MacDill PharmaCARE - busiest Air Force pharmacy

  • Published
  • By Airman Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
The sound of pills hitting the bottom of orange bottles fills the room as Airmen quickly fill prescriptions. Customers stand in line waiting for their prescriptions and are greeted by smiling Airmen.

The PharmaCARE center at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida prides itself with delivering fast and friendly customer service. No matter the job being performed, every Airman on MacDill has a role in the completing the mission and the Airmen in the PharmaCARE highlight that.

“We at PharmaCARE do everything we can to keep everyone healthy,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Winnert, the NCO in charge of PharmaCARE assigned to the 6th Medical Group (MDG). “Our responsibility is to make sure service members are mission ready.”

Not only does the center serve active duty personnel, but also guard and reserve members, military dependents, Department of Defense civilians and MacDill’s mission partners such as U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command. However, the majority of prescriptions filled go to retirees.

With more than 130,000 retirees in the Tampa Bay area, the PharmaCARE center at MacDill AFB is the busiest outpatient pharmacy in the Air Force.

“PharmaCARE is extremely busy; there’s always something to do,” said Airman 1st Class Katherine Muir, a pharmacy technician assigned to the 6th MDG. “No matter what is going on, there is always a section in the pharmacy that needs help.”

Often times, the help provided comes from volunteers who work in the center to ease the workload for the Airmen.

“The volunteer program is extremely vital to our success here,” said Winnert. “Our volunteers win awards from the 6th Air Mobility Wing all the time; they are absolutely crucial.”

What exactly do the volunteers do? They can fill prescriptions if they are a certified pharmacy technician; however, most assist in the time consuming task of sorting and pairing prescriptions, allowing for a more efficient process and a faster pickup.

Using a Global Script Locator (GSL) system, the volunteers help couple prescriptions and their barcodes to a specific bin. Whenever a patient’s ID is scanned, radio-frequency identification helps locate where the prescription is by lighting up the bin containing the bottle, another time-saver which allows faster prescription retrieval.

“There’s no more brown paper bags sitting on the shelf in alphabetical order,” laughed Winnert. “The GSL technology made things a lot more efficient for us.”

Winnert explained PharmaCARE operations usually run smoothly. Wait times in the past six months have averaged around 42 to 47 minutes, which includes checking in and walking out with the prescription. Additionally, PharmaCARE recently overcame a major obstacle.

“Over the Fourth of July weekend, the prescription call-in system did not shut off,” said Muir “When we came in the Tuesday after the holiday, there were approximately 2,100 prescriptions that needed to be filled.”

Since fast and friendly service is a priority, the center was pressed to complete the long list of prescriptions, or face a long line of impatient customers.

“Six people, including myself, manually filled all of the prescriptions in about 10 hours,” said Muir. “We were able to finish a weekend’s worth of orders in one day; we pushed through.”

Thanks to the center’s staff, its award-winning volunteers and the goal to provide the best customer service possible, the PharmaCARE center is able keep Team MacDill fit to fight in order to accomplish the mission daily.