Leadership Key to Owning an Independent Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersSeptember 2009
Volume 0

Ms. Patel and Ms. Taylor are both PharmD Candidates (Class of 2011) at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Florida.

Making the decision to become “your own boss” in a pharmacy practice setting requires a lot of time, planning, and hard work. the clinical skills required to provide proper patient care comes with the challenge of having to understand the business aspects of running a pharmacy. Without a doubt, thinking about developing a strong business foundation from which a pharmacy practice can be based will seem intimidating for students who wish to one day own their own pharmacy. As students develop their academic and leadership skills in preparation for this work setting, however, they will see the benefits of relying on a structured business plan. This plan will help to achieve a balance between financial success and providing continuous patient care in an ever-changing marketplace. With the need to be versed in clinical and entrepreneurial skills, students should have a firm understanding of their goals, interests, and strengths so that they can plan ahead by employing innovative ways to serve patients.

In order to develop and maintain a successful career as an independent pharmacist, students should be proactive in the early stages of their academic career. They should take advantage of the resources available to help them transition into being premier pharmacists and business leaders in the community. These resources include pursuing business management courses or degrees that are offered in the pharmacy curriculum, joining the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) ownership academy,1 and committing to continuing education courses to further professional growth.

Business Management Courses/Degrees

Owning an independent pharmacy requires great management skills. Along with a leadership course, a course on management skills is included in most pharmacy schools’ curricula. Students are provided with opportunities to participate in management programs outside the school. Students can strengthen their business management skills and become more efficient in providing pharmaceutical care services by working with other pharmacy managers, for example being assigned a project to prepare a business management plan to improve patient care.2

A survey on this project at the college of Pharmacy at the university of toledo and the University of Wisconsin-Madison evaluated the improvement in management skills and students’ perception after finishing the course. Students were evaluated a year before enrolling in the course, and after they finished the course, they displayed much greater management knowledge.2

Students also can enhance their business management skills by using the books and journals provided by NCPA. Overall, management training should focus on increasing students’ ability to develop pharmaceutical services along with guiding them to become great leaders who can help enhance the practice of pharmacy.2

Another option a student can pursue before owning an independent pharmacy is to earn a management degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). in today’s world, industry and health care are looking for individuals with multiple degrees. MBA programs offer finance, accounting, economics, marketing, and strategic management courses that can enable students to have a background in all aspects of business management. Many schools offer joint programs like Pharmd/MBA, Pharmd/MPA (Master in Public administration) for the student who wants to be a private pharmacy owner. A survey completed at the university of kentucky assessed that the students who have completed both PharmD and MBA degrees have succeeded at becoming effective pharmacy managers and successful private pharmacy owners.3 the students thought that it was a great advantage to acquire an MBA along with the PharmD, as it can give the graduates a competitive edge in the pharmacy world.3

Along with a PharmD, an MBA degree can be an excellent way to start owning a business with knowledge about both fields. Students can find a mentor who can guide them to the path of owning an independent pharmacy. Students who do not want to complete an MBA can even own an independent pharmacy in partnership with a family member or a friend with a business management background or a degree in management. The partner can get ideas about the plan, business strategy, and being competitive, while owning a new pharmacy with their management experience, and a student can apply their clinical knowledge in serving the patients.3

NCPA Ownership Academy

Students can explore the wealth of information and assistance offered by the NCPA. The NCPA’s ownership academy is an indispensable resource for students, buyers, owners, and sellers who all have different needs within the independent pharmacy industry. Once a member, students who wish to gain overall knowledge of the independent pharmacy industry can apply for a 4-week experiential rotation (an elective that is offered to all colleges and schools of pharmacy), a 10-week internship, and a 1-year residency program. these programs are carried out at the NCPA's headquarters in Virginia.4

The programs are aimed at helping students gain awareness of the various opportunities available in the independent pharmacy practice setting. the residency program gives students the chance to interact with other professionals in various sectors, such as the pharmaceutical industry, academia, and government. In addition, residents will be able to develop executive leadership skills through various ncPa departments, such as the management institute, and the National Institute for Pharmacist Care Outcomes. They will be given the task to develop and market educational programs that improve health outcomes and explore new market niches in disease management.5 By participating in these types of programs, students can start networking to find mentors who are also valuable resources for guidance.

Continuing Education

Once the student succeeds in owning an independent pharmacy, ideas for business expansion should emerge. In order to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, the student (now owner) should seek to use his or her business knowledge and skills to expand clinical services to meet patients’ needs within the community. For instance, independent pharmacists are known for providing specialized care, such as blood pressure and diabetes education, nutrition services and counseling, compounding, immunizations, service to longterm care facilities, and many other specialty services.6

Although dispensing prescriptions is a major part of business, independent pharmacists continue to thrive by seeking to identify and fulfill patient needs within the health care industry. According to the NCPA Digest, sponsored by cardinal health, 46% of independent pharmacists see the value of integrating medication therapy management services into their practices.7 these diversifications help the pharmacy owner develop a solid reputation among patients as well as other health care professionals.


in order to get the most out of a successful pharmacy practice, students will have to rely heavily on their leadership and management skills. Students will find that, by using these resources, they will have the confidence to meet the challenges that come with being an independent pharmacist. Great rewards and benefits can be realized by becoming a pharmacy owner. For example, pharmacists who own their own pharmacy earned an annual salary of $109,618 in 2007, and this figure will keep rising based on the NCPA Digest Report.8 In addition, the respect among patients and other health care professionals should bring about personal fulfillment.

While considering the idea of independent pharmacy, the student should conduct in-depth research based on these resources and others. With the knowledge about this career option, students should have the right attitude along with the determination to pursue pharmacy ownership with confidence.

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