Why pharmacy assistants matter: Sam Maalouf

Sam Maalouf

Mastering the art of referral hand-in-hand with the pharmacist is an essential skill for pharmacy assistants, says Sam Maalouf, Amcal Max business manager, Doncaster East, Victoria.

Sam has won numerous awards, is former Victorian Pharmacy Assistant of the Year and also a paramedic.

He spoke at APP2015 yesterday at the dedicated Pharmacy Assistants Masterclass.

Maalouf says professional pharmacy assistants’ skills are essential to the success of pharmacy because without them the pharmacist would not be able to do their job. Likewise, there would be no community pharmacy network without the skill of the pharmacist.

“However, I do feel many pharmacy assistant skills goes go unrecognised; that’s why we have to continue to train and understand the importance of knowing when to referral to the pharmacist is required,” he says.

“There is no doubt that pharmacy assistants are highly skilled people who play and important role in providing advice and customer service.”

He says a crucial part of pharmacy assistants’ role is to know when to use pharmacy protocols such as WHAT, STOP, GO and CARER protocols.

Maalouf also points out that this is essential given that the pharmacist is not always available immediately as they may be busy counselling or processing scripts so the qualified pharmacy assistant can step in put the script in process and begin the questioning process to provide as much information necessary to the pharmacist when they are available.

This is particularly crucial with pain management when customers may present in pain; not understand what options are available, and often want a ‘quick-fix’ solution, says Sam.

“Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, as a customer may not want to be questioned and just wants help. However, we have a legal obligation to use our skills and protocols so that the customer gets the right medication and there are often issues of misuse; it’s part of our duty-of-care,” he says.

It is also essential pharmacy gives these customers the best healthcare solution.

He says when patients are in pain they may not be that complaint and sometimes resent the questioning process.

“I always say the best approach is to ‘kill them with kindness’,” says Maalouf.

“That means if a customer is shouting at you and doesn’t understand why you are questioning them that you don’t shout back and you explain why you are trying to help them to get them the best result.

“So they may need something simple like paracetamol or it could be a combination product, when they need the legal advice of the pharmacist – and there are new products on the market such as Nuromol which need their intervention.

“Fundamentally, it is important to show empathy; however upset the customer is. It is crucial to listen to them and try and understand how they feel and the urgency of their situation; be solution focused, definitely know your products; strive to exceed their expectations and know when to refer to the pharmacist as it’s a team effort.

“We wouldn’t exist without the pharmacist and the pharmacist needs us as professionals to know when we have to triage and ask them to step in for the best patient care,” says Maalouf.

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