President's Message: Pharmacists leading by example

May 14, 2020

By Keith Shaw

At the time of writing, British Columbia, indeed all of Canada, is on the brink. The brink of a pandemic about to test our preparation, our resolve, our society. The pandemic has circled the globe, from China to Europe to our home here on the West Coast. Seemingly uncontrolled, it spreads, affecting thousands. 

I can tell you that in the coming weeks and months, perhaps right now as you are reading this, the world needs leaders and role models; our profession needs leaders and role models. Anyone can captain a ship in calm seas. Competence and courage are revealed in times of struggle. Whether we like it or not, whether we are “ready” or not, we are about to find out who we really are.

Fear spreads quickly and there are many examples of that for us to witness on the evening news or when scrolling through our social media feeds. Pharmacists are one of the most trusted professionals and our actions set examples for others to follow. With this in mind, I encourage you to carefully consider how you respond to challenges that you will be faced with as this pandemic moves through our communities.

Pharmacists are leaders by example, but inside our businesses and individual pharmacies, we need leaders who are able to stand up and take on the complex tasks of managing a potential emergency. Hoarding, panic buying, high prescription volumes, and staff absences will create obstacles that will be impassable without calm consideration towards proactive problem-solving. Whether your formal job description requires you to manage these issues or not, we all have a role to play in supporting and leading through change.    

Staying positive, taking care of ourselves, being kind to each other, and having empathy for our patients has never been more important. Eventually, this too will pass. Years from now, we will discuss with each other who was where and what happened when in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. When people ask us what we did to help during that time, what will we say? Will we be proud of our contribution? You are the profession. Your actions in the coming days and months will decide the answer to the questions above and define what it means to be a pharmacist like never before.  

Despite how uncontrollable the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be, I suggest we are able to control the most important aspect of our humanity: our compassion, caring and empathy. Using our expertise to help each other, our employers and our patients is something we can all be proud of when we say we were a practicing pharmacist during the 2020 pandemic.  

Keith Shaw is the President of the BC Pharmacy Association

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.