Recently, Chloe McCotter, digital news program manager in Media Relations, wrote NDWorks with a story idea. She wanted to shine a light on the staff at the Wellness Center’s Walgreens pharmacy and the thoughtful customer service she has noticed since the coronavirus pandemic forced most faculty and staff to work remotely. Here’s what she said:
"The Wellness Center pharmacy called me last week to see how I was doing and if I needed any refills shipped because of the pandemic. I did, so I asked them to ship two prescriptions to my parents' house in Battle Creek, Michigan since I am staying here while working remotely. I had actually been thinking about changing the pick up location on the Walgreens app so I could pick up my prescriptions in Michigan, but this made it even easier for me. Five days later the prescription was delivered and the staff included a really sweet card. They also included a blank card and a stamped envelope with an additional note about self-care that asked me to pay it forward by writing a message on the blank card to a friend and mailing it to them. Simple, but very thoughtful."
Intrigued, an NDWorks editor interviewed pharmacy manager Vince Workman about how the pandemic affected the Wellness Center pharmacy's customer service.
NDW: When the coronavirus led the University to switch to remote classes and work, like any manager, you had to consider the dangers the pandemic posed to your staff. Almost immediately, we saw the pharmacy become drive-thru only. How did you come to that decision and what were some other decisions that were made along the way?
VW: Notre Dame Human Resources leadership, Premise Health and the Wellness Center team used the best information at hand to ensure the health and safety of our patients and team members while at the same time ensuring our patients had access to the pharmacy. The only practical way to accomplish this and to ensure our patients were cared for was by converting to drive-thru-only access.
The first day of drive-thru-only access was the most challenging. The pharmacy experienced its busiest month since opening in 2012. We quickly recognized the drive-thru line was too long. So we worked with Notre Dame Parking Services to manage the line. We also decided to convert to a hybrid concierge/drive-thru during busy times and curbside pickup. We put a greeter outside talking with members and relaying information to a runner inside the pharmacy to expedite the drive-thru line. That significantly decreased the wait times.
This challenging experience taught us many things moving forward as we increase in-person access to the pharmacy. The new normal will be a combination of in-person access, concierge drive-thru and curbside delivery. All patients entering the Wellness Center will be asked to answer a couple of screening questions, get a quick temperature check and be asked to wear a mask to protect themselves and others.
NDW: Chloe describes how your staff offered to send her prescriptions where she is for free. Why offer that service? Is free shipping still available?
VW: In the early months of the pandemic, governors across the country signed executive orders allowing medications to be shipped. During such an uncertain time, we wanted to ensure that our patients had access to their medications without worry.
As the stay-at-home period went on, we wanted patients to know that if they wanted to stay at home because they felt safer, that was ok. We could take care of their prescription and over-the-counter needs by shipping to them. At the same time, we wanted patients to know that if they were on campus or wanted to escape from home, they could come visit us through the drive-thru.
The executive orders have since expired, so some of our shipping has become more limited. We are figuring out how shipping fits into our pharmacy access moving forward.
NDW: We’ve heard from readers that the pharmacy staff has called customers to, first, see how they are doing and then ask if they need any refills. Were the open ended questions during the quarantine intentional?
VW: We love seeing our members, and at the same time, we knew a lot of our members felt isolated, anxious and stressed during the stay-at-home order. We decided we wanted to make a difference in member's lives, let them know we cared and let them know they were in our thoughts even though we couldn't see them in person. We felt outreach was the most important thing we could do for our members.
We had some of the most amazing, touching, open and heartfelt conversations. It was amazing how open, and, at times, vulnerable our members were. The level of trust many patients showed in us still makes all of the pharmacy team feel like a part of the Notre Dame community.
NDW: Is there anything you would like to add?
VW: During this time, my team and I have further realized how fortunate we are to work at Notre Dame. We are able to impact people in so many positive ways. But even more important, is the impact our members have on us. The generosity and grace shown to my team has been humbling. Over the past three months, we have had members bring us home baked goods, respirator masks, ice cream and donuts. Members have given us hand sewn masks, headbands and even a quilt. They have sent thank you letters that have brought tears to our eyes. Some have just stopped in at the drive-thru to say "hi" and check in on us. In one case, a member sent our "pay it forward" post card back to us so we knew that our pharmacy team was in the members thoughts and prayers. Thank you. We are so grateful.