticoagulation, oncology,asthma, HIV, cholesterol, diabetes,hypertension, geriatrics, nephrology,pediatrics, primary care, medicationtherapy management, and otherpharmacist-run clinics. Within theorganization's hospitals, pharmacistspractice in the intensive and criticalcare units, neonatal intensive care,pediatrics, chemical dependency, medicationsafety, antibiotic surveillance,surgical centers, emergency departments,and other acute care services.
Pharmacists also can find challengingroles in finance, benefits, drug usemanagement, contracting, materialservices, compliance, professionalaffairs, and human resource departments.
"With all of these exciting areas toparticipate in, pharmacists do notfind jobs at Kaiser Permanente, theyfind careers," said Dr.Watanabe.
Another key differentiator forKaiser Permanente is the fact that it isa nonprofit organization, whichmeans decisions are not made by thestockholders, she added.
"We are a unique blend of medicineand business. We practice evidence-basedmedicine and can make thechoice for the best appropriate care forour patients without the pressure ofmaking high profits," said Dr. Watanabe."For pharmacists, there are somany opportunities to work in multipleenvironments, and the collaborative role of working with a health careteam allows them to utilize their clinicalskills and grow professionally."
She noted that compensation andbenefits are "exceptional," and includeemployer-paid comprehensivehealth and dental plan coverage foremployees, spouses, or domesticpartners and eligible dependents.
Kaiser also offers generous paid timeoff, company-paid retirement plans,life insurance and income protectionoptions, flexible spending accounts forhealth care and dependent care, andemployee discount programs. A highvalue also is placed on maintaining ahealthy work/life balance.
"Kaiser Permanente's philosophy isbased on preventive care.We providevarious classes and wellness programsto keep our patients andemployees healthy," explained Dr.Watanabe. "Even the Kaiser Permanentebrand identity is ‘Thrive,'anddemonstrates a belief in the activitiesand lifestyles that promote goodhealth and well-being. By providingexcellent compensation and benefits,as well as working for a stable companythat has a clear vision of its purpose,Kaiser Permanente desires toprovide the best level of care andwork/life balance to their employees."
The profession of pharmacy requiresa lifelong commitment tolearning, she added. As such, Kaiseroffers multiple opportunities for continuingeducation and tuition reimbursement,as well as ongoing skillstraining designed to keep pharmacistsup-to-date on the latest in technologyand industry advances.
Training is provided via differentavenues on different topics, includingface-to-face interactive classes and onlinee-learning programs. For thosewho might be interested in managementor who are in lead positions,Kaiser also conducts lead developmentclasses. Finally, because of their participationin the education of others,manypharmacists attend preceptor classes toassist them in honing their skills as amentor for others.
"We are especially proud of the variousprograms for managers, includingmanagement excellence, manager technicaltraining, a formalized coachingand mentoring program, middle managementcourses, and advanced leadershipprograms," said Dr.Watanabe.
Another distinguishing characteristicabout a career with Kaiser Permanenteis the focus the organizationplaces on making sure its pharmacistshave all the tools they need to providetop-quality care for their patients.
For example, they are in the processof implementing an electronic medicalrecord system across the nationwideKaiser Permanente program.That is in addition to the computerizedsystems that support variouspharmacy settings, including inpatientand ambulatory care. In largerregions, localized call centers andlarge regional filling pharmacies arein place to assist local pharmacies inexpediting prescriptions to patients.
"With the information necessaryat their fingertips, pharmacists willbe able to provide the type of pharmaceuticalcare services that theywere trained to do," said Dr.Watanabe."?Kaiser Permanente Pharmacyis continually striving to findnew ways of sharing best practicesto provide quality patient care andworld class pharmacy services."
For those interested in learningmore about careers with Kaiser Permanente,the best resource is the organization'sWeb site, www.jobs.kp.org.There, individuals will discover thatopportunities abound for pharmacistsat all career stages.
For those joining right out ofschool, they may become inpatientpharmacist specialists, outpatientpharmacists, or participate in oneof the organization's AmericanSociety of Health-System Pharmacists-accredited pharmacy residencyprograms. Others may choose todo a residency with Kaiser, practicein an inpatient setting, or move toone of the ambulatory care clinics.Some will become drug educationcoordinators, go into administrationor management, become clinicaloperations managers, or moveinto the pharmacy strategy andoperations offices.
"Our pharmacists tend to stay withus a long time and are able to partakein a wide variety of practice settingsand job responsibilities," said Dr.Watanabe. "...The opportunities arevast and exciting, all within oneorganization."
Ms. Roop is a freelance writer based inTampa, Fla.