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Making the best of the worst circumstances: A student’s experience of pharmacy during Covid-19

By Jay Patel
3rd year, Leicester School of Pharmacy

11 May 2020

At the end of the third year of my MPharm degree, I sent out a tweet offering my services to local pharmacies to help out gain some experience, and I was quickly approached by a small chain.

I began working shortly before the coronavirus ‘lockdown’ started. Pharmacies were already under incredible pressure, dealing with non-stop phone calls, panic-buying customers, organising home deliveries – all while, importantly, still providing individualised patient-centred care.

During the crisis, we’ve been making the best of the worst circumstances. This is a small, but busy pharmacy, where social distancing is simply impossible.

I have been pleased to play a part in helping to increase productivity and reduce patient waiting time. I have learned a great deal during my time in community pharmacy, growing my confidence in counselling patients on their medications. This experience on the counter has definitely shaped me into a stronger personality, and will make me a better pharmacist.

I have also helped set up the Pharmacy in Practice RPS-endorsed job matching platform, which enabled over 250 volunteers be placed in positions to help public health, in under two weeks of launch.

It all started well. I worked from 9am to 6pm in the pharmacy for two weeks – all without any of the NHS supplied PPE – and, obviously, the inevitable then happened, I contracted Covid-19 and had to self-isolate.

This experience was tough, not only for the stretched pharmacy team, my physical health, but also my mental health. Going from helping everyone, to being in a position where I was helpless, was a dramatic change. Thankfully, my symptoms reduced a few days’ later, and I was able to end my spell of self-isolation after seven days.

I returned to a very different pharmacy. Perspex screens were in place, kind members of the general public had supplied us with face visors, and those outdated surgical masks were being put to use. It was, and still is, a scary place.

Still, we were all determined to go the extra mile for our patients. All patients over 70 have been placed on automatic home delivery, ensuring that this pandemic did not leave people having to make an impossible decision; no-medication or coronavirus.

While this has been all going on, the arrangements for my (online) exams have been announced.

Working in pharmacy has been a great experience, and I am happy to have seen that the community pharmacy spirit is still strong, despite all the pressures that everyone has been under.

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