What happens behind the pharmacy counter?

Have you ever wondered what happens between handing in your script at the pharmacy counter and receiving your medicines? Despite a serene exterior, there’s a whirlwind of activity happening behind the counter as soon as your script is handed over.

“Of course there’s the technical part that has to happen, such as making sure the script is in date and  medication is in the right quantities, but there’s a lot more to it,” explains pharmacist/owner of Community Pharmacy Linwood, Kezia Buttle.

“We ensure the information provided is complete and that the medicine, strength and instructions on how to take it are right for our patient.

“We provide a natural point of connection – our patients could have a number of prescriptions from multiple prescribers including the hospital, the general practice team, the midwife or the dentist, so it’s our responsibility to ensure all the medicines can be taken safely together.

“The more we know about our patients the more holistic approach we can take so, for an older patient, we’ll consider if the medication prescribed might increase the risk of falls,” adds Kezia.

Owner and pharmacist of Leeston Pharmacy, Lynne Dunlop, echoes the sentiment that the role of pharmacist is to build relationships in order to provide a seamless service.

“We have a great relationship with our local General Practice team and can work in a way that complements the services they provide.

“In a rural communities our relationships with our patients are really important – they might be the people who fix our cars or teach our children – so we become really approachable. We get to know whole families and understand inter-generational medical conditions.”

Kezia supports the notion that consistency of care and building relationships with patients is key. “In urban areas patients don’t always go to the same pharmacy, so we have fewer opportunities to build a complete picture of what else is happening for them.

“I’d like people to find out how much more we can do than simply dispensing medicines, by having a chat with a pharmacist,” Kezia says.

Below are some of the services a pharmacy might offer:

  • Free medicines management services to help patients understand and manage their medicines;
  • Administering vaccinations including the flu vaccine;
  • Monitoring how well blood thinning medication (warfarin) is working by doing finger-prick testing and making immediate changes to prescriptions as needed;
  • Blister packing medications to simplify taking medications at set times on set days;
  • Diagnosing and treating minor ailments e.g. cough and colds, urinary tract infections, thrush;
  • Helping patients navigate health services and making referrals to services, such as smoking cessation (Te Hā – Waitaha);
  • Disposal of expired or unneeded medicines.
  • Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Lynne added that many of her patients express surprise at the range of services community pharmacies can provide.  “We have a responsibility to explain the options and provide education, which can happen in or outside of the pharmacy walls.”

Once the script is filled, the pharmacist then hands this over with information gleaned from their knowledge of their patient/ their patient’s condition.

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