Students learn operations of independent pharmacies
It's a whole lot more than knowing how many pills go into a bottle. Every day, people entrust their health and their lives to pharmacists who fill prescriptions for every kind of ailment.
It takes dedicated people who strive every day to get that prescription filled accurately and help get that patient well.
A group of 16 future pharmacists from the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy took a three-day tour of Kansas pharmacies to see how independent pharmacies operate.
One of those students is Cole Kendall, of Greensburg.
Kendall said he was looking at the medical field his senior year in high school. He likes coming from rural Kansas and his goal is to be a pharmacist in a rural community.
This trip is helping him learn how independent pharmacies operate. He likes the interaction pharmacists have in rural communities.
"It's a great opportunity to get to know the patients and provide the best care they can," Kendall said.
Kendall said he likes chemistry, anatomy and physiology and learning what medications do to the body so becoming a pharmacist was a good field for him.
Student Angela Baalmann, of Andover, said the trip had been a good learning experience about pharmacies in rural communities. A lot of her family is in medicine, but pharmacy was a better fit for her goals. Pharmacy is a special area that will help keep her involved with the patients. She was impressed with the independent pharmacists and everything that was happening in rural communities.
One of their tour stops was Plaza Pharmacy in Garden City. Pharmacist and owner Robin Schenck described the operation of the pharmacy while a steady flow of patients came and went during the KU visit. A busy day is normal for Plaza Pharmacy.
Monday is its busiest day, with 400-plus prescriptions filled. The rest of the days average between 250 and 350 prescriptions filled, Schenck said.
While the staff is always on the go, they always try to meet and greet each customer. Because they are so busy, an automated machine, ScriptPro, helps the staff by filling bottles and attaching labels. ScriptPro has 200 different medications available in this automated system and fills about 57% of all the medications that go out of the office. Another machine, Eye Con, reads a bar code on the bottle, displays the vital patient information, provides a visual display of what the pills should look like, counts the number of pills and takes a photo for the pharmacy files. If the machine displays a green light, the count is correct. This provides valuable accountability for the pharmacy, Schenck said.
With their high-volume patients, these machines are an invaluable asset and these future pharmacists have to be aware of new technology and be ready to use it.
"They need to know how it works and the cost of it. In the real world, they will need it," Schenck said.
There is much more to being a pharmacist than just filling prescriptions. Schenck said when a customer comes in the door, he or she may not remember their name but does know their medications. This is critical when a patient comes in, because they may want an over-the-counter medication that might react badly with their particular medical condition. Interactions between medications have increased, and knowing what a patient can and can't have is part of her job.
"I know what they can or cannot take over the counter," Schenck said.
Medications are not the only items for sale in the pharmacy. They also have special shoes to fit the needs of their patients.
They also have a machine that can process digital photography. This has nothing to do with medications, but pharmacies in rural areas do very well having the ability to print out photographs off cellphones, Schenck said during her presentation.
Technology is vital in the pharmacy, and good software is essential. Students today have to be up to date on the latest technology to be successful. When she was training to be a pharmacist, she had no idea she would have to be solid in Information Technology and up to speed in the insurance industry.
Another key to success is having good, helpful people on the staff who know the patients, know the equipment and know the medications and how they interact.
Gene Hotchkiss, senior associate dean of the KU Pharmacy Program, said it's important for students to get out of the classroom and actually see how independent pharmacies function in the real world. They learn that pharmacy is more than just filling prescriptions. The trip also shows the philosophy at KU that pharmacy should be face to face, rather than mail order.
Ron Ragan, dean of the KU School of Pharmacy, said it was important for the students to see successful independent pharmacists, and that it is a rewarding lifestyle.
The tour visited Gibson Pharmacy in Osage City, Haag Pharmacy in Emporia, Hesston Pharmacy, Kiowa County Pharmacy in Greensburg, Grant County Drug in Ulysses, Plaza Pharmacy in Garden City, Scott City Pharmacy, G&L Pharmacy in Ness City, Gibson Pharmacy in Dodge City, Kinsley Drug, Reed Pharmacy in Larned, Cardinal Drug in Hoisington and B&K Pharmacy in Salina.