PUBLIX PHARMACISTS BUILD LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Pharmacy Careers, Volume 0, 0

EVERY DAY, MORE AND MOREgrocery chains are realizing that theinclusion of a pharmacy in their storesnot only serves their customers better,but increases the store's outreach totheir communities as well. Pharmaciesgive employees the opportunity tointeract on a more personal level withtheir customers and make a significantimpact on their lives.

A grocery chain that discoveredthis reality early on is Publix. Based inLakeland, Fla, Publix opened theirfirst in-store pharmacy in 1986 andsince then, has expanded to over 660pharmacies in 5 states?Florida,Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, andSouth Carolina. For the fourth yearin a row, Publix pharmacies wereranked the number-1 supermarketpharmacy in customer satisfaction byWilson Health Information, a leadingindependent health care consumerresearch firm.

Robin Sistrunk, manager of integratedcare for Publix Super Markets Inc,appreciates the positive effect pharmacistscan have on their patients. "As apharmacist, you have an unbelievableopportunity to make a difference withyour patients at your location," shesaid. "Not only can you get involvedwith various patient services, butyou are expected to intimately getinvolved with the health care of yourpatient." She stated that "as a supermarketpharmacist, you see some of yourpatients several times a week, since theyvisit the store regularly.We have storiesof pharmacists literallymaking the differencein someone'slife because they listenedand caredenough to build alasting relationshipwith their customer."

Sistrunk explained that Publixpharmacies offer a wide variety ofcustomer services in their stores thatgive pharmacists the opportunity towork one-on-one with patients tohelp them with their health care concerns.Select stores offer medicationtherapy management, immunizations,and screenings for cholesterollevels and bone density.

Publix offers incoming pharmacists amyriad of opportunities for growthand advancement. The company hasbeen among Fortune magazine's "100Best Companies to Work For" 9 yearsin a row. Publix believes in promotingfrom within, so a staff pharmacisthas the opportunity to advance toassistant pharmacy manager or pharmacymanager at a retail location,where they oversee the operations attheir home store. From there, theycan advance into a pharmacy supervisorposition where they would beresponsible for a group of pharmaciesin a geographic region. Beyondthat, divisional and corporate opportunitiesare available, which includemanaged care, integrated care, procurement,and so forth.

New Publix pharmacists trainalongside experienced mentors, sothey can begin to establish customerrelationships from the start of theircareers. Sistrunk explained, "We wantour pharmacists to practice pharmacyand be caregivers. We want themto provide premier service to patientsby not only offering them valuableservices, but by building a relationshipwith them. To do this, we hirepharmacists who are friendly, caring,personal, proactive, and engaging." Publix employs an average of 2 to 3pharmacists per store, both full-andpart-time, depending on customervolume. They also hire pharmacytechnicians, clerks, and interns, sopharmacists can spend more personalcounseling time with theirpatients. If a pharmacist needs timeoff, "floater pharmacists" fill in forabsent pharmacists to keep the customercare going. "Because of ourcommitment to providing premiercustomer service, we only use Publix-employedpharmacists in ourstores?we never use temp agencies," Sistrunk stated.

Pharmacy students do not have towait until graduation to benefit frombeing a Publix associate. The companyoffers a financial assistance programspecifically geared towards pharmacystudents. Full-time students whomaintain a cumulative "C" average andwork at least an average of 30 hoursevery 6 months at a Publix pharmacycan qualify to receive up to $2500 persemester. These students need to berecommended by a supervisor andplan to continue their pharmacy careerwith Publix as a full-time licensedpharmacist within 6 months aftergraduation.

When a pharmacist comes to work atPublix, he or she will not be left stranded.Along with a substantial supportteam and training beside knowledgeableprofessionals, Publix also offersnumerous continuing education (CE)resources, as well as sponsoring live CEsessions. Publix also is a licensed partnerwith the American PharmacistsAssociation, and together they provide"Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery"certificate programs to pharmacistsinterested in dispensing immunizations(where state laws permit).Publix pharmacy also offers referencematerials at each pharmacy, as well asin their online library, for quick andeasy access to vital information. Pharmacysupervisors also are available inthe field to respond to any needs thatmay arise.

Sistrunk pointed out that Publixoffers its pharmacists "a wonderfulwork environment. We are committedto our associates by providinga great place to work. We believe inrewarding our associates for theiroutstanding efforts, achievements,and steadfast commitment to superiorcustomer service." Some of thebenefits of being a Publix employeeinclude ample support staff, competitivesalaries, a 401(k) plan, andthe opportunity to purchase stockin the company. "Think aboutit--Publix is one of the largestemployee-owned companies in thenation," Sistrunk said. "This meansyou own Publix, and you make thedifference. Working with all ownersof the company adds a level of pridethat is indescribable," she added."It's like working with a family?we're all on the same team."