Working in a pharmacy located in a community grocery store offers some unique opportunities to help patients and improve their care.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by Amanda Palmer
“It gives you great accessibility to people in the community and lets you really get involved with them,” says Denice Bucsit, pharmacist at Cooper’s Foods Pharmacy – part of the Overwaitea Food Group, in Port Coquitlam, BC.
Port Coquitlam is a mid-sized pharmacy, with OTC, vitamin and natural health product sections and a semi-private counselling room. “Everybody has to eat, so the whole community is likely to come into the store at some time. It’s very convenient because they can drop off their prescriptions and then go and shop, and come back in a few minutes and pick them up. It’s smaller than other pharmacies in the chain, but what we don’t have in size we make up for in personal service and community involvement,” Bucsit says.
One of the professional advantages and personal pleasures that Bucsit derives from working in a neighbourhood pharmacy is getting to know her patients as individuals.
Recently, an elderly woman with diabetes came to see Bucsit, complaining that she was unable to control her blood pressure and glucose levels. Bucsit conducted a medication review and began working with the woman and her doctor to help her manage her conditions. When the patient was put on new medication she would tell Bucsit, a certified diabetes educator, about any side effects, and Bucsit would check for potential reactions with her other medications and report to the doctor.
Bucsit had introduced a weekly one-hour walking tour of local nature trails and convinced the woman to participate. Thanks to these efforts, over time, Bucsit has been able to help her customer stabilize her blood pressure and glucose.
“That’s one of the great things about working in a neighbourhood pharmacy – you get to know your patients personally and can work with them individually to find solutions to their health challenges,” says Bucsit.
“Now the patient actually calls me up and asks me when the next walking tour is. She never exercised before, but now it’s become a part of her routine.”
Community involvement is also a key part of Bucsit’s approach. Three years ago, for example, Bucsit began visiting local community centres, mental health homes and the private homes of diabetes patients and the elderly giving flu shots and HPV, tetanus, Hepatitis A and B and other public-health vaccinations. The walking program is about a year old, and it too has become very popular among local residents. She also regularly attends local fairs and other community events and puts on clinics on diabetes, diet and glucose monitoring.
Bucsit uses her grocery store location to help her diabetes patients in their daily lives. She books private appointments for them, discusses their diet and then arranges for them to be taken through the store to show them different food options and combinations that would be good for them. She offers advice on reading and understanding nutrition labels. She even goes so far as to recommend the specific brands of toothpaste they should consider using.
“I try to determine the patient’s regular intake of proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates and then make recommendations for them,” Bucsit says. “You can make suggestions but they have to be based on the individual’s ability to change their routine. These are things you can only achieve through a close personal relationship with the patient.
“Accessibility, convenience and personal knowledge and service are how neighbourhood pharmacies like ours can improve patients’ healthcare.”