Walmart Essay Winner: Helping Patients Live Better, Healthier Lives
I consider it a great privilege to be able to serve my patients and empower them to improve their health.
I consider it a great privilege to be able to serve my patients and empower them to improve their health. As pharmacists and technicians, we’re committed to saving patients money and helping them to live better, healthier lives, a philosophy that has never been more evident to me than in a recent interaction with a new patient.
Our store is located near a hospital, so we tend to get quite a few patients from the emergency department. One day, a female patient who had been discharged from the hospital came in with a number of prescriptions, including one for an Advair inhaler. The patient, however, did not have insurance and was unable to afford the inhaler. Without hesitation, we offered to call the hospital and get the prescriptions changed to Symbicort so that the patient could take advantage of a coupon for a free trial. The patient seemed shocked and was very happy that we were willing to go out of our way to assist her.
We called the emergency department and they approved the prescription change. While we filled her prescriptions, we helped register the patient for her free trial of Symbicort; then, during the checkout process, we also gave her a list of free and low-cost clinics in our area. She was taken aback, tearfully explaining that she had just moved to the area for a new job, and in her first week she had a severe asthma attack that landed her in the emergency department. She admitted that she had misplaced her regimen of medications during the moving process, and planned to go without until she could find a doctor. She also expressed concern that, without her medicine, she would return to the hospital and risk losing her new job due to absenteeism. Finally, she told us that we were the best pharmacy she has ever visited, and that never in her life had anyone gone above and beyond to help her as much as we did.
Whenever our pharmacy receives a compliment, our entire staff walks a little taller, breathes a little easier, and feels a sense of pride in being able to help others in a way that exceeds the customer’s expectations. However, this incident was a little different, because our technicians led the entire interaction. When I heard that the patient had no insurance I walked toward the drop-off window intending to call the emergency department to find a cheaper alternative, but I only made it a few steps before our technician offered to do just that. Then, at checkout, another technician placed the free and low-cost clinic flyer in her tote. Only at counseling did I get a chance to speak with the patient. The team did everything exactly the way I would have, if not better, and I could not have been prouder of the entire staff.
I’m sure there are many pharmacists that have gone that extra step to help patients, but that’s not where our influence ends. This interaction made me realize that we can spread that influence by motivating and empowering our fellow pharmacists, technicians, and interns to do the same. Our associates all want to do a good job and enjoy helping others, but sometimes are simply unsure how to best do so. We have the ability to teach them through training and through our example to truly help people save money so they can live better, healthier lives.
MJ McDowell, PharmD, is a graduate of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy and has been a pharmacist with Walmart for 10 years. She is currently the manager of Walmart Neighborhood Market Pharmacy #4848 in Charlotte, North Carolina.