Veronica Nou shares a story of a recent Monday that captures the whole-person care offered by pharmacists
9.01am – Greek woman in her sixties enters the pharmacy in a state of great anxiety. “Veronica, help me, help me,” she cries. I take her into the consult room. She’s panicking and takes off her shirt. “I have coronavirus!” The skin on her back is red with patches of contact dermatitis. I explain this is not coronavirus and suggest hydrocortisone and an antihistamine.
“But my sister says coronavirus gives you red skin and dark eyes.” I ask if she has had any problems with her eyes. She says no. I suggest she’s had the same dark eye colour for quite some time. I promise her if she brings her sister in we can talk about what coronavirus looks like together and that she’s going to be fine. She’s grateful and leaves.
10.45am – A man walks in and asks me for a price. I tell him $16; he suggests $6. I suggest another pharmacy.
12pm – A young woman walks in. Ten weeks ago, her pre-eclampsia, misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel, lost the prefix. She lost the baby and was utterly devastated. She was then prescribed a well-known anti-epileptic, which she started last week. It’s category D. She used a pregnancy test this morning. It’s positive. She’s freaking out. She asks me what to do, and begs me not to tell her husband, as he’s still grieving over the loss of their daughter. We talk and I promise her. I ask her to stop treatment for now, and go for a blood test ASAP to confirm the pregnancy, and let me know. She cries and leaves.
2.30pm – A mother walks in the door. Her fifteen year old can’t sleep; what can I recommend? “Why do you think she can’t sleep?” Well her daughter has been feeling sadder than usual lately. “Is there something bothering her at home? At school?” Well, she was feeling better, so she went off her sertraline. We have a discussion, where I try tactfully to raise the topic of antidepressants and suicidal ideation in children.
Mum admits daughter has already tried to kill herself and she just needs to sleep. I think Mum also needs to sleep. It’s a rough day all around. I discourage her from buying anything off the shelf and send her back to the GP. I call ahead. The GP isn’t available but I leave a message anyway.
“Veronica, someone else is here to see you.” I plaster a smile on my face and walk out to say hello. It’s an extremely small, elderly lady we helped out after she lost her home to a combination of bushfires and flooding earlier in the year, who has come to say an effusive thank you. I appreciate it, but it’s emotional whiplash. She wants to hug me. We settle for non-contact socially distant high five.
5pm – A lovely woman in her forties walks in. She wants a blood sugar test because she’s constantly thirsty, but she’s also falling asleep at odd times during the day. Caffeine is all that keeps her going. The thirst is the only thing suggestive of diabetes, and her blood sugar test result is normal.
We discuss her diet. She only eats one meal a day. “Don’t you feel hungry?” Not really. She struggles to pay the bills at times and has gotten used to not eating much. We talk. I think she’s run down and exhausted, but a blood test could help us figure out if she’s suffering any kind of hormonal imbalance or any other kind of nutritional deficiency. Perhaps she’ll need an iron supplement which she will also struggle to afford. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
The manager reminds me it’s World Pharmacist Day coming up. So it is, so it is.
It’s Mental Health Week 10-18 October. To learn good coping strategies, please check out this webinar on mental wellbeing in the pharmacy profession, with AJP editor Chris Booker, Beyond Blue Ambassador Kate Carnell, and Curtis Ruhnau, community pharmacy owner and practising pharmacist, PDL Director, PSS Board Member and Mental Health First Aider. Question submissions welcome at registration.
Veronica Nou is a pharmacist and proprietor of two Western Sydney pharmacies, and the winner in the Refugee Supporter category of the 2020 NSW Humanitarian Awards.