By Geraldine Vance
In anyone’s wildest imaginations, no one would have foreseen that the new decade would bring with it a pandemic that has rampaged around the globe.
Unprecedented seems to be the word of these times. That word certainly applies to the work of British Columbia’s pharmacists.
Since mid-March when it became clear that our province and our country needed to brace itself for the unknown of how COVID-19 would affect us all, pharmacists have been standing in the first row. Like doctors and nurses, pharmacists have been on the front-lines in their communities. While much of the focus has understandably been on the work in hospitals, there have been huge challenges in each community pharmacy.
The quick action, to erect physical barriers to keep pharmacy staff and their patients safe, to adjust workflow and patient consultation in the new “social distancing” world and to set new protocols for how patients come and go into pharmacies, was impressive. In uncharted territory, pharmacists used their ingenuity and resourcefulness to solve problems while focused on keeping everyone safe.
All pharmacists deserve huge credit and thanks for how they have handled the many challenges they faced—and no doubt will continue to face—in the new COVID world before a vaccine is broadly available.
What has troubled me is not the work of pharmacies or the support and investments made by pharmacy owners, but the fact that pharmacists have not been perceived as critical health-care workers. Some members may know that prior to joining the BCPhA I spent a decade with the BC Medical Association (now known as the Doctors of BC), where I grew accustomed to the position physicians enjoy in the health-care system.
From the outset of joining the BCPhA, it has continued to surprise and concern me that pharmacists are so often the unsung hero of the health-care team. Pharmacists are all too often underutilized, not seen as an integral member of the patient’s health-care team, and not seen as a true partner alongside physicians and other health-care professionals. Yet every day, patients experience the value of their relationship with their pharmacist. Patients benefit from their expertise and the support and guidance they provide. Pharmacists have much more to offer to all of us.
If I hope for anything on the “other side” of the pandemic and in our “new normal,” it is that the amazing work pharmacists are doing each day in these terrible times will be recognized. Thank you, to each pharmacist who put themselves in harm’s way to serve their patients, to the teams who rose to the occasion without exception, and to all those in pharmacy who are ready to meet the new reality with grace and commitment.
Geraldine Vance is the CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association