Large Retail Chains Let Pharmacists Choose Their Path

Pharmacy Careers
Volume 0

Ms. Roop is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Florida.

With hundreds of newstores opening eachyear, top-of-the-linetechnology, and professionaldevelopment opportunities,large retail chains give pharmaciststhe opportunity to apply their trainingand talents to a pharmacy careerthat is as traditional?or nontraditional?as they want it to be.

From patient service to storemanagement, government affairs tohuman resources, pharmacy-centriclarge chains like CVS/pharmacyand Walgreens allow pharmaciststo experience aspects of pharmacythat they may never have considered.They also remove geographic limitations,letting pharmacists pursuetheir profession wherever their heartsor circumstances take them.

?Having worked with CVS sinceI graduated, I would say that CVS/pharmacy provides the foundation,resources, and tools to really enjoythe profession. It has been veryrewarding for me and has openedup my eyes to a lot of different areasof pharmacy,? said Papatya Tankut,RPh, vice president of professionalpharmacy services with CVS/pharmacy.?The profession is rewardingin and of itself, and CVS allows youthe opportunities to view it in somany different ways and to take yourcareer wherever you want it to beaccording to what your passion is.?


CVS/pharmacy, the retail division ofCVS Caremark Corp, as of the mostrecent acquisition of Longs DrugStores Corp, has 6800 retail locationsnationwide. A steady growth planincludes the planned opening of 300to 325 new stores in 2008.As part of Caremark, CVS offerspharmacists as many opportunitiesoutside the pharmacy as it doeswithin its stores, including healthmanagement and pharmacy benefitsmanagement services. It also features26 mail-order facilities, 56 specialtyretail pharmacies, and more than 500MinuteClinics.

?When you think about the opportunitiesavailable for pharmacists atCVS/Caremark, it is really limitless,?said Tankut. ?What makes us uniqueis whatever your passion, you cando that at CVS/Caremark throughdifferent career paths. It is also thesupport we provide. We have got somany tools and resources to makeour pharmacists successful so theycan focus on what they went toschool for.?

Part of that is ensuring that pharmacistshave the support and technologiesthey need to provide highqualitypatient services, includingworkflow systems supported by technicianswho focus on the technicalfunctions within the pharmacy. Itallows pharmacists to spend moretime counseling patients. ?CVS providesan environment that really fosterspharmacists becoming an integralpart of the health care deliveryteam,? said Tankut.

Technology Helps Reduce Errors and Frees Pharmacists? Time

CVS/pharmacy also is a leadingproponent of electronic prescribing(e-prescribing) technology for itsability to reduce or eliminate prescribingerrors. The company, whichworks closely with physicians to helpthem adopt e-prescribing technology,currently fills 30% of the nation?selectronic prescriptions.

Its focus on meeting the needs ofpharmacists and patients is part ofthe overall pharmacy-centric cultureof CVS/pharmacy, where almost 70%of the business is pharmacy. It startsat the very top, where the chairmanand many of the corporate executivesbegan their careers as practicingpharmacists.

?It rolls off our tongues very easilyto say that pharmacy is the heart andsoul of our business. Most of the keystrategic and day-to-day decisionsthat are made are done at the highestlevels of the organization withpharmacy in mind. [It is] done withsupport and input from our pharmacists,but it also trickles downfrom the top, from people who havebeen practicing pharmacists,? saidTankut.

Professional Development at CVS

CVS/pharmacy also is focused on theprofessional development of pharmacists,offering a number of internshipprograms that allow soon-to-beand new pharmacists an opportunityto gain valuable experience withinthe pharmacy. For those who choose to stay on the patient care side, CVS/pharmacy offers a management paththat can lead to regional managementand area vice president.

Pharmacists interested in puttingtheir talents to work outside thepharmacy can move into the corporatecareer path by taking advantageof the company?s leadership developmentprogram. That sets them up foropportunities in such diverse areas asmarketing, legal, real estate, governmentaffairs, human resources, andclinical services.

Pharmacists who join the CVS/pharmacy family all share a passionfor engaging and educating patientsand the ability to communicate withother health care professionals?qualitiesthat cannot be taught in school.

?We want that pharmacist to havecompassion, empathy, and enjoyinteractions with patients, becausethat is where we have an really make a difference inthe lives of patients,? said Tankut. ??We are looking for individuals whoare great clinicians with great clinicalknowledge, but who also are greatbusiness men and women.?

For information on careers withCVS/pharmacy, new graduates andpharmacists are encouraged to visitthe company?s Web site at


Walgreens, which has 6300 drugstoresin 49 states, the District of Columbia,and Puerto Rico, also has aggressivegrowth plans that include openingnearly 500 new stores in 2009.

Opportunities Abound

?Because we are expanding, thereare many opportunities within retailpharmacies. There are also opportunitiesbeyond retail pharmacy, suchas in specialty pharmacy,? said TiffaniBruce, Walgreens spokesperson.?There are pharmacists who come towork in our home care division, andthere are pharmacists around thecompany that are helping to developformularies for our [WalgreensHealth Services] pharmacy benefitsplans. There are lots of different rolesthat need pharmacy insight. So thereare lots of opportunities even beyondour corner drugstores.?

Bruce notes that Walgreens is firstand foremost a drugstore, with pharmacymaking up about 65% of itsbusiness. As such, providing pharmacistswith the tools they need toperform efficiently so they are free toprovide patient counseling services isimportant.

Sharing the Workload

That focus is driving the implementationof workload balancing technologyat stores in 36 states andPuerto Rico. The digital system isdesigned to spread the prescriptionbackground work, such as insuranceverification, evenly among stores inthe same state. Thus, if one store isextremely busy, the system will automaticallyassign part of the routinework to other stores that are experiencinga lower volume at the time.

By sharing the workload, it givespharmacists ?more time to have oneon-one interaction with patients,?said Bruce. ?Our mission is to gowell beyond just dispensing medications.We want our pharmacists tobe viewed as the health care professionalsthey are. They are the mostaccessible front-line health care provider.Our vision for pharmacy isfor our pharmacists to be utilizedin that way. That means freeing upmore of their time for counseling andone-on-one interaction serving as aresource for patients.?

It also means ensuring that pharmacistscan put their pharmacy experienceto work in other aspects ofthe pharmacy profession. In additionto Walgreens Health Services, pharmacistswill find opportunities indivisions including Walgreens HealthInitiatives Inc, a pharmacy benefitmanager, as well as the company?smail service, home care, specialtypharmacy, and long-term care divisions.The company also operates183 convenient care clinics withintheir retail stores and worksite-basedhealth and wellness services at 355employer campuses.

For more information on career opportunitieswith Walgreens, new graduatesand pharmacists are encouragedto visit the company?s Website at or e-mail



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