How Far We Have Come Without Going Anywhere

Carrie Brown  •   March 17, 2021

Measurement is an action we use in many aspects of our lives. We run three miles. We drink two cups of coffee (and sometimes more!). A workday is eight hours. It is no surprise that as a society and culture we are reflecting, and measuring, our lives since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic.

  • What method can we quantify success and failure?
  • How far have we come while socially distancing?
  • Did we go anywhere that brought us to a new locale?

At National CooperativeRx we have been asking these questions, and more, as we look back on the period since the WHO announcement on March 11, 2020.


Cooperative Staff Weigh in with Firsthand Pandemic Perspectives

In the self-funded pharmacy benefits industry, we are aware that the high cost of prescription medications has often shone a dim light on the pharmaceutical industry. However, over the last year, the industry has played a major role in combating the impact of COVID-19 with the development of testing, medications for treatment, and vaccines.

Recently, I asked my National CooperativeRx colleagues to reflect on these questions and share their pandemic-related observations from both a professional and personal stance.

Sales Manager Nate Gorny noted, “The pandemic thrust pharmacy into the forefront of our culture.”

Matt Dengel, strategic account executive, added, “A lot more people are going to understand the role of pharmacy in the health care process. For many, they interact with their pharmacist more than their doctors.”

Clinical Services Manager and pharmacist, Jocelyn Kerl, remarked, “From an industry perspective, these last 12 months have been unlike anything I have ever thought possible. I am hopeful that pharmacy as an industry has changed for the better because of the pandemic.”

Collaboration on many levels also proved to be a common theme in staff reflections.

Director of Sales and Marketing Kyle Kapusta stated, “It was great to see the industry come together as quick as they have.”

Communications Manager Emily Torgerson echoed Kyle’s statement and elaborated, “I think it’s so interesting and uplifting to see former drug manufacturer rivals collaborate on vaccine development and distribution.”

On a more Cooperative level, Strategic Account Executive Adam Terrell said the seemingly overnight explosion of this virus led to “developing stronger relationships with some groups and brokers through an increase in communication.”

Adding up these industry evolutions equates to a feeling of success amidst the challenges.


‘Pivoting’ to ‘Zoom’ Amid ‘Unprecedented’ and ‘Uncertain Times’

The abrupt safer-at-home orders impacted everyone differently. For some, remote work scenarios barely skipped a beat, while others were challenged to be resilient through technology and home life challenges.

NCRx staff pivot to zoom amid unprecedented and uncertain times

From left to right, top to bottom: Deb Thomsen, Deb Steele, Kyle Kapusta, Wayne Salverda, Jocelyn Kerl, Erica Guetzlaff, Todd Grams, Meghan Dulzo, Nate Gorny, Chris Schanz, Matt Dengel, Luke Bowman, Adam Terrell, Doug Finney, Ashley Foate, Carrie Brown, Emily Torgerson, Jesse Dudley, Amanda Wallisch, and Jaimie Rushton

Deb Thomsen, Vice President of Coalition Development, showed gratitude for her team by saying, “I have an extremely strong team that already worked well remotely so I knew they would make a smooth transition and continue to perform at the highest level through the pandemic challenges.”

Director of Operations Deb Steele remembered the pre-COVID-19 Cooperative days and noted, “The operations team traditionally had always worked in the office. I initially wondered how my team would transition to a work-from-home dynamic. Through our commitment to keeping communication open, I was pleasantly surprised at the new level of trust and dedication I saw.”

The ability to adapt amazed Kyle Kapusta: “When the lockdown first happened, it was incredible to see the Cooperative staff rally around each other and help wherever needed. It speaks volumes of the team we have that serves our membership!”

A very clear example of our pandemic pivot was welcoming Administrative Assistant Jaimie Rushton to our team last June. She ‘zoomed’ onto our staff in an unprecedented way. She reflected, “During both my interview and onboarding for National CooperativeRx, it was the first instance where I met my supervisor and coworkers virtually. In fact, there are still several coworkers I have yet to meet in person!”

Looking back, we can see how social distancing and forced remote work pushed us to be the most innovative and productive version of ourselves. We did not know this journey would have figuratively brought us to this new destination.


Surviving or Thriving?

There is no doubt a mechanism for managing the pandemic has been the ability to be flexible and empathetic to one another. And of course, as a team who once caught up over coffee in the breakroom, we now instant message about how we have coped with the past year. Family, exercise, four-legged friends, and sweatpants are now common topics that have brought a shared sense of community at the Cooperative.

Having a young son at home brought simple joys for Matt Dengel. “The projects I was able to try with my son were incredible, since a lot of our ‘normal activities’ were off-limits. Watching a three-year-old see and experience things for the first time was tremendously positive and helped offset those darker aspects of the pandemic.“

Administrative Assistant Amanda Wallisch professed her newfound passion: a daily morning virtual workout with her out-of-state sister. “We decided to join an online workout program, video chat, and workout together while on a call! It was such great motivation during the pandemic, and we are now even closer to one another than before. I will DEFINITELY not be giving up these!”

The four-legged friends of National CooperativeRx

Top Left: Matt Dengel’s puppy, Red and son, Finn – Top Right: Jocelyn Kerl’s dog, Annie – Bottom Right: Chris Schanz’s puppy, Fezzik – Bottom Left: Deb Steele’s puppies, Jack and Colby

Four-legged friends, and their antics, have brought smiles to several staff, especially Chris Schanz. “I finally caved during the lockdown and got a dog, Fezzik. I was always adamant that we would never get a dog: ‘too much work,’ ‘too much money,’ ‘no we can’t stay longer, we need to get home to let our dog out,’ etc. Well, I caved, and I love him.”

Adam Terrell detailed the changes to his wardrobe: “I have worn sweatpants more frequently in the past 12 months than the previous 12 years!”


Focusing on the Numbers

While we have been glued to news outlets with confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, the Cooperative staff can report some more positive statistics:

  • Five new puppies joined the team.
  • Four new houses became homes.
  • Two engagements will result in marriages.
  • One baby boy arrived in December and one baby girl is on the way.

The most important numbers of all are our 275 member groups with 375,000 participant lives being served by our 21 staff members. We were grateful for our membership before and during this pandemic and look forward to serving them long after these strange times are behind us.