Pharmacists’ value recognized during pandemic
Advocacy comes in many forms, and no matter the role you play, Meg Freiter advises to always keep your patients in mind.
One of the first assignments I was given as the 2019–20 APhA Executive Resident was to represent APhA at a pandemic planning meeting in Washington, DC. At one point, the stakeholders contemplated the theoretical need for widespread distribution of a vaccine during a public health emergency. An attendee approached the microphone to insist that the United States Postal Service (USPS) be engaged, and I wondered why it wasn’t more clear to others that they could rely on the distribution channels used by the most accessible health care provider in the United States—pharmacists. I recall leaving the meeting feeling disheartened that pharmacists weren’t mentioned by any of the speakers.
Fast forward a few months, and the closing days of my residency were marked by the biggest public health crisis in modern history. Now, with USPS at the center of a political showdown and potential COVID–19 vaccines likely to require extremely cold temperatures for storage, it’s safe to say the assertions during that pandemic planning meeting are being challenged. Pharmacists nationwide were ready to meet these challenges, fighting on the front lines of the COVID–19 pandemic as a critical health care access point for patients.
As a result, pharmacists are gaining recognition like never before. In March, pharmacists were granted the authority by the federal government to order and administer COVID–19 tests, and pharmacy interns have been able to support these testing activities.
Recently, pharmacists were entrusted with the authority to order and administer childhood vaccines for patients ages 3 to 18 and will be able to order and administer the anticipated COVID–19 vaccines. State-authorized pharmacy interns, under the supervision of a pharmacist, are also able to administer these vaccines subject to certain requirements.
The catch with these new authorities is they are only valid during the public health emergency. The profession has an opportunity to show elected leaders, health care colleagues, and patients the extensive skillsets that pharmacists possess, and why these new authorities should be made permanent, which will ultimately be determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
How you can play a role
Being an advocate for the profession means demonstrating the value you bring as a student pharmacist. Reaching out to your representatives is important, but so is posting that picture of you providing an immunization to social media. It is building relationships on rounds so the medication expertise you bring is recognized.
And most importantly, it is offering those extra minutes with a patient who seems confused about their new medication and being a valuable resource to them. For more information about advocacy opportunities during COVID-19, visit www.pharmacist.com/coronavirus/advocacy-opportunities.
Meg Freiter, PharmD, is APhA Senior Manager of Pharmacy Practice in Washington, DC.