COVID-19 & 2020 – Only look back to see how far you’ve come
This article was written by Nicholas Colwyn Parry, a locum pharmacist working across the UK, and a subscriber to the My Locum Choice Software.
What the hell was all that about? The start of 2020 Boris Johnson promised a new England, new trade deals, a year of prosperity and 3 months later our central government are saying we cannot sit outside on park benches. This is in no means a political blog and that is all I’ll say on that, I doubt anyone could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic! There I said it, COVID. The new C word, the word you have heard 10000 times a day, every single day since the start of last year. WILL IT EVER END.
In 2020 I quit my job, started my own business successfully, learned how to cut men’s hair explored the South of England, learned how to surf and even squeezed in a cheeky week holiday to Turkey. I have experienced things no one could have prepared me for, and I am so glad those experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. From going solo I have had more weeks off in 6 months than I had in a year at Boots, and I have earned more in that period than I would have if I was still working full time. It is safe to say, life is even more sweet now. I would like to give a special mention to Miraj Patel and Joanna Sagan at MyLocumChoice, who ultimately allowed me to kickstart this entire life-changing process and for their continuing support. You have both given me complete control of my life and that is priceless.
2020 was actually the best year of my life not only for me, but for many of you! It has allowed us to re-evaluate what is important to us and has allowed us to establish our wants and needs. We have not had to dress to impress anyone on a daily basis so attending zoom meetings in pyjamas has become socially acceptable. Many “influencers” haven’t been able to brag about their superficial false lifestyles, and I believe social media has been a much less toxic place as a consequence. I have seen more friends save for a house rather than spend it all on a 2-week holiday in Ibiza. I am therefore somewhat grateful for COVID-19 and 2020.
However, I am not grateful for the constant fear of COVID, or the constant restrictions choking the economy, nor am I grateful for the millions of businesses that have gone bust as a consequence. I am in no way grateful for the number of people who have suffered with or been affected by COVID, but as an optimist I do always try and see at least one positive in any situation.
What does this mean for pharmacy? I saw possibly the biggest workload increase on pharmacists in March-May proving our jobs very difficult at the time. We closed a pharmacy inside a doctor’s surgery and moved it into my store and one point we couldn’t even get any Ventolin inhalers for our patients! Our items literally tripled overnight. I would say I had to switch very quickly from being a community pharmacist, to what feels like a COVID advisor, constantly discussing this disease and debunking the myths that surround COVID-19.
I had to explain to one lady she didn’t need to wear a mask on her phone because it cannot be spread through a telephone line, to which she replied, “it’s a virus, and computers can get viruses”. Now most people would dismiss her as stupid, but as a pharmacist we need to think holistically about our patients. Although she may not quite grasp the difference between human and computer viruses, if wearing a mask to answer her phone made her genuinely feel better then there is no harm in that. I have said from the start, fear of fear is the real virus, especially when it’s unknown. We have seen patients younger than me come out of this worse off, we have seen patients over 100 recover with no issues. When you aren’t sure how you’ll come out of this, then I understand the fear it may carry with it.
We have unfortunately seen the loss of many lives not only through COVID directly, but from people who had appointments cancelled because of the virus, patients who were ill-informed about GP practices or those who were too afraid to go to the GP about something that if caught early enough would have prevented their death. Yes, GP’s and hospitals weren’t seeing many patients in the first lockdown, but this quickly changed once we understood the virus a little bit better and had PPE. I feel like I should have a card to hand out stating: “GP’s are still working, no their surgeries aren’t COVID ridden, yes you can ring up surgeries, no we won’t close in the next lockdown”. I have a family member who went private for a mastectomy at the start of the pandemic because all non-emergency NHS appointment were cancelled and if she didn’t go, she was told she may not have seen Christmas. Sadly, not every family has this luxury and we will see repercussions of this virus for many years to come.
It is now clear to me that our temporary “COVID-19 advisor” role we have stepped into back in March is still the same role we had before, with an extra focus. Signposting patients is one of our essential NHS services we must provide as pharmacists, so we need to make sure our patients actually receive the appropriate care they need. Signposting patients where appropriate is the best form of starting the correct path to their healthcare. As pharmacists we need to be able to effectively triage patients for queries that can be solved by means of self-care, or hospital referral. By doing this we are successfully maintaining the best public health service in the world, and safely protecting our population.
I am extremely proud of everything I have accomplished this year; I would like to think I have proved myself as a pharmacist in this pandemic. Since leaving the security of my well-paid full-time job I have definitely enjoyed my new position as a locum pharmacist a lot more. I can actually feel the difference I am making to the community locally and I can’t wait to see what 2021 brings. One thing this year has shown everyone is you never know what is around the corner, I don’t think I’ll ever miss another social event because “I don’t feel like it” because it could be the last time you see certain family or friends for 6 months.
Last year was an absolute shambles, but we must remember it isn’t forever, it will get better, and it is definitely not the new normal! There will be achievements you will be proud of in 2020, so reflect on them, create a new goal from them, and get ready to ace them this year!!!
To read more on my journey as a Locum Pharmacist check out the My Locum Choice Blog.