I have been working as the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s clinical fellow at the RPS for the past 7 months; prior to this I was working as a pharmacist in an acute trust. Having heard the strain and stress in my friends’ voices working on the frontline, I felt a strong desire to do my part and return to my old place of work to help out.
The feeling I had was one of trepidation and anxiety as this would be my first shift working in a patient facing role since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. I felt like I was going into unknown territory, with thoughts running through my head such as "Do I have sufficient clinical knowledge to practise safely?”; “Can I manage and support the treatment of critically unwell patients on ITU"?, and “What am I getting myself into?!”.
Walking the familiar steps to work, I was struck by how even the hospital appeared different in my eyes, like it had shrunk in size with the immense pressure that it is currently under.
As I arrived at the pharmacy department, the nervous energy I had dissipated and I was ready to do my job and support not only pharmacists but the wider MDT to work together to give patients excellent care.
I was tasked with attending the ‘Covid-19’ wards, clinically screening drug charts and ordering medicines as required. The hospital was extremely organised and the guidance provided was extremely clear. According to infection control procedures, I duly changed into scrubs during my Covid-19 ward visits and upon leaving changed back into my own clothes to reduce the risk of transmission.
The feeling of camaraderie and positivity was palpable within the pharmacy department, as was the sense of teamwork across the MDT. Perhaps one of the reasons for this was that we were all dressed in scrubs, which may have created a sense of unity. As a pharmacy department, we are now providing ward cover during the weekend; this is a fairly new development as a result of the pandemic. The nursing staff really appreciate this change to the working hours. It provides access to medication and clinical advice in times of immense need and pressure from patients and staff alike. Although a difficult and stressful few months are ahead, it is clear to see that Covid-19 is having some positive effects, for instance helping to speed up the adoption of new digital technology to increase efficiencies with the use of electronic patient records, which will in turn lead to more efficient and optimal patient care in the future.
I think one of the main challenges that pharmacists working across many other sectors will face during the crisis will be medication shortages and supply issues. However, by working as team, and as part of the MDT we can ensure that options are in place for our patients, and issues are addressed quickly and safely.
As pharmacists we are trained to be task driven and to follow procedures. We know that we will now be looking after more patients than usual and therefore may struggle to complete medication reconciliations in the same way as before and complete all of our tasks. This is something that I will have to come to terms with and I am sure I am not alone. I am gaining new experience in the way I work, and learning about the different skills I can offer to the team as a pharmacist. Working in areas where I feel I am not experienced enough is be challenging, but with the right guidance, a positive attitude and effective communication, a fantastic skill mix and an amazing team, I firmly believe I can step up to the task. As a result, I have already signed up for my next shift, and look forward to playing my part to help overcome COVID-19.
The key message is that we must speak to one another and look after each other; together we are better.