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Working in an Independent Pharmacy

The low-down on owning and operating an independent pharmacy


Working in an Independent Pharmacy

Richard and Marge McCoy run Lopez Island Pharmacy, an independent store, in Washington state

Richard McCoy

There are many different types of pharmacy to work in: An independent, a chain, a hospital, a long-term care facility, or a compounding pharmacy. Here we take a look at what it’s like for pharmacists to work in an independent pharmacy:

Richard McCoy has been the pharmacist at Lopez Island Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy on Lopez Island in Washington state since 1984, where he works with his wife Marge.

On a typical day, the two arrive at the pharmacy at 7:30 a.m. For the first half-hour before opening they clean up loose ends from the previous day, “trying to hit the ground running,” says McCoy.

Many prescriptions come in overnight automatically so they try to prioritize them depending on the pickup times. During the day they constantly have to reprioritize which prescriptions they’re filling based on need.

For around two hours they deal with orders that are called in. “We have a close relationship with the clinic and Marge and I are both back and forward with them clarifying things, taking care of small emergencies. The clinic is just 15 feet away.”

The McCoys are also frequently pulled away from filling prescriptions to discuss over-the-counter therapy with patients.

“People gravitate towards us for female issues and issues with babies, especially my wife,” says McCoy. “So we spend much of our day on the other side of the counter—maybe 20%-25% of our day.”

The pharmacists typically work through lunch and then the afternoon proceeds in the same way.

By the end of the day, they run orders and replenish inventory (something they also do before noon). So they’re filling prescriptions right up until the time they close. Closing time is 6 p.m. but they stay open longer if the clinic is backed up (and will be sending patients to the pharmacy) of if there’s an emergency at the clinic.

“So before we go home, we check next door and find out if we need to stick around.” Once they’re home, it’s not always for good. They sometimes get called to the pharmacy for emergencies. “In some weeks we’ll get two or three calls a week but sometimes we can go weeks on end without having one,” says McCoy.

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