University of Otago Pharmacy students want people to know that pharmacists are more than just pill-counters at the corner store. New Zealand Association of Pharmacy Students Otago (NZAPS-O) President Alice Weil says that their profession is often misunderstood and underestimated. “NZAPS-O has found that when we talk to our friends and wider family about our profession, people don't know what we actually do. We often get questions like ‘do you just count pills?’”
NZAPS-O have launched an Awareness Week for 25 September – 1 October. The campaign was inspired by a NZ Herald article titled “Why Do Pharmacists Take So Long?”.
KiisFM radio host Kristie Mercer wrote a Facebook rant about pharmacy wait times saying, “I have to entertain myself because there's a 15-minute wait on getting a script. What the f***? Like, I'm sorry, what is the hold up on the process? Just grab it off the shelf and press print on the old sticker printer, slap it on, and away we go. Is there some kind of magical process that's taking place back there?” One pharmacy assistant wrote in response, "It's the whole making sure the medication doesn't kill you that takes a bit of time”.
Weil says that many also dismiss the range of what pharmacists do. “First of all pharmacists can offer free health advice for UTIs, thrush, conjunctivitis and rashes to name a few (and provide treatment for them). We can also give you the Emergency Contraceptive Pill, as well as flu vaccines.”
Pharmacists in New Zealand are also trained to perform screening tests on blood sugar, blood pressure, hearing, cholesterol, coeliac disease and bowel cancer. “We are trained to look out for any interactions, and make sure the drug that has been prescribed for you actually is the right for you, and in the right dose,” Weil said. “I think a lot of the time people think they need to go to Student Health or a doctor, but pharmacists can often help cheaper and easier.”
As part of the awareness campaign, NZAPS-O are making a video to post on Facebook explaining what a pharmacist actually does, taking out ads in local media, and encouraging Dunedin pharmacies to try and use a pharmacy-related Māori word of the day.