Claire Robertson, pharmacist at Blooms The Chemist Wagga Wagga Sturt Mall, tells us about her career highlights, her pharmacy and team, the evolution of the industry and more.
What have been some of your career and store highlights so far? Please elaborate on the valuable lessons learned from them.
Winning the 2018 Blooms The Chemist Customer Service Award was certainly a highlight. We pride ourselves on customer service and to be recognised for this at our Blooms The Chemist Sturt Mall store was huge.
Another highlight was the overwhelming support and comments from customers when I had my son. Their gifts and kind words were so heart-warming, and I really felt connected to my local community.
Buying my own pharmacy and becoming a business owner has also been a milestone of my career. Being able to give back to the community while also contributing to my family has been wonderful, and I’ve loved being part of the wider Blooms The Chemist community during this journey.
What has been the impact of technology on pharmacy over recent years?
Technology has helped pharmacy evolve, improving workflow and allowing pharmacists to get out of the dispensary and help our customers and patients even more through a wider range of health services. It’s made access to medications a lot easier for people, especially during COVID-19, with apps like MedAdvisor allowing customers to access medications and reducing the chance of spreading the virus. My Script List has also made it so much easier to access patient history, and robots are useful in allowing the pharmacy team to be more available to customers.
How has the pharmacy industry and its approach to health services evolved over years?
The role of the pharmacist has evolved from dispensing prescriptions and counselling on medications to now offering services to identify, prevent and treat a range of different health conditions. The scope at which pharmacists are able to practise has taken pressure off Australia’s healthcare system by freeing up GP time.
The ease of access to a pharmacy, often with no appointment required, also means customers can access health services at the time that suits them. I believe this has allowed people to be more proactive with their health and has led to better health outcomes for many Australians.
Tell us about the ethos of your pharmacy and how it differs from other pharmacies in your view.
We have a number of team members who’ve been with us for many years, some having worked with us for almost two decades. They have a lifetime of knowledge and are familiar faces in the community. In a regional town, people like to get to know their pharmacist and pharmacy team—they feel more comfortable placing their trust in someone they know. I find it also helps take some of the pressure off the pharmacist when customers are confident and know they can ask a pharmacy assistant for help or advice. We have champions across the store who specialise in specific services and offerings, from sleep apnoea to compression garments.
Our team is also very community focused, and we support several local charities and not-for-profit organisations as well as Blooms The Chemist national charity partners Make-A-Wish Australia and Gidget Foundation Australia.
Why is looking after your community so important to your pharmacy? What do think your customer base values the most about your pharmacy?
Helping our local community is at the core of our business. Our team chose to work in pharmacy for the purpose of helping people. We make it our mission to develop personal relationships with customers, seeking to understand their medical history as well as their background, family, and significant events in their lives. We understand that when we’re helping to heal and support someone, we’re doing so in a holistic way. We see the person, not just the patient. And we know that our community appreciates that we genuinely care about them and their wellbeing, and the excellent support and advice they get from a pharmacy that’s locally owned and operated.
What are your values at your pharmacy and why is it so important to maintain core values in community pharmacy?
These values are important as they’re the heart of what we do and why we exist. We make sure new team members understand that these values guide our everyday actions and the way we engage with our community and each other. We make it a point to hire team members who share these values.
What has been the way in which challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and 60-day dispensing have most changed the way your pharmacy operates?
I firmly believe that challenges can be overcome, but it’s the way you manage adversity that determines the ultimate outcome. The pharmacy industry has experienced a lot of change over the past few years, but remembering why we chose this profession and working together as a team helps us overcome these challenges. The challenges have made our team stronger and allowed us to identify areas of operation where we can improve and optimise so we continue delivering exceptional care to the community.
How has your team performed during the challenges of the past two years?
I’m really lucky to have such an amazing team. Everyone works really well together. We’re united in our purpose, and we always have each other’s backs. Regular team meetings and emphasising consistent and open communication and feedback have helped us tackle these challenges head on. I like to think that if we’ve survived the last few years, we’ve built even greater resilience.
Can you elaborate on what your most popular service is? Why do you think it’s so successful? What’s your advice to other pharmacies seeking to strengthen that service in their store?
Sleep apnoea testing is our most popular service. We’ve been offering this service for 10 years, with the same team member responsible for the testing from when we first introduced it. Customers trust her and she has built a strong reputation within the community, mostly via word of mouth.
My advice for pharmacies seeking to strengthen sleep apnoea testing would be to have a store champion – one or two team members to specialise and provide support so your service is streamlined. Customers will build a relationship with these team members and will start coming to them for advice. Relationship building is essential in the modern world, with online shopping so readily available.
What do you predict the rest of 2023 has in store for pharmacy?
I always try to look at the positives, so I hope the rest of 2023 will bring new and exciting opportunities for pharmacy. It’s an ever-evolving industry, and 60-day dispensing may allow pharmacists to expand their scope of practice even more in terms of offering additional health services and being more available to customers.
What do you look forward to most in 2024?
I’m looking forward to our continued participation in the UTI treatment trial and also beginning the oral contraceptive trial. I believe these are milestones for pharmacy and will really make a difference in the accessibility of healthcare, which is at the heart of Blooms The Chemist’s purpose. We’re also exploring a potential store refit, which is exciting for us and the community. I look forward to expanding our offering and services.
Describe your day-to-day challenges and how you overcome them.
Being a pharmacist requires continuous problem solving, whether that’s helping customers with their health concerns or helping our team increase their product knowledge or improve store processes. As both a pharmacist and a business owner, there’s a lot of multitasking, especially when the store is busy. I try to prioritise as much as possible, and find that open communication with both team members and customers is key.
What has been your most satisfying moment in the pharmacy?
The most satisfying part of my job is getting positive feedback from customers. A simple thank you, or hearing how I’ve truly helped someone just by doing my job is the reason I’m a pharmacist.
This article was first published in Retail Pharmacy November magazine.