COVID-19: Trading in the Lab Coat for the Cape… and a Mask, Where Available
What a difference a month can make! Last month, I decided to blog about COVID-19, this mysterious virus that was quickly making its way into social conversation. At the time, public schools were still in session here in South Carolina and, aside from the disappearance of two-ply bathroom tissue from the store shelves, things were loosely proceeding as “business as usual” here in the Palmetto state. Today, however, I am writing this blog from home with a much deeper perspective on the actual depth of this global pandemic. In the last two weeks, COVID-19 has touched arguably every aspect of the profession and grossly impacted the routines of all.
Unfortunately, the exhaustion of the nation’s two-ply tissue supply was only the beginning signs of shortages and turmoil to follow. Applications for unemployment benefits soared as businesses closed and furloughed employees. Grocery stores ran out of bread and eggs. Canned food aisles bellowed the appearance of a pending famine to panic-stricken shoppers. After fighting for the last box of store-brand macaroni and cheese from a presumably safe distance of six feet, shoppers then turned their focus to the pharmacy to pick up prescription medications and supplies. There, many were met with the same proclamation from the grocery aisles: out of stock, with no release date. Others were confused by conflicting news reports of whether or not to avoid ibuprofen… or whether or not to keep taking their blood pressure medications.
These frazzled, confused, and frightened patients stand at the pharmacy counter with questions that often do not have adequate answers. (Pharmacist exits stage left; Cue in Pharmacy Technician). Anyone who has ever worked as a pharmacy technician in a retail pharmacy can appreciate the stage cues here, as stereotypical as it may sound. In all fairness, whether it be the pharmacist OR the pharmacy technician, SOMEONE has to deliver additional bad news to this exhausted person about the status of their prescription. How can we do that without a major disaster at the pharmacy counter?
In the home study continuing education webcast that I host with FreeCE (From the Patient’s Lens: Winning Communications for the Most Difficult Encounters), we use best selling author Richard Gallagher’s book, “The Customer Service Survival Kit” to address just this scenario among others. As pharmacy professionals, we are often finding ourselves delivering more bad news in this crisis, making Gallagher’s thoughts more relevant than ever before. If you have yet to check out that session, the current COVID-19 crisis might be a great time to pick up some new practical techniques on that front.
The stress of the unknown, of course, creates anxiety for many people… and, as healthcare team members, we are no exception. Self-care of the professional, then, becomes paramount in this trying time. A few months back, FreeCE introduced a medication safety session entitled, “Meditation for Medication Safety and Well Being” by pharmacist Lisa Wilhelm in Hershey, PA. Upon launch, the session was exceptionally well received, underscoring, I believe, the heightened stressors that today’s pharmacy professionals face. And, this was PRIOR to issues with the current pandemic. The unintended timely launch of this session has proven to be a useful tool to many. And, with that need in mind, FreeCE has asked Lisa to create a non-accredited stress reduction session that will be distributed as an absolutely free resource. Keep an eye out for this popular piece
Of course, the didactic needs of the COVID-19 topic are paramount as well. We are pleased to host a variety of didactic options, including both live and home study sessions. To date, we have partnered with Dr. Krutika Mediwala, an infectious disease pharmacist from the Medical University of South Carolina to provide educational overviews and pertinent updates from a clinical perspective. In addition, Professor Pete Kreckel is hosting weekly COVID-19 updates for community pharmacies each Tuesday at 6:30pm EST. These sessions have been very popular, as Pete brings a few COVID-19 related items from the previous week for professional discussion in real time. Lastly, Dr. David Brushwood, the author and creator of our Law Library resource, has created a monograph activity that explores many of the legal changes that are occurring from state to state in response to the crisis. All initiatives are offered in addition to the normal offerings for FreeCE members. And, we continue to solicit your thoughts and needs during this crisis. Our primary goal is to support practicing professionals … and we appreciate your feedback on how we can best support you during this time. I invite you to reach out to our content team at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what needs you see in this continually evolving practice environment. Stay safe & stay hopeful!