ON THE JOB: A measured dose of caring

PERKINS TWP. Kroger pharmacist Ken Forren seems to be just what the doctor ordered. A daily dose of
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



Kroger pharmacist Ken Forren seems to be just what the doctor ordered. A daily dose of patience, understanding and humor seem to be key to success in his more than 25-year career.

Forren, 51, is one of two full-time managers at the pharmacy.

He arrives at work at 2 p.m. most days, although he works at least one double shift each week to allow his co-manager, Sharon Garber, a day off.

First, he'll check for electronically-submitted prescriptions and return calls from physicians, patients and insurance companies.

In the meantime, he's processing orders and helping customers select over-the-counter medications and health products.

"We're multi-tasking all the time," he said. "It's a stressful job, but I really like the people -- they can make or break your day."

Without hesitation, Forren says working with insurance companies is the most frustrating aspect of his job. Each medication must be verified, and policies regulating what is or is not covered vary from one company to another.

On a few occasions, he's spent up to an hour making calls for a single prescription -- only to have a customer leave empty-handed.

On other occasions, he'll simply listen to their concerns.

The green sign that reads "counseling here" above the pharmacy counter refers to prescription drug recommendations -- but sometimes people seem to be seeking advice on life in general.

"You do want to help someone each day," he said. "And every day is a new challenge to make ourselves better as pharmacists."

The Geneva native, who worked in a small local pharmacy while in high school, said many aspects of his profession have changed since he graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1981.

Back then, a pharmacy degree meant five years of school, rather than six, and conveniences such as community flu shots, drive-through prescriptions and online ordering had yet to enter the industry.

Forren oversees nine pharmacy technicians -- all of whom will soon be required to undergo more extensive certification requirements. The pharmacy drive-through has become a staple since it was implemented four years ago, and Kroger also offers delivery service for the elderly and handicapped.

Forren sees the new services as another way to better meet the needs of the community.

One customer, Bea Siegel, described Forren as a dedicated pharmacist who was willing to go the extra mile for her family.

In a letter, she wrote that Forren stayed late at work one night to ensure that her daughter received the medication she had forgotten while visiting from Cleveland.

"He was a hero and a very caring person," Siegel said.

Forren said although he enjoys hearing words of thanks from customers like Siegel, he doesn't feel he went beyond his duties as a pharmacist.

"I've had parents, their kids and in some cases their grandchildren all come to me, so I'm now on the third generation in some families," the father of three said. "It's nice when you become part of their circle of trust."