Emma Fedusiak talks about what inspired her to get into the field of pharmacy and how pharmacy students and interns supported patient care during the pandemic.
Why did you decide to go into pharmacy?
Pharmacists are described as the most accessible health-care professionals, which was evident in my experience growing up. In rural Saskatchewan, there’s not always reliable access to people like doctors, dentists, and optometrists. The pharmacy was the one health-care facility that I didn’t have to routinely travel to another town to access. When I was choosing a career to pursue, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the opportunities pharmacies provided. Pharmacists were always there to answer any health-related questions or concerns I had and advocated for the people in my life who needed care.
How has the pandemic impacted pharmacy care?
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health-care facilities opted to provide care virtually or over the phone. This was never an option for most pharmacies. Pharmacists were responsible for ensuring patients still had active prescriptions, whether using their own prescriptive authority or communicating with other health-care professionals. Several drug shortages have occurred, which means pharmacists have been monitoring the drug supply chain and balancing distributing medications to those who need them while also ensuring others are not stockpiling their supplies.
Providing COVID-19 vaccines has probably been the biggest change in pharmacies. I spent a summer employed in a rural pharmacy that went from doing a hundred injections in a flu season to doing hundreds of injections weekly during the pandemic. These numbers were even more elevated in city pharmacies. Saskatchewan even implemented emergency legislation that allowed pharmacy students like me to get injection-trained to help with the vaccination demand. In typical circumstances, only licensed pharmacists could do this in Saskatchewan. Although it’s exciting to see the expanded scope of practice for pharmacists becoming used more during the pandemic, there are also negative effects. Many pharmacies perform these extra tasks with the same staff levels they had before the pandemic. This has led to severe understaffing in pharmacies, whether they be community, hospital, or specialized. The stress of dealing with the pandemic’s repercussions has also led to many pharmacy staff burning out.
How have you managed your mental health throughout the pandemic?
My initial pharmacy classes were online at the beginning of the pandemic. It was very isolating to have never met my classmates in person and to deal with the incredibly high workload of a professional program completely alone. Working part-time in health-care settings where my colleagues and mentors were overworked and burnt out was a very eye-opening way to start a career. It’s been so important for me to take actual time for my own health, whether it be going for walks, watching a movie, or calling someone I love. And even though I didn’t get to meet my classmates in person right away, the connections I formed with them are still strong and real. We all experienced similar hurdles in becoming health-care professionals during the pandemic and have an understanding for each other that’s something I’ve never experienced before. Sharing our experiences and fears with each other is very therapeutic and helps make me feel less alone.