The Pharmacy school curriculum does little to prepare one for the enormous solution-provider role in the retail sector of the pharmaceutical industry. The value chain of this sector poses challenges that require many disciplines; however, retail pharmacists have had to evolve to take up more responsibilities in their premises. This is most times done to save cost. This has however led to lack of ‘white space’, leaving little or no room to innovate or grow the sector. These tasks can also affect service delivery with regards to pharmaceutical care and counselling, thereby increasing chances of medication errors and abuse.
The community pharmacist is therefore considered to be so busy but reaping little or no reward. The different facets of discipline usually embarked on are highlighted below:
The accountant pharmacist
Finance management is important to maintain all facets of community pharmacy practice as it is with any other business. However, the overdependence on the pharmacist to carry out detailed accounting processes is farfetched and overbearing. Basic accounting, closing of end of day sales, banking of cash and filling cash registers can be otherwise done by a cashier, leaving the pharmacist with ample time and space to provide better services to patients.
The pharmacy manager
He or she acts as a supervisor of other team members to achieve company goals, as well as coordination of daily activities in the pharmacy. This may include inventory management, upholding standards, reporting to pharmacy CEO or higher hierarchy, and training of pharmacist assistants. It is advised that the job description of the pharmacy manager is clearly understood; this will help achieve targeted team results.
A manager must have excellent knowledge of inventory available in-store and always ensure information dissemination through regular strategy sessions executed at least once a week.
The clinical pharmacist
The most important attribute of a pharmacy manager is the ability to offer up-to-date pharmaceutical care to patients and to ensure safe use of medicines. Every community pharmacy must utilise in-store space to counsel their patients on medicine use, side-effects, dosage, disease-management, use of medical devices, herbal medicines and allergies. These added services make the community pharmacist an indispensible healthcare professional adding significant value at all times.
The community pharmacist must therefore ensure daily knowledge acquisition to meet up with the demands of the community. He or she must lay emphasis on preventive therapy and use an integrative approach in treatment. For example, in counselling, an obese patient with a fasting blood glucose levels at the pre-diabetes level, should be advised on a holistic change of diet, to a more balanced diet with fruits, fibres and nuts as mainstay. Also, advice on exercise, more regular checks to monitor increase or decrease in sugar levels should be given.
While a patient treating diabetes must be treated with the integrative approach of a standard medicine, ample knowledge on the condition he is treating, offering services such as blood glucose checks, given supplements to help management of the condition and lastly given a device to monitor daily or weekly glucose levels.
The interior decorator pharmacist
The layout, design and merchandising of your pharmacy to meet your customers’ needs is paramount and must be done to increase purchase. Orderly arrangements help avoid mistakes due to medication error and also help for easy location of products with little help from the staff. Labelling shelves according to category and sections makes the customer feel welcomed and helps increase basket size.
The community pharmacist must always ensure a neat work area that depicts hygiene at all times. Arrangements of over the counter medicines must favour premium brands placed on eye level over non-premium ones. The Pharmacist must supervise regular cleaning of shelves and maintain a neat ambiance at all times.
The facility-manager pharmacist
Ensuring bulbs are changed, burnt wires are fixed, generator serviced, pipes changed, floors cleaned, shelf glass changed when broken, are some of the many facility issues a pharmacist must supervise while on duty. Some of these issues can cripple office activities and must be treated as urgent. Without this, they can obstruct more pertinent duties such as offering pharmacy services or counselling. A better way around this may be to go for multi-pharmacy collaboration. A facility management company can be hired to cater for 20 pharmacies who can pool funds together to pay for excellent facility services.
The procurement pharmacist
To ensure authentic and safe medicines are procured at all times, the eagle eyes of a pharmacist are needed to ensure nothing fake passes through the cracks. This necessitates negotiation techniques and quality assurance skills on the list of competencies necessary for a pharmacist to possess in a community pharmacy.
The customer service expert
The backbone of the retail business is customer service and the community pharmacist must not be left out in offering quality customer service. Other thriving sectors such as banking, finance, telecommunications and confectionaries have established their brands, using this technique and the retail pharmacy sector has endeavoured to do same. This means the pharmacist must embody this trait and cascade the skills to every member of the team.
Finally, acquiring these multidisciplinary skills makes the community pharmacist a valuable team player, as none of the above can be achieved through self-help but only with team work. However, priorities (patient care) must be focused on, in order to achieve best service delivery. Therefore, collaborating with sectors that can offer services that can give the pharmacist more time to focus on safe medicine use would be best to achieve better therapeutic outcomes.
By Pharm. Ayodeji Oni
(Freelancing for Advantage Health Africa)