On Women Pharmacist Day, get to know 71-year-old Barbara Fjordbak of Iowa City, Iowa.
Submitted by Walgreens Boots Alliance
By Elyse Russo, Walgreens Stories
Barbara Fjordbak married her husband Jim in July 1972, and six months later she started working for Walgreens. So, she’s been married for 51 years and worked at Walgreens for 50.
"I always say that I'm a lifer. I'm going to stick to the commitments I made,” she says, laughing.
Fjordbak worked at Walgreens for three-and-a-half years while attending pharmacy school at University of Iowa, and then stayed on as a pharmacist for 47 years and counting.
“I would love to be a registered pharmacist for 50 years, not just work for Walgreens for 50 years. So that gives me almost three more years to go!” the 71-year-old Fjordbak says. “I still have my health and I still enjoy working.”
For Women Pharmacist Day, Fjordbak looks back on her career with Walgreens and reflects on why she became a pharmacist and how the role has changed over the years.
Answering the call
Fjordbak, who grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, was interested in pursuing a career in healthcare at a young age, influenced by her mother who was a nurse.
She remembers being in sixth grade when a family friend asked if she was going to be a nurse like her mom, to which she replied, “Nope, I’m going to be a pharmacist.”
“I truly believe that God called me to be a pharmacist,” Fjordbak says. “I knew he was going to give me gifts and talent to fulfill that calling.”
Walgreens also helped her fulfill her calling by giving her a college scholarship.
“At the time, I had to work one year with the company for every year they paid for my school,” she says. Because Fjordbak worked at Walgreens all through pharmacy school, her commitment to the company was complete by graduation time. But she wasn't ready to leave.
“I wanted to be the first female store manager in the district, but over the years they ended up preferring business majors as store managers,” she says, adding that Walgreens started hiring pharmacy managers around that time and that turned out to be the right fit for her.
Fjordbak spent about 30 years at Walgreens as a pharmacy manager, and now works as a staff pharmacist on the evening shift at store #5077 in Iowa City, Iowa, where she has spent most of her career.
Pharmacy technology evolution
When Fjordbak started working at Walgreens, there were no computers. She described working in the pharmacy during the 1970s with a typewriter and physical filing system.
“It was like having a giant recipe card for each patient,” she says. “When someone needed a refill, you pulled their card out, checked the prescription number, then pulled the hard copy, retyped it, stamped the refill on the back—it was this whole process. Thankfully, we didn't fill as many prescriptions back then.”
Fjordbak ended up being a critical part of the technology evolution at Walgreens—her store was the first in the company to test IntercomPlus, an upgraded version of Intercom, a proprietary electronic pharmacy system. This system connects all Walgreens pharmacies by satellite, meaning a patient could just as easily fill a prescription while vacationing in Florida as they could back home in Iowa.
Even though Fjordbak was initially hesitant about her store being the guinea pig for the updated system, she feels proud that she helped shape the technology used by pharmacy team members across the country.
“If we said, ‘Oh it’d be nice if the system could do this,’ a week later, the system would be doing that. I could see that my input actually made an impact,” she says.
Relationships make the job
Looking back, Fjordbak says the best part of her job has been the people she’s met—her coworkers, students and patients.
“The things I have enjoyed the most are the relationships I’ve built with people,” she says. As a pharmacy manager, she says she worked with the same staff pharmacist and senior pharmacy tech for 25 years.
“Walgreens is kind of my second home,” she says through laughter.
Fjordbak estimates she’s trained more than 100 pharmacy students throughout her career. Some still send her Christmas cards, while others have gone on to work for Walgreens. As for her patients, she’s now treating generations of families. She knows these families, some intimately, because she and her husband reside in the same town where they work and attend church.
Her husband, interestingly enough, also felt called to his current profession. After 30 years in management and human resources with Sears, he is now an ordained minister and spends time visiting people in hospitals and prisons.
"My husband ministers to people's spirits and I minister to people's bodies," Fjordbak says.
Here’s to many more years for the Fjordbaks to continue helping those around them.
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