Your Pharmacist Can…

Not every Albertan knows about all of the services pharmacists provide. More than just dispensing medications, your pharmacist can be a regular and reliable resource for the healthcare of you and your family.

COVID-19 hasn’t changed rural Alberta pharmacy’s special place in community

Caitlin McGrath came home to Bonnyville, AB, after receiving her pharmacy degree to work at Tellier Pharmacy – a pharmacy where she started working when she was 15 years old. Now a pharmacist and store operator at the pharmacy 3 hours northeast of Edmonton, Caitlin and her pharmacy team embody the community spirit of pharmacy, holding a special place in the hearts of their rural community of 5500.

A special place in the community

Caitlin’s story perfectly illustrates the important role pharmacies play as health hubs across Canada, especially in rural communities like Bonnyville. Filmed in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic, this video profiles the important place a pharmacy team has in the community, and the meaningful relationships they develop with their patients.

“It’s a safe place for people to come in and ask questions, to have the pharmacist assess them if needed, to have prescriptions refilled,” says Caitlin. “Everyone’s always excited to know that they have more accessible health care and that their ailments can be addressed, and their questions can be answered without huge wait times. We care about our patients… It’s the relationships at the end of the day that just make it so rewarding.”

Filling a care gap for women

Assessing and prescribing for birth control and UTIs are an essential service provided at Tellier Pharmacy. These services are not available in all jurisdictions, representing a significant care gap for more than a million women across Canada. Alberta’s expanded scope of practice has allowed Caitlin and her team to meet these needs for women in Bonnyville.

“In rural Alberta, we don’t always have a walk-in clinic open. So, we’re able to use our knowledge and expertise to assess a patient and to see if it’s appropriate for a pharmacist to prescribe for UTIs or to renew their birth control,” says Caitlin.  

COVID-19 has brought change, but community spirit stronger than ever

We caught up with Caitlin again in June to see how COVID-19 has impacted their pharmacy and community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how the pharmacy looks and operates, but it hasn’t changed how much the Bonnyville community relies on Caitlin and her team. As information, and misinformation, abounded throughout the crisis, Tellier Pharmacy played a vital role in helping their patients navigate the pandemic and continue to take care of their health and well-being.

Navigating the pandemic has been a humbling experience for Caitlin, but ultimately it was the sense community and personal relationships that has enabled them to continue to support their community throughout the crisis. “Our pharmacy doesn’t look the same now as it did before COVID-19,” says Caitlin. “We have barriers in place. We sanitize every hour. We’re more conscientious than ever of our patients and their safety. But our relationship with the community and the value of the personal connections we have built has truly shone through this crisis. It is so humbling to see how much our patients trust us.”

With a dramatic increase in call volume to the pharmacy, Caitlin says that patients are taking comfort in their ability to call in for a telephone consult for both COVID-19 assessments and a range of other minor ailments and health issues. “We’ve really been able to help our community navigate the information and misinformation out there about COVID-19 and act as a pillar of support.”

Your Pharmacist Can…

Educate

Want to know more about the prescriptions you’re taking? Curious about how you can better manage your health condition? Pharmacists have unique knowledge and skill to allow them to provide you with answers to questions like these, and many more.

Counsel

Whether it’s a single issue or multiple, overlapping conditions, everyone appreciates time for counsel and advice. Your pharmacist is trained to take the time to talk with you so you know how to live better with a condition, how to manage multiple medications and supplements, and how to maintain as much control over your own health outcomes as possible.

Prescribe

If it’s a one-time, emergency refill or a new prescription, pharmacists are able to write prescriptions, for a variety of issues, and can adjust an existing prescription from your doctor as well.

Administer

Pharmacists can administer vaccines to help prevent conditions like the flu, shingles, and pneumonia. Don’t have time for an appointment at the travel clinic? With advance notice, your pharmacist can also order and administer many travel-specific injections.

Access

There are some illnesses that can be assessed and treated by a pharmacist in Alberta. For example, many pharmacies are equipped with portable, rapid strep throat testing. Once the test results are available, usually within about 15 minutes, the pharmacist can then prescribe the appropriate medication if required.

Advocate

Pharmacists can advocate on your behalf. In some cases, a pharmacist may identify an issue with a prescribed medication in relation to your individual circumstances. For example, a walk-in clinic doctor may prescribe a medication that interacts with a medication prescribed by a different doctor. Your pharmacist is well positioned to identify these adverse reactions before they become a problem, and work with your doctor to make it right

Alberta, pharmacists are able to provide services beyond drug dispensing. These services include:

  • Being the first point of contact for a new prescription or treatment
  • Adjusting existing, doctor-prescribed medications
  • Providing one-on-one counsel to patients, such as comprehensive medication management and substance abuse counselling
  • Order lab tests for further analysis of a patient’s condition and potential prescriptions or treatments
  • Recommending over-the-counter products to deal with less serious conditions
  • Educating patients on storage and disposal of medicine
  • Providing supportive treatment for minor injuries and ailments such as burns, colds, and flu
  • Administering injections, including travel vaccinations
  • Issuing prescription refills on an emergency basis
  • Teaching patients how to use medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors and inhalers
  • Assistance with weight loss
  • Give advice on natural health products
  • Helping you quit smoking. They can recommend over-the-counter medication, as well as counselling.

What information should I ask for/provide to my pharmacist?

Pharmacists are highly accessible and are able to answer many questions related to your medications and overall well-being. You can ask your pharmacist:

  • Are my vaccinations up-to-date?
  • How should I dispose of my needles or syringes?
  • I would like to quit smoking: how do I stop?
  • What is my current blood pressure?
  • What do I do if I don’t feel well after taking my prescribed medication?
  • What do I do if I miss my dose?
  • Why am I taking this medication in the first place?
  • How and when should I take my prescribed medication?
  • Is there anything that I should avoid, such as certain foods or drinks, while I take my medication?
  • How will this medication affect my allergies?
  • If I begin to feel better after taking my medication can I stop taking it?
  • Are there any activities I cannot perform while on my medication, such as driving?

If pharmacists can provide so many services, do I still need to see my doctor?

While pharmacists are able to provide a number of different healthcare services to Albertans, they are not able to replace the advice and support provided by a medical doctor. Alberta’s pharmacists work best as an integrated partner with other healthcare providers, and some of the services they offer require consultation with a doctor. In order for patients to have the best healthcare outcomes, it’s important to make sure that doctor visits remain a part of the overall care plan.