Pharmacists in Rural Primary Care

Pharmacists in Rural Primary Care

Sun Life Health is preparing to open a new location in Florence, Arizona on Highway 287. This new location will offer a full-service pharmacy, open to the public. The new location in Florence will be our sixth community pharmacy location, adding to our already existing locations in Casa Grande, Eloy, San Manuel, Maricopa and Apache Junction. Building out a new pharmacy is not just about the arrangement of the space and the medications that are stocked, it is also about the people involved in the process. We at Sun Life Health feel that one of the most important pieces to the process is recruiting and retaining great employees.

We hired Kenny Leutz onto our pharmacy team in November of 2015. Kenny was one of our first true “home-grown” Pharmacy Managers. We trained Kenny from Intern through Pharmacist and now we are preparing him for his role as Pharmacy Manager. He came to us from a larger chain pharmacy, where he worked as an intern for Jared Hatchard, who also previously worked for the larger chain. The first thing you notice about Kenny when he is around is how kind and caring he is. He is truly here for the right reasons, for patient care. As is the case with many pharmacists graduating from pharmacy schools around the nation, there is the desire to spread the message that pharmacists, in general, are more than meets the eye. The career is no longer just about filling and looking atprescriptions and medications. The career is focused on patient safety, and making certain that patients leave our hands with the best possible outcomes.

Kenny Leutz answered the following questions regarding pharmacists and patient care.

How can a pharmacist improve patient care?

“Pharmacists can play an important role in providing comprehensive health care to every patient that they have. Prescription medications are a great tool in helping slow disease state progression, prevent new disease onset, and improve quality of life if used correctly. The role pharmacists play is vital in assuring medication therapy is safe and effective for each individual. Pharmacists verify that appropriate medications are prescribed to patients, free from dosing errors, serious drug-drug interactions and drug-disease interactions. Additionally, patients need to be counseled on how to take medications correctly. Having the right medication prescribed means nothing if the patient is not educated on when medications should be taken, how they should be taken, and signs that the medication can be harmful instead of helpful. Moreover, pharmacists play a key role in medication adherence. Often medications are only effective if they are taken consistently over time, sometimes lifelong. Patients need to be educated and understand how their medication helps improve their health over time and why taking their medications is essential to preventing worse health outcomes. If pharmacists do not work to provide safe and effective medication therapy and do not fulfill their mission to educate patients, time and resources will be wasted and patient health outcomes will worsen over time.”

Why did you become a pharmacist?

“I wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy because I understood from a young age how medicine can be used to help improve quality of life. I also wanted to be involved in the health care in some capacity and pharmacy was a good fit for me. Once I learned more about the pharmacy profession during my undergraduate time at The University of Arizona, I began to understand how pharmacists are important beyond the typical retail setting. That was something I wanted to explore.”

What do community health centers mean to rural healthcare?

“Community health centers are extremely important to residents of rural communities mainly because access to health care is so limited. Many residents of rural Arizona lack health care coverage, have lower than average income, lack physical access to health care facilities, and have no supplemental support that is needed to live a healthy lifestyle. Community health centers are essential to help bridge this gap in care to underserved communities by providing primary and preventive care, health education, mental health, pediatric, dental, and pharmacy services among others.”

What do you see in your future?

“I see myself continuing to work in rural communities providing quality, comprehensive health care. I feel that I can play a larger role in rural communities due to the limited number of providers and resources that are available”.

Why did you choose to work for Sun Life Health?

“Sun Life Health took me on as a student intern and gave me a different pharmacy experience that I had not previously known. My time as an intern was extremely beneficial to my understanding of the role that pharmacists can have in the community healthcare setting. In the short time I have been with Sun Life Health, I have seen the role of the pharmacy department grow and flourish to help so many patients on their way to better health. When I was offered the opportunity to stay with Sun Life Health, I knew I wanted to continue to be a part of that growing process. The expansion to Florence is just another example of that continued growth and outreach to rural communities all around Arizona.”

Pharmacy, in general, is so much more than meets the eye. It is the assistance with over-the-counter medications, education of the patient at the time of prescription pickup and the friendliness of the familiar face when patients visit regularly that is expected of pharmacists. What is rarely seen is the work behind the scenes, the constant communication with providers, ensuring proper medication dosages, and the careful preparation of prescriptions that often pharmacists do not get the proper credit for.

While we prepare the finishing touches to the new pharmacy in Florence, we look forward to the future. We are all very excited to be able to offer a service like this to the people from Florence and the surrounding areas, and are excited to serve all people in the community. Having a community health center, with a full-service pharmacy will be of great benefit to this community.

For additional questions regarding pharmacy services, or the Florence project, please contact Matthew Bertsch at Sun Life Health.

By: Dr. Matthew Bertsch, Director of Pharmacy, Sun Life Health