World Pharmacists Day: Pharmacists more than pill counters

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World Pharmacists Day: Pharmacists more than pill counters

Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand
(from left) Estelle Lang, Kat Azer, Cindy Wang
(from left) Pharmacists Estelle Lang, Kat Azer and Cindy Wang

Today is World Pharmacists Day – an important day to celebrate the huge contribution pharmacists make to healthcare around the world. To celebrate, we asked pharmacists Estelle Lang from Whangarei, Katrina Azer from Christchurch and Cindy Wang from Danniverke, to share what they love about the profession, common misconceptions about pharmacists and the how they see the role of pharmacists changing in the future.

Estelle Lang, Clinical Pharmacist at Whangarei Hospital

Estelle says says most people think pharmacists are just pill counters. But once more pharmacists start working in general practice teams then their skills will be realised and utilised more.

Katrina Azer Pharmacist Manager Christchurch

Katrina would like to see pharmacists taking up a prescriber role, alongside medication counseling. She thinks pharmacists should be able to re-prescribe medications rather than the patient having to go back to their GP each time they need a repeat of their prescription.

Cindy Wang Pharmacist from Danniverke

Cindy hopes that in future there’ll be an opportunity to talk to a pharmacist about your medications wherever you are; whether you’re at your local GP, hospital, retirement home, or even in your own home.

Why did you become a pharmacist?

Estelle: I like the idea of helping people with their health. I thought, if I can make a difference and make someone’s life better, then that would be rewarding.

Katrina: I started off my pharmacy career as a shop assistant and then I went back to Otago University and did a 4-year Bachelor of Pharmacy degree and a one-year internship, so I could become a registered pharmacist. I wanted more patient interaction, but not focused solely on medication, but also health and lifestyle advice.

Cindy: I’ve always been interested in medications and it’s one of those jobs that you get to do a little bit of everything. You get to deal with the patients, doctors and nurses in the community and hospitals, and you get to help people.

What are the most common misconceptions when it comes to pharmacists?

Estelle: Most people think pharmacists are just pill counters. But once more pharmacists start working in general practice teams then their skills will be realised and utilised more.

Katrina: A portion of the public think that pharmacists just count pills. They don’t know all the medication counselling and other services that pharmacists provide, that they probably go to their doctor for, but don’t realise that a pharmacist can help them with. Pharmacists are more accessible, and we can provide those same services. For example, lifestyle and health advice, vaccinations, treatment for urinary tract infections, birth control and emergency contraception.

Cindy: A lot of people think that all we do is dispense medications. People think they hand in a script, we put pills in a bottle, slap a label on it and that’s all we do. Which is just crazy. That’s the most simplified version ever. There is so much more we do to make sure that everything is correct and safe for the patients before we hand out their medications. An example of that might be double checking the dosage or calling the doctor if there’s an interaction.

What’s the best thing about being a pharmacist?

Estelle: When you make either a clinical decision or someone comes back and really appreciates what you’ve done. That feedback you get from people is really nice.

Katrina: The best thing about being a pharmacist is the level of trust that patients put in you as a health professional. People often develop a real connection with their local pharmacist.

Cindy: Every day you come to work, and everything is different. You get to help different people with different health problems. Every day is exciting because you don’t know who is going to come in the door and what they are going to need.

How do you see the role of a pharmacist changing in the future?

Estelle: I think pharmacists will become more clinical and move into expanding roles that will come with GP and nurse shortages.

Katrina: I would like to see pharmacists taking up a prescriber role, alongside medication counseling. I see pharmacists being able to prescribe for minor ailments, such as being funded to provide antibiotics for various infections. I also think that pharmacists should be able to re-prescribe medications that a patient has been on long-term, rather than the patient having to go back to their GP each time they need a repeat of their prescription.

Cindy: I think pharmacy will eventually be part of every sector of healthcare. There’ll be a pharmacist working in every General Practice, working with doctors to ensure medications are safe. Hopefully in future there’ll be an opportunity to talk to a pharmacist about your medications wherever you are; whether you’re at your local GP, or hospital, or retirement home, or even in your own home.

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