Choosing Your Employer: Why it Matters

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers November 2016

When making the decision to pursue a post-graduate residency program, I knew I wanted a community-based clinical setting that allows patients and families to easily access pharmacists.

When making the decision to pursue a post-graduate residency program, I knew I wanted a community-based clinical setting that allows patients and families to easily access pharmacists. I wanted the opportunity to learn from the wealth of knowledge of experienced pharmacists, as well as engage in a role as a community healthcare provider and resource. In order to accomplish this, it was important to choose a setting that was established and reputable both in the pharmacy industry and with the public as a health and wellness source.

Albertsons Companies has stores in most major US markets and encompasses banners that have operated in American communities for decades. Starting out as a family business in the early 20th century, the company has met the health and wellness needs of individuals and their families for multiple generations, and now includes over 2200 grocery stores and over 1700 pharmacies. The history and prominence of Albertsons is one of the reasons I chose to pursue a residency with the company.

As an Albertsons resident, I have had the opportunity to gain experience and learn from pharmacists in various practice settings, including an outpatient ambulatory care geriatric clinic, at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, and at Albertsons Companies’ Southwest division. Each practice site offers a distinct perspective on the profession, with some striving to meet the health needs of a diverse patient population and others making business decisions that may have an impact operations for hundreds of pharmacies.

Midwestern University-Glendale includes its community-based residents in a number of academic roles. As residents, we get hands-on experience working with student pharmacists in honing the practical skills necessary to practice pharmacy, such as conducting effective patient interviews. The residents also have the opportunity to enhance their precepting skills by offering constructive feedback to the student pharmacists under the guidance of a faculty member. The residents present several lectures, expanding their presentation skills as well as taking on the task of preparing the lecture and the accompanying test questions for student pharmacists. As with all PGY1 residencies, residents take on a year-long research project that emphasizes the importance of practice-based pharmacy research.

I have also had the opportunity to learn from key leaders and managers within Albertsons. These individuals not only influence the company’s operations, but also help foster the collaborative culture of the organization. It was important to be to be able to learn from company leadership to provide a framework to understand the rationale behind policies and procedures in the community pharmacy setting.

A great deal of value comes from conversing with as many pharmacists in your residency area of interest as possible. Though I did not have the opportunity to engage with my mentors before residency, I did reach out to pharmacists in my community to get their perspective and input on my interests in a community-based pharmacy residency. The pharmacists I met while on rotation with the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) were very helpful and encouraging. They shared their experiences with residencies and fellowships and highlighted the varied paths one can take to their chosen career in the field of pharmacy. After starting my residency with Albertsons, I continued to engage with pharmacists and took the opportunity to learn from their experiences and to find out more about what drew them to community pharmacy.

One of these pharmacists, Ashlie Temple, PharmD, recently completed her residency and is now a residency coordinator for the Southwest division. In her role as coordinator she is highly involved in developing and growing the residency program. In addition to these duties, Dr. Temple is a staff pharmacist for a store in Goodyear, Arizona, where she uses the cognitive services that community pharmacists provide to their patients.

“The pharmacists at Albertsons Companies are vital members of the community, where they know patients by name and inquire about the patient’s family members. Such familiarity fosters a close partnership, where the patients see their community pharmacists as a vital resource for health information,” Dr. Temple said. “The small family atmosphere at Albertsons Companies pharmacies draws patients in because they know they’ll be well looked after.”

Another pharmacist, Karen Liu, PharmD, was also a Albertsons Companies resident and is currently a staff pharmacist at one of the busiest stores in the organization’s Southwest division. Dr. Liu has a passion for patient care and upon completion of her residency she devoted a great deal of her time to travel health and diabetes management; she also sees patients through the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance program to help them manage their disease. The quarterly appointments allow Dr. Liu to develop a partnership with her patients and helps them to gain better control of their diabetes.

“I like to spend time with the patients and conduct point-of-care testing,” Dr. Liu said. “Such opportunities showcase the skills and knowledge pharmacists contribute to healthcare team.”

Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting one of Albertsons’ district managers, Doug Skvarla, RPh, who over his 5 years with the company has seen firsthand the value that Albertsons places in its team members. Skvarla has devoted much of his time to mentoring pharmacists, and says he believes that the most satisfying aspect of his role with Albertsons is watching these individuals reach their full potential. With district managers such as Skvarla who are dedicated to supporting the stores and ensuring they have the tools needed to provide optimum patient care, all pharmacy teams are able to make a difference.

Though the company started as a grocery chain, Albertsons Companies has grown to become a leader in community pharmacy practice with a focus on the patient and personal relationships. As the role of pharmacists evolves, Albertsons continues to grow to meet the needs of its patients, and I am happy to be able to grow as a pharmacist with a company that shares my values.

Anissa Marzuki is a post-graduate year 1 (PGY1) community practice resident with Albertsons Companies in Phoenix, AZ. She moved from Hawaii where she earned her PharmD from The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. Anissa earned her master's in Public Health from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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