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Career Story: Pharmacist In A Retail Pharmacy

Pharmacist In A Retail Pharmacy

Job Title: Pharmacist, Business Owner

Education: BS in Pharmacy, /state Univ of New York at Buffalo

Previous Experience: I was a candystriper hospital volunteer in highschool. I had some workstudy experience in college in a biochem lab. I worked as a clerk in several retail pharmacies during my 5 years of college. My externship was a rotation through several hospitals in Buffalo and my internship after graduation was at Baptist Hospital in Miami,Florida. My first job as a registered pharmacist after passing my New York State Boards was at Rite AID Pharmacy as a floater throughout Buffalo/ Niagra Falls area. I spent 14 years as a staff pharmacist in a chain store in Oregon before starting my own pharmacy with a franchise.

Job Tasks: From the minute I arrive at my retail pharmacy, my life is no longer my own. Our store is open to the public and our mission is to provide pharmacy products and services to the people in our aproximately five mile radius in a prompt and courteous manner. There is a great need for such services. While there is a tremendous amount of information available on disease and treatments available, sorting it all out in a timely manner is not easy, especially for the sickest people in our society. Our average customer is elderly and takes several medicines, often seeing two or three doctors regularly.

Every new prescription must be double checked for accuracy, appropriateness, interactions with other meds, and then the really difficult part- will the patient's insurance cover this medicine.

Every prescription is carefully prepared by a pharmacy technician with the aid of computer programs under a pharmacist's supervision. Each order is double checked by the pharmacist before being rung up by the clerk. I spend an unheard of amount of my time explaining what these meds are for, how to take them, what not to do...to my customers who know they can ask me any question any time. With over 30 years of experience I have probably heard the questions a few times before. My job as owner as well as pharmacist is to keep the store profitable. This may seem an unworthy occupation but if I cannot generate enough business at the right rate I cannot turn around and buy more of these expensive medicines to keep ready at hand and to meet my payroll.

I also give immunizations, mostly influenza in the fall and now I am starting to give shingles vaccine. I have a book-keeper who helps with billing, accounts payable and receivable and with hiring and all the multitude of regulations involved.

There is no start or finish to this business - just a constant stream of people in need that we try to help. Today I spent an hour on the phone trying to get a child's nebulizer machine covered by her father's insurance, mom & dad divorced, insurance nightmare. After finding my way through that maze, I took all the parts out and explained to mom and daughter how to give a nebulizer treatment.

They thought they knew how, but dad who also had asthma had been doing his treatments incorrectly for the last 8 years- so they can now call him and give him some pointers also. A pharmacy degree is hard to obtain, but can be useful in many fields-not just retail or hospital. I just enjoy being on the front lines helping people one at a time. I do not enjoy the insurance /payment problems and would like to see a transformation to this non=system.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are when I can solve a problem and help someone in the process. The child who needed the nebulizer treatments had been to other pharmacies but they would not take the time to find out how and if insurance would cover this. If we do not have an item on hand we call to see if it is in stock for next day delivery or we call all the pharmacies around to see if they have it. When a customer has a special problem I will research it until I find an answer or find the next source that will be able to help. The worst parts of my job are the administrative parts. I am not knowledgeable in employee matters and have recently delegated most of this to my bookkeeper.

Job Tips:
1. Make a list of everyone you meet in school and work- pharmacy is a small world. Network.

2. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions of employers, suppliers, business associates, etc.,no-one knows the whole system, just their little part of it.

3.When possible get a partner or work for someone else. This is too much work and too complicated to go alone.

Additional Thoughts: I have recommended pharmacy to young people over the years because even though it is a changing field there are many new opportunities opening up.

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