This Thursday (17 March), PSA is encouraging political leaders and the wider community to celebrate the efforts of pharmacists during the pandemic – and beyond – with Thank Your Pharmacist Day.
Australian Pharmacist spoke with three patients about why they want to thank their pharmacist.
Kayla Luck, Brisbane
When Kayla Luck’s preschool-aged sons had croup last year, she was unable to take them to a GP due to their respiratory symptoms. Instead, she took them to see her local pharmacist, who assessed them and provided some non-prescription medicines to alleviate their symptoms.
‘That basically got us through until we could have phone consultations with the doctor and pass a COVID-19 test to be seen,’ she said.
Since moving from Toowoomba to Brisbane this year, a nearby 24-hour pharmacy has helped Ms Luck’s family through some late-night health issues.
‘When the boys had conjunctivitis we were able to go and get some [eye ointment] straightaway and start the process earlier, rather than having to wait until 9.00 am the next day to see a GP,’ she said.
‘It’s so helpful to have a 24-hour pharmacy rather than having to go to an emergency room.’
In Ms Luck’s experience, the advice pharmacists provide always leads to good health outcomes.
‘I really appreciate the support, advice and availability of our pharmacists in recent times, especially with young children,’ she said. ‘Every community leans on a great pharmacy. Thank you!’
Melanie Abbott, Tasmania
For Melanie Abbott, being able to access the COVID-19 vaccine in pharmacies made her appreciate her local pharmacist more than ever.
‘It has been wonderful for younger people who can be a little bit anxious,’ she said. ‘Going to a familiar place to have the vaccination was really helpful.’
She also appreciates the personalised care provided by Caleb Stuetz, co-owner of South Hobart Pharmacy, who gives Ms Abbott advice for her teenage daughter, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
‘Often, you’ll be given a diagnosis and a prescription at the doctor’s within about 2 seconds of each other and walk out the door going, “What does that actually mean?”’ she said.
‘By the time you get to the [pharmacy], you have time to think up questions, and being able to ask a [pharmacist] like Caleb has been really helpful.’
When Ms Abbott’s daughter was prescribed methylphenidate, Mr Stuetz provided some supportive advice.
‘We had questions around melatonin,’ she said. ‘He helped me understand that I’m not putting my child on melatonin to get her to sleep because she was on Ritalin during the day, but that it’s the condition that creates the sleep issues.’
It is Mr Stuetz’s approachable and honest manner that led Ms Abbott to trust his advice. ‘If he doesn’t know [something] he’ll get back to you,’ she said.
Despite being run off their feet, Ms Abbott said the South Hobart team members went out of their way to let her know when booster dose advice for children aged over 16 years was updated by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
‘[They] helped us work out how to get [my son] vaccinated and contacted us when we were able to get a booster with them,’ she said.
Ms Abbott appreciates the effort pharmacists have put in to help the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The amount of extra work they must have done to be on top of a changing dynamic, [while] supporting and keeping community fear at bay [as] they did their normal jobs, is really impressive,’ she said.
‘I dropped off some coffee vouchers for Caleb [and the team] to say thank you because they just do a great job.’
Wendy and Danny Burton, ACT
Wendy and Danny Burton have a long-standing relationship with their local pharmacist. They both have diabetes, and Mr Burton has some additional health issues.
‘My husband has been going to Kambah Capital Chemist for 15 years now and I’ve been [a patient] for about 10 years,’ Ms Burton said. ‘He’s a veteran and he’s not very well. He’s on a lot of medication.’
Mr Burton uses a dose administration aid and, if he can’t make it to the pharmacy, the staff always ensure he receives his medicines – which was particularly helpful during COVID-19.
‘They dropped off medicine for us when they finished work or stayed open for me to come down,’ Ms Burton said.
‘Danny is high risk, he’s got lung problems and has had three heart operations in 2.5 years, so that has been extremely helpful.’
The Burtons’ pharmacist, Cathy Rice, is also a trusted source of medicines advice.
‘She asks me whether I’ve used a medicine before and, if I haven’t, she explains everything and prints out sheets for me to take home,’ Ms Burton said.
‘She also [checks] that the medicine is not going to [interact] with other medicines. For example, she let me know when my blood pressure tablet wasn’t compatible with something else I was taking.’
When Ms Burton was prescribed two similar diabetes medicines, Ms Rice identified the issue and referred her back to the GP for a new prescription.
The care provided by the pharmacy team is also extended to other family members.
‘When Danny’s sister came up from Melbourne, her husband left his medicine [at home]. Cathy found his doctor, got the script in and redid it all up here for him,’ Ms Burton said.
‘Thank you Cathy for the personal touch.’
Fair remuneration for pharmacists
Pharmacists have gone to great lengths for their patients over the past 2 years, while subjected to incredibly challenging conditions.
‘Time and time again throughout the pandemic, our politicians have lauded the impact of Australia’s pharmacists, but this Thursday, we’re calling on them to take the next step by showing their thanks,’ PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said.
‘We would like to see politicians visit their local pharmacists to thank them for their efforts.’
A/Prof Freeman also encouraged members of the public to take part. Children can also get involved by completing a specially designed colouring-in page and giving it to their local pharmacist.
‘While you’re at the pharmacy, get to know your pharmacists,’ A/Prof Freeman said. ’You trust them with your medicines and your lives, so take some time out of your day to thank them for all their hard work and dedication.’
Thank Your Pharmacist Day is also a chance to advocate for fair remuneration for pharmacists, who are subjected to inequitable pay discrepancies despite remaining open when many primary healthcare providers closed their doors, A/Prof Freeman said.
‘As it stands, pharmacists are receiving substantially less than other immunisers for administering the same COVID-19 vaccine, an unfair pay disparity for providing exactly the same service,’ he said.
‘Our pharmacists have worked too hard, at great personal expense, for these inequities in recognition and remuneration to go unaddressed by all governments, and through this occasion, we hope to give pharmacists the attention and recognition they deserve.’
Learn more about Thank Your Pharmacist Day here.