The “pharmacist is not just someone at the counter” - how the young pharmacist from Pécs saved a rural pharmacy in difficulty
Friday, 30 July, 2021
While in large cities we tend to view pharmacies as supermarkets, in smaller places pharmacies still have community-building and community-retaining functions. What does it take for a rural pharmacy to thrive and keep up with pharmacies in big cities that have far more resources? We talked to Diána Csanádiné Dr. Treitz who, as a recently graduated pharmacist, took over and made a rural pharmacy in difficulty prosper.
Written by Miklós Stemler
People living in larger cities may be familiar with the following routine: we need medicine, a medicinal product, or some other product sold in pharmacies, so we go to the nearest pharmacy and then, if we cannot find what we are looking for, we go and try another one. In a smaller locality, this is completely different: here, a single pharmacy usually has to meet diverse needs, while also having to deal with larger competitors in nearby cities, and this places great responsibility on the pharmacy and the pharmacists working there. At the same time, it also has opportunities, and Diána Csanádiné Dr. Treitz, the manager of the only pharmacy in a Tolna county village, focuses on these.
The young pharmacist, who graduated from the University of Pécs Faculty of Pharmacy in 2018, had to immediately use the knowledge and business spirit acquired at the university after taking over the pharmacy in her home village, the previous owner of which died, putting all the family's savings together. The business was not risk-free at all, as in addition to “inheriting” a pharmacy in difficulty, it is a common trend that competitors in cities often close to high-traffic supermarkets and hypermarkets attract patients from the village pharmacies, which in some cases must close as a result. Diana’s response was on the one hand to strengthen local roots and a change of attitude, and on the other hand development.
“In the case of a rural pharmacy, the relationship of trust between patients and staff is still important today, patients often cling to one person, they want him or her to serve them, to talk to them about either starting their monthly medication or solving an acute problem. In a small-town or village pharmacy, it is essential to maintain and strengthen (taking it into account) good manners and trust, as this has patient-retaining and patient-attracting effect. We are, so to speak, in a monopoly position because there is no other pharmacy in the village, but in the surrounding cities where most locals go to work and shopping, there are, of course, more competitors, and by our way of treating patients and customers, we can make them choose our pharmacy, (and) even come to us from the surrounding localities,” says Diána Csanádiné Treitz.
The young pharmacist had to make the local community accept her as well because due to her age many people simply did not take her seriously at first, and they were not even aware that she was not an employee but the manager of the pharmacy herself. The coronavirus epidemic brought further complications. Diána had to fill in for her only pharmacist who quit because of the epidemic; she had to work full-time again half a year after her first child was born, so that the pharmacy supplying medicine to the village could remain open.
As a result of the initial difficulties and the treatment of patients after the epidemic, the attractiveness of the pharmacy has now grown far beyond the borders of the village: many people come from the small towns and villages 20 kilometres away, which indicates the need for this approach and the fact how rare it is these days. However, this can also be vital for survival, as a smaller pharmacy is often inevitably at a disadvantage in terms of product range.
“For example, we do not sell a wide variety of expensive dermocosmetics even though they are sought after from time to time because interest does not reach a level where it is worth keeping more of them in stock. In such cases, the customer inevitably goes to a drugstore-like, modernized pharmacy, and then may not come back, due to which a pharmacy can even go bankrupt in the long run. The other factor that endangers the survival of rural pharmacies is the lack of specialists, as it is very difficult to attract pharmacists or even assistants. Pharmacies in big cities have an advantage in this case as well because they can provide higher wages and more extra benefits to job seekers due to higher turnover.”
The re-establishment of the traditional pharmacist role served as a real innovation both in the village and in the pharmacy. “At first, there were tensions to motivate colleagues to keep in touch with patients, there were some who were uninterested and completely incapable of doing so. Fortunately, I now have a very good and strong team who do everything for our patients professionally and humanly as well. In our pharmacy and in pharmacies like ours, I think it is especially important to let people be aware that a pharmacist is not just someone at the counter who dispenses medicines like a pound of bread. Based on the feedback, the patients appreciate the care and attention. It is important for them to feel that they are the focus here, that we work for them.”
Success also requires that the pharmacist is well acquainted with the needs of his or her patients and, in the vast majority of cases, has access to the products he or she is looking for - and can suggest alternatives. All of this seems obvious, but not irrelevant if customers – in many cases elderly patients - have to travel for hours to another pharmacy because they failed to redeem their medication or did not receive the product they were looking for in that certain rural pharmacy. "That is why we always have products in stock that people do not buy very often, such as the rolling walker, of which we sell one or two every year, but we cannot let the patient down because we do not have one when he or she needs it," says Diána Csanádiné Treitz.
In addition, a well-functioning pharmacy gives the village a kind of rank and attraction, it can tell a lot about the locality’s condition. Besides the change of attitude, Diána Csanádiné Treitz and her team made several improvements on the outside and inside of the pharmacy even during the pandemic, and significant IT development was also possible by winning a GINOP tender. The initially distrustful and guarded locals have accepted the young manager who takes care of the health of the villagers outside the pharmacy too and gives several lectures every year in the local health education program.