Staff Pharmacist Isn't Your Only Option: Why Independent Pharmacy Ownership May be Right for You
Whether you just graduated with your doctor of pharmacy degree or you have already been in the professional world for many years, being a pharmacist comes with countless opportunities to pursue a career in a variety of different settings.
It is common for new pharmacists to limit their job search to staff pharmacy positions in retail chain or hospital pharmacies because they believe that these career paths are their only options. While these roles can provide great experience and may be a good fit for some pharmacists, others have reported experiencing burnout from working in these practice settings.
This feeling of burnout can be related to rules from big corporations or institutions, limited time for breaks, and a significant number of patients you never really connect with.
Due to these concerns and the growing market saturation, new graduates and pharmacists who have established their careers may be looking to veer away from traditional pharmacy jobs to explore new options. For many individuals, this can be a lifestyle versus a pure job choice decision.
A potential avenue that some pharmacists may consider is starting an independent pharmacy or purchasing an established pharmacy to become their own boss.
In starting your own pharmacy, you can choose what your facility will specialize in and what services it will offer patients. Additionally, independent pharmacy owners can adjust facility operations to meet the changing needs of employees, patients, and the community, whereas traditional settings, such as large chain stores, may not be able to make the necessary adjustments.
A locally owned independent pharmacy can also offer patients health classes and focus on providing educational outreach programs geared toward conditions that are prevalent in a certain community. Although existing non independent locations such as chain pharmacies provide education for their patients, independents can really personalize the content to ensure that the specific population understands the message.
Independent pharmacies also have the freedom to join different payer networks that may have better offerings, while chains are often locked into networks for many years. Independents can also choose to focus on specialty products with the option of becoming an accredited specialty pharmacy and care for patients with complex needs that may require a higher level of care than what can be provided at a traditional community or chain pharmacy.
Importantly, many independent pharmacy owners are able to establish better connections with their patients to become a valuable and trusted asset to their communities.
As there is much more to being a pharmacist than just dispensing pills, there are significant underlying factors that must be considered before becoming a pharmacy owner. It is crucial for individuals to understand what has to go into owning an independent pharmacy—finances, staffing, legal concerns, and otherwise—before starting the process.
An important place to start is by talking to other independent pharmacy owners. Learning what these mentors wished they would have known before opening their doors could mitigate similar hardships for a new pharmacy owner. Joining an association, such as the National Community Pharmacists Association, or similar organizations in your state are fantastic resources.
An option for potential pharmacy owners is the opportunity to start an independent franchise. This may be beneficial since owners still have the flexibility to customize their offerings to meet the needs of their customers, while also receiving guidance and support from a larger corporate entity, such as your primary drug wholesaler. Becoming a franchise or participating in a buying cooperative may be of interest to current independent owners who are looking to expand their locations and offerings but are unsure of how to do so without guidance.
Some familiar drug wholesale distributors—including AmerisourceBergen Corporation—have developed programs for independent chain pharmacies, such as Good Neighbor Pharmacies. Specifically, the AmerisourceBergen Pharmacy Ownership Services program can provide current or potential owners with crucial information and assistance that may not otherwise be readily available.
Under most pharmacy ownership programs, distributor programs provide experienced advisors who can discuss goals, expectations, and financial options with potential owners. Their programs offer many of the same resources available to chain drug stores, such as advertising, private label, store layout, signage, and training programs. Advisors are able to connect pharmacists with the necessary resources about the business side of ownership, including financial options, business plans, and market research. In short, they can become your business mentor.
While a great understanding of pharmacy is crucial to success, so is understanding the business aspect of owning your own pharmacy. Receiving guidance from the distributor’s programs may be especially beneficial if you have a limited business background or just want to build on the experience of others. These services can guide a new or current pharmacy owner through the process with little to no roadblocks faced along the way.
Opening a pharmacy and working for yourself is a great way to gain independence and translate years of “behind the counter” knowledge to improve business practices and patient outcomes.