Student pharmacists make contribution during pandemic

Champion of pharmacy

Students and staff from UQ School of Pharmacy have indicated their desire to help ease the pressure on the health workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As hospital pharmacies started to prepare their workforce for the pandemic, they recognised that their staff would be working at the highest levels of their scope of practice and that pharmacy students, many of whom were already on placement, could make an important contribution to the workforce,” explains Senior Lecturer, Dr Adam La Caze.

“Pharmacists have been working hard to maintain medication supply to individual consumers as well as the community as a whole and this has led to a very busy and, at times, emotionally-charged environment in community pharmacy.

“All of this is happening at the same time that these workplaces seek to put in their own processes to adhere to social distancing requirements and figure out how to provide their services in a way that keeps their patients, their customers and themselves safe.

“Overall this meant that many places where looking to take on additional students.”

Dr La Caze facilitated a School response to link students who were in a position to help in the workforce with pharmacists needing assistance.

He explains that about 70 undergraduate students indicated their availability to assist in Queensland Health hospitals and that 50 indicated their availability to help in the community pharmacy.

“Close to 30 community pharmacies express their interest in taking a student volunteer and a number of pharmacies indicated the availability of paid positions.”

Associate Professor Ian Coombes, Adjunct in the UQ School of Pharmacy and Director of Pharmacy at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) said students have been integral to hospital operations during the pandemic.

“While some departments have stopped taking undergraduate students and even let their interns go, at the RBWH we have engaged with the UQ School of Pharmacy to enable the 4th year students to stay on as pharmacy assistants to support our pharmacy workforce,” he said.

“We have moved away from the traditional student agreement and employed the students as casual operational staff so that they are able to undertake a wider scope of technical activities with a smaller degree of supervision, once they have been trained.

“This has been met with enthusiasm from the students and a willingness to help and take on pharmacy assistant and support roles allowing the pharmacy assistants to support the pharmacists in clinical roles.”

A/Prof Coombes says, “The opportunities and experience that the students gain will be formative and allow them to consolidate components of their undergraduate training.”