Ask Your Pharmacist

March 11, 2021
Q:

What’s it been like as a pharmacist during COVID?

A:

I’ve actually been reflecting on that a bit over the past few weeks as the anniversary of the lockdown here in New Brunswick approaches and as Pharmacy Appreciation Month began in March.

I have to say as a pharmacist I cringe at the thought of a month dedicated to appreciating my own profession. It seems very counter intuitive, especially for a profession that works so hard to be patient-focused. I will settle on the fact that it is important for us as pharmacy professionals across the province to have the opportunity to pause and reflect at how we have been able to help patients, particularly during the last 12 months.

A year ago this week, COVID changed so much in our lives. The lockdown was quick and frightening. It all seems a bit surreal now, but pharmacies remained open and pharmacy teams remained available to patients. At the beginning, we were operating with minimal personal protective equipment and with few, if any, physical barriers. We found ourselves in roles and situations that we had never faced before and we did our best to provide accurate information to you, as we were learning ourselves. As the COVID situation changed quickly as it does, pharmacists adapted fast under stressful circumstances to keep patients safe while ensuring they got their medications and other necessary pharmacist services. Pharmacy teams sourced masks and protective gear, taped up makeshift barriers, delivered medications to patients’ homes, opened drive-thrus at their pharmacies.

They did all this while dealing with an unprecedented volume of interactions with members of the public because access to other healthcare providers was restricted or available only virtually. Not only did pharmacists continue to be a source of expertise on medication therapy, they also assisted with reducing non-essential physician visits by extending expired prescriptions and providing emergency prescriptions, in addition to administering injections. They were the first line of contact for many people on chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes and minor ailments like rashes or allergies. Sometimes, pharmacists were the first point of contact for acute care emergencies. They also served as an important source of information for the public on how to keep safe from COVID. Often, pharmacy teams were simply reassuring and steady voices when there was so much unknown in the world.

When I personally think back to all the challenges that we faced along with you, on the front lines, it is almost too much to wrap my head around. But here you are, and here we are, so I guess we did it working together.

Wherever you are located in New Brunswick, I hope that you saw that your pharmacist was a health professional who remained readily accessible to serve you and guide you throughout COVID-19. While pharmacists are the medication experts, they can and do so much more for patients. I would encourage all New Brunswickers to take a few minutes this month to learn more about what your pharmacist can do for you at rethinkpharmacists.ca.

I have admiration and appreciation for my colleagues across the province who faced the unknowns of the last year with professionalism, often acting as a calming presence for the public in a very unsettling time.

In recognition of Pharmacy Appreciation Month, the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association is running a #MyFavePharm contest. All you have to do is tell them why you love your pharmacy team and you’ll be entered into a draw for an opportunity to win a tablet for both you AND your favourite pharmacy team member. Check out nbpharma.ca for details or the NBPA’s Facebook page.

The next time you are in your pharmacy, I urge you to take a minute to wish your pharmacy team a Happy Pharmacy Appreciation Month. A few words of thanks can go a long way!

Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.