Returning to Pharmacy during COVID-19

Hello everyone! My name is Caroline Wells, and I am the policy and planning manager for the Company Chemists’ Association in Scotland.

I have recently returned to work as a pharmacist in order to support the pharmacy workforce during this difficult time, and I wanted to share my experiences with you.

Keep scrolling to read my blog, or if you’d like to listen to my interview instead, you can find the audio clips here. We’ve made both a full-length and short version based on how much time you have!

I have spent my career in community pharmacy, and have worked in numerous roles. I really just fell into my career; I always knew I wanted to work in the health sector and in something patient facing, but I knew the gory bits weren’t for me. Eventually I came across pharmacy, and the whole interaction between the pharmacy team and the public got me thinking that, you know what, you can actually make a difference in people’s lives. In pharmacy you can go that extra mile and stand back at the end of the day, feel proud, and feel satisfaction.

I currently work three days a week for the CCA and had found that I had some spare time with the lock-down. Hearing what my friends, colleagues, and those I used to work with in community pharmacy were going through, you know, it was really hard for me just to sit and morally not think that I would have something to contribute to what was going on. Did I think that I would be a good community pharmacist having been away for two years, no. I probably hadn’t even walked into community pharmacy in that length of time. But I did know that I was good at organising, motivating, and if nothing else I could put away an order, make tea, and maybe do some dispensing. So, I went back into my local pharmacy to support them through this busy time, and I must admit, as the weeks have gone on, I’ve certainly improved at all of these things, and I even check prescriptions!

Originally it was really tough because my first shift was on the 21st of March. At that time, statistics indicated that dispensing volumes were around three times larger than usual. When you put that into context, in each community pharmacy it wouldn’t be unusual to dispense say 2,000 items a week. So when you put the factor of three on top of that, taking that to 6,000 items, it really helps to contextualise how busy pharmacies have been. But bear with us, you will get your prescription. Please don’t come into pharmacy if you have any signs of a dry cough or a fever, please reach out to your relatives, neighbours, or friends to collect your prescription.

To other colleagues who don’t normally work in the front-facing pharmacy team, it seems like a massive step to walk back into community pharmacy. But my challenge to everybody would be take that step because it’s amazing what you can contribute despite the fact that you think that you’ve forgotten so much, or that you don’t think that you would have any skills. The skills in community pharmacy at the moment aren’t just about being able to check prescriptions. They are very much about doing your bit more than anything. Please, if anybody’s thinking about returning to practice, just do it. All the PGDs are easily accessible, and everybody has something that they can contribute at times like this.

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