One stop shop

RAPHINE, Va. – Drivers looking for grub, showers, merchandise, and even a movie can likely find it at most truck stops across North American, but health assistance is a bit harder to nail down.

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy at White’s Travel Center in Raphine, Va., is the only pharmacy located at a travel center in all the U.S., and according to Cedona Watts, pharmacy clinical service manager, drivers appreciate having her staff at such a convenient location available for health advice and assistance.

“This setting is very different,” said Watts. “It’s not a typical community pharmacy. We really focus more on helping the driver population as well as the local community. Here we know that a lot of drivers don’t have access (to this type of service).”

Having been with the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy for nearly three years now, Watts has learned that it’s not always easy for truck drivers to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“I know sometimes it’s a little bit hard with this population when it comes to eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “They don’t have as much access to it, so some drivers try to cook their meals ahead or make sandwiches to bring in their truck.”

Watts said some of the most common health issues drivers face include diabetes, sleep apnea, over weight, a desire to quit smoking, and the most pressing concern, high blood pressure.

Other than prescribing prescription medication to help treat health issues, Watts urges drivers to alter their lifestyle choices to lessen the adverse effects of the more common health concerns affecting drivers in the trucking industry.

“I know it’s challenging because it’s their profession to be on the road a lot,” Watts said, adding that drivers stopping at fast food restaurants should select for grilled chicken options rather than hamburgers and avoid added salt on French fries to help manage high blood pressure issues.

“That’s one of the most common consultations that I get as a pharmacist,” Watts said of high blood pressure concerns, as many drivers inquire about what over-the-counter medications they can take to treat the condition. “That’s what we wanted to focus on, because it’s a major concern for drivers.”

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy held health checks during the Shell Rotella SuperRigs Roadshow at White’s Travel Center just outside Raphine, Va., June 14-16.

During the health checks, Watts said her primary focus was on educating drivers about various health issues.

She added that drivers are often surprised to find a pharmacy on site, as they have never seen one at a truck stop before. But all things considered, it makes perfect sense.

“Even if a driver has a doctor or pharmacy, it’s really challenging for them to get their prescription filled,” said Watts. “There’s a process and they really don’t know when they’re going to be back at that pharmacy, or whether they can even park their truck.”

And for Watts, health issues that have plagued drivers for years arise not from a lack of caring, but rather a lack of availability.

“There’s not a change in motivation, I don’t think that’s ever been the case,” she said. “It’s just trying to fit taking care of yourself with your busy work schedule, and that’s why we’re happy to be there. We’re the only pharmacy in the United States in a travel center and drivers really appreciate that.”

Not only American drivers are happy to have the service, but Canadians as well.

The pharmacy will gladly help Canadian drivers with whatever health concerns they may have. Watts said Canadian customers who are acutely ill can see a doctor, and if that doctor prescribes medication, there is no issue giving them what they need.

“There are not a lot of differences but there are some,” Watts said of Canadian drivers, “like we may not have a specific product over-the-counter that they have in Canada, so I try to find something similar.”

In the end, for Watts and her crew it’s all about helping people who would otherwise not get the assistance they want and need.

“It’s good to see that you’re making a difference and there are drivers out there who want this information,” she said.

Being the only pharmacy located at a travel center in the U.S. means The Medicine Shoppe is certainly providing a unique service drivers who travel the area appreciate.

“That’s why we’re such an awesome model, and I’m going to pat ourselves on the back,” said Watts. “Every day you know you’re helping someone. This is a population that really wants the help.”

The team at The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy are happy about helping drivers with their health concerns.

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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