For the past eight years, Ms. Treena Sutherland has worked behind the counter of her Medicine Shoppe pharmacy — "right in the pit," as she calls it. Like pharmacists at the over 200
Medicine Shoppe pharmacies across Canada, she mostly sees returning patients who love the pharmacy's health-first focus. Patients know her well, and they rely on her team for valuable healthcare information and advice. "It's very personal," says Ms. Sutherland, whose pharmacy is located in New Brunswick. "An immediate connection is made when people walk in."
Though it's easy to understand the value of filling prescriptions, there are many other benefits of paying your pharmacist a visit, even without a doctor's note. This month is Pharmacist Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity to find out more about how your Medicine Shoppe pharmacist can improve your health.
Most of Ms. Sutherland's patients come to the Medicine Shoppe to fill prescriptions given by doctors — but her job is more than just filling that little vial of pills. She makes sure that every person who walks up to her counter knows some basic, important things about what they or their loved one will be taking: what their medication is for; how it works; how it should be taken and stored; what side effects to expect; what to do if they miss a dose; and when to expect results.
"It's very important to have that trusting relationship established with the patient," she says. A pharmacist's work is mostly about creating a safe, informative environment to discuss your health questions or concerns. She wants patients to be confident that they can drive home, process the new material they've received from their doctor and pharmacist, and call her back with any questions. "We want to keep them educated so they know they can work with us. We're here for them."
Some people who visit Ms. Sutherland's pharmacy don't really understand what their medications are for or how the dose will affect them. She sits down with patients like this to go through potential side effects and medical considerations, step by step.
Not all of Ms. Sutherland's work has to do with one-off prescriptions, though. Some patients who are in their golden years also stop by for a regular morning chat, to say hello and to learn about proactive health practices.
Often, mothers come in with their children to fill several prescriptions at once and follow up on immunizations or slight health concerns — it's easier to drop by the pharmacist and ask about something minor than to book an appointment at the doctor's.
During flu season, families of children, parents and grandparents will drop into the Medicine Shoppe to receive their annual influenza shots. When parents walk in the door with a young child sporting a painful ear infection, Ms. Sutherland will answer any questions the nervous child might have, offer the best flavour of antibiotic, and ensure that the dosage on the prescription is right.
Other patients benefit from more intensive visits. Newly diagnosed diabetics, for example, face many challenges in the first months of treatment. "It's a sensitive time, because the idea of having to give yourself a needle every day is daunting for some folks," she says. Ms. Sutherland sits down with new patients in a private area — so as to avoid the watchful eyes of someone picking up a refill — and explains exactly what a diagnosis means.
"The biggest thing with helping patients is ensuring compliance —making sure they take their meds and keep their meds." Some patients who struggle with consistency will check in daily with their pharmacist. They might get their prescriptions refilled every twenty-four hours to ensure a healthy stability of medical care. No matter what, Ms. Sutherland says, her priority is for patients to feel like "they're leaving with all of their questions answered."
Although Medicine Shoppe pharmacists in different provinces offer different services, all offer the Medicine Shoppe standard of care, from administering travel vaccines and immunizations to advising newly diagnosed diabetes patients on proper care. Here are some examples of what your pharmacist can do:
• Travel immunizations
Pharmacists can help with holiday planning by making sure you have enough to last the trip and offering things like antimalaria pills and travel vaccines.
• Diabetes educators
Pharmacists can teach someone with diabetes how to use a blood glucose meter properly, how to time their insulin intake and regulate their diet and how to self-manage their condition. Many Medicine Shoppe pharmacists are also Certified Diabetes Educators, trained to help people with diabetes.
• Writing prescriptions
Depending on the province, some pharmacists can prescribe medication right from behind the counter if your condition isn't too severe — think remedies for cold sores and yeast infections or heartburn. They can also prescribe medications in case of an emergency or renew your prescription until you have time to make an appointment with your doctor.
• Smoking Cessation
Pharmacists can help smokers get on the path to quitting. They know how to do an assessment and provide ongoing support to kick the habit. They can also recommend smoking-cessation aids.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Edge Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.