Pharmacy supervisors: Credit where credit is due


In most retail chain stores, the buck stops at the pharmacy supervisor’s desk. Here's a look at the pharmacy biz from their point of view.

Oluwole WilliamsEleven years ago, about two weeks before Christmas of 2003, I began my pharmacy practice experience here in the United States as an intern at a pharmacy in Philadelphia, Penn., after interviewing with the pharmacy manager and his pharmacy district supervisor.

I was green as a pea. I had only very sketchy knowledge of third-party reimbursements, labor overheads, inventory costs, prescription sales and turnover, manpower development, federal statutes and board regulations, business competition, psychology of patient behaviors, and more - essentially, all the critical indices of pharmacy operations that my pharmacy supervisor and manager would have been grappling with to ensure an efficient and profitable outcome for the company’s business services.

Where the buck stops

The business concerns listed above are a basic summary of where the buck stops at the pharmacy supervisor’s desk in most pharmacy stores. And some supervisors may have as many as 12 stores on their watch, for which the corporate home office holds them accountable.

Think of yourself for a moment as the house monitor in a boarding school, watching over four dormitories teeming with teenagers. How do you ensure that everyone participates and that all are present for studies, chores, games, and so on?

The difference is only a matter of degree between that example and the seemingly impossible challenge that pharmacy supervisors face nowadays in the management of pharmacy chain stores.

Prescription sales income is in decline; the cost of business operations is eroding net profit; drugs are in short supply; employee output and productivity are down; minimum wages are being raised on a state-by-state basis, hampering business projections; expensive personnel are hired for clinical services, but because of price competition within the industry, return on investment is poor; and erosion of federal Medicare and state Medicaid budgets has overextended an already emaciated financial portfolio.


The hot seat

The case could be made that at this time in U.S. history the role of pharmacy supervision is an endangered vocation, replete with “earthquakes,” “volcanoes,” “tornadoes,” “tsunamis,” and every imaginable potential disruption of business order.

In my opinion, there is no better time than now to acknowledge pharmacy supervisors, in recognition of their struggles to keep pharmacies open and running smoothly, albeits on a very tight rein.

Most pharmacy supervisors are our colleagues in pharmacy, and we all need to share our ideas openly with them, in honest recognition that such acts are for our collective good as healthcare professionals.

What it takes

For a pharmacy supervisor to survive at this time, he/she will need:

1. An honest, dedicated, professional, and creative workforce that knows, understands, and recognizes the current challenges besetting pharmacy businesses in North America.

2. A committed, enthusiastic, and disciplined team of technical/professional staff that is willing to place company goals/missions above pecuniary gain and personal aggrandizement.

3. Astute regional business managers who will negotiate workable agreements at contractor meetings to drive down the expensive costs of operations.

4. Awareness of the need to pay particular attention to employee recruitment at the level of each individual pharmacy, to prevent the entry of questionable characters whose activities are potentially lethal to the organization’s objectives.

5. The ability to communicate clearly and concisely to all pharmacy employees the company’s business ethics, as well as the codes of conduct - including dress code -expected of staff, in the context of the organization’s healthcare business image.


The right priorities

Most pharmacy managers and supervisors know only too well that spending expensive dollars on corporate advertising is a poor morale booster if employees are not issued bonuses or raises periodically.

Indeed, whenever they occur, such practices are a potential source of employee disillusionment and are always injurious to the motivational efforts that many supervisors work so hard to sustain.

Similarly, acquisition of high-tech computer software programs at the expense of methodical, timely manpower training or development is a costly retardation of productivity that often leads to significant shrinkages in gross profit and business losses.

At this time, the task of managing any group of pharmacies, which is the job of pharmacy supervisors, is no longer an enviable vocation.

Customer complaints, shareholder demands for higher dividends, competition from overseas internet pharmacies, declining national economic productivity, and unemployment have compounded the already difficult task of doing business.

Pharmacy district managers and supervisors therefore deserve our collective understanding and support as we all seek to survive in a rapidly flowing river of uncertainties.

Oluwole Williams practices pharmacy in the Philadelphia area. Contact him at

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