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justine wettschreck/Daily Globe MCMC Pharmacy Manager Cara Counter is a Slayton native who is glad to be back in her hometown.

MCMC pharmacist is happy to be back in Slayton

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SLAYTON -- Unlike many college students, Cara Counter knew exactly where she was headed once she had her diploma in her hand. She was going home.

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Counter grew up in Slayton, graduating from Murray County Central (MCC) High School in 2004. While still in school, she expressed an interest in becoming a pharmacist, and made plans to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., to do just that. After hearing the news, a member of the Murray County Medical Center (MCMC) Board of Directors approached her with an offer -- they would help pay for her schooling if she would bring her knowledge back to Slayton.

"I had kind of planned that anyway," Counter said.

She had hoped to graduate from college and return to Slayton or somewhere close, so the offer from the hospital was perfect. She committed to six years of school and six years of service with MCMC, and began the job as the pharmacy manager in July 2010.

While working at the Slayton Drug Store in high school, Counter was encouraged by Trace and Larry Hafner to consider a career in pharmacology.

"They said it was a great career, always moving forward," she explained.

She did two years of pre-pharmacy at SDSU before applying for the pharmacy program, which included an essay and an interview.

"When I was a pre-pharmacy student, I couldn't wait to get into pharmacy school, then I was in school and before I knew it was graduating, taking my licensing exams and ready to work in the field. Everything went too fast," she said. "School kept me busy."

Each day is a challenge, and even with a pharmacy technician to assist her, Counter stays busy verifying and entering medication orders, serving as a medication resource to the nursing and medical staff, setting up medications for patients, performing sterile compounding, preparing chemotherapy, handling projects and filling the hospital's pharmaceutical needs. She also helps develop and write pharmacy policy and procedures.

"In the back of your mind, you know every decision you make is affecting another person," she said about the pressure of the job, "but you know you are doing things for the benefit of the patient and you trust the education you received."

Pharmacists are required to continue their education and report to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy that they completed their required hours, but they have other ways to keep up with changes in the pharmaceutical industry and evolving treatment guidelines. Websites, email updates, networks and drug representatives keep Counter abreast of new ideas, as does a rural Minnesota hospital group called Medisota. She also attends regional meetings at Sanford Health with other pharmacists.

"I can also talk to other pharmacists in the area and we share ideas that way," she said. "It is nice to have the others around."

Being home with friends and family has been nice, Counter admitted. Many of her classmates left for college when she did, but some are still in the area and some, like her, have already headed back home to their roots.

"There are a lot of opportunities in rural areas," Counter said. "You can gain so much experience, because in rural areas you often take on a position that is in shortage, but relied on so much. Yet you have a whole community as a support system."

The Minnesota Department of Health, she stated, has many opportunities for health care professionals who want to go into rural areas, offering tuition forgiveness programs and other incentives.

"I was lucky -- I went through school knowing I had a job waiting for me when I got done, which made the college-to-career transition very easy," Counter said. "My classmates had to go out and find a job after graduation."

All in all, Counter is pleased to be back in Slayton, proud to be working for MCMC and happy to be close to her parents, siblings and community members.

She is the daughter of Mark and Kathy Counter of Slayton.

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