Pharmacists are notorious for fading into the background - at hospitals we work in basements and in communities we are often overshadowed by the more "glamorous" healthcare professions. Those things are starting to change...slowly. Pharmacists are taking a more visible and active role in healthcare teams and showing our colleagues and our communities what can be achieved when a pharmacist is added to the healthcare team.
But we will always need "regular" community pharmacists.
We are the healthcare professional that most patients see about 12X as often as their primary care providers.
The one who is always there to answer after hours questions.
The one who helps you avoid an urgent care copay if you can.
The one who reviews your hospital discharge and helps you adjust to a whole new way of life.
The one who teaches you how and when to use life-saving medications, calls your doctor about medicine problems, and recommends alternatives to best fit your situation.
Unfortunately, even though we love our jobs and what we started into them to do, your pharmacists are feeling very abandoned and powerless in today's healthcare environment, and in today's pandemic response.
Through numerous twists and turns and at the whims of big-business favored legislation, most of us no longer have the power to run our own pharmacies or make the decisions we know are in the best interest of our communities. Most of us cannot speak up about our workplace concerns because we know we can (and will) easily be fired.
That's the whole reason Pharmacist Anonymous exists. It gives pharmacists a way to share the issues that affect us and our patients without being crushed under the heel of corporate employers.
I'm calling that function into use now, by broadcasting something many, many PHARMACISTS are advocating for, but which is being ignored or delayed by corporate pharmacies.
In the face of COVID-19, pharmacies should be operating as drive-thru and/or delivery only (where at all possible). NOW.
Much like social distancing, we don't need to wait until the need is undeniable and abundantly clear - because by then it will be too late.
While some pharmacies do not have drive-thrus, converting the ones that do to a more closed system will aid in pandemic response in a circular manner:
Protecting pharmacy employees protects patients, which protects pharmacy employees, which protects patients, which...you get the idea.
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians help our communities face-to-face on a daily basis, multiplied by hundreds if not thousands of in-person interactions each day at each pharmacy across the country.
Through this, we are (always) likely to be exposed to anything circulating in our communities and are unfortunately accustomed to working through illnesses and developing very strong immune systems. However, none of us have immunity to SARS-Cov-2. If our staff is exposed by any of our patients, we may be totally unaware for days. We may even be those fortunate few who barely even register any symptoms.
But during that time, we'll be interacting with person after person after person. Doing so through a drive-thru drawer or via a delivery system will give us much greater control over the surfaces we touch, the air we share, and the general likelihood of viral transmission - in either direction.
And even if we are fine now, the multitude of patients coming to the pharmacy with their initial symptoms to ask for OTC recommendations (as they often do) or to pick up urgent care medications, will eventually expose us.
And when we go down, there isn't anyone waiting in the wings to take our place. There are a few pharmacy floaters, depending on the company, and certainly pharmacies can hire new pharmacists. But it takes time to train and to learn the ins and outs of any particular pharmacy and its given community - and there are a limited number of people in any given community who are legally licensed and trained to safely perform a pharmacist's duties right now.
In the interest of keeping pharmacies OPEN to serve our communities as long as they need us, corporate pharmacy leaders need to take up the mantle of actual leadership and make the difficult decisions to make radical preparations that will impact workflows and make pharmacies "less convenient" in the short-term, in order to keep them OPEN in the long-term.
So, LEADERS, get up and lead. Use your power and your privilege. Protect your employees so that we can serve our communities in the face of a global emergency. NOW.