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Rural pharmacies keep communities healthy

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Forman Pharmacy staff
The Forman Drug pharmacy team includes, from left: Barb Schlecht, Nathan Schlecht and Margo Fauss. (Photo by Liza Kessel)

From childhood ear infections, to teenage acne, to serious ailments of the elderly, North Dakota’s small-town pharmacies are often the only quick link to health care in a community.

Reaching across his drugstore counter in Forman, Nathan Schlecht has a close connection to his community, not just by filling a doctor’s scrawled prescription, but through all the other services he offers his customers.

“We have a vital role in our community,” he says. “Part of being a small-town pharmacist is seeing patients in all stages of their life.”

“The pharmacist is the most accessible health care professional in small communities. If you have a question, you can walk in and get an answer right now and our patients utilize us that way. We have a very good relationship with our patients,” says Shane Wendel, who owns pharmacies in Carrington and New Rockford.

“They provide vital access and services to their communities. In some cases, the rural pharmacy is the only health care provider left in a particular rural community. In some cases, the rural pharmacy might be the only pharmacy for 30 to 60 miles or the only pharmacy left in a particular county. Rural pharmacies in North Dakota care for and serve just under half of the population in North Dakota,” explains Mike Schwab, executive vice president of the N.D. Pharmacists Association.

It takes dedication to operate a retail business, offer pharmacy services in multiple communities and deeply care for every customer – all with a shoestring staff and continual budget-busting battles with insurance companies regarding reimbursement. These rural pharmacists face those challenges with a dose of innovation, a caring attitude and good old-fashioned hard work.