Expanded scope of practice has proven to be a shot in the arm for Canadians and their pharmacists. Literally.
By donalee Moulton
Photography by Ken Yau
With pharmacists being able to administer the flu shot, hundreds of thousands of patients continue to roll up their sleeves at their local pharmacy and thousands of pharmacists have stepped forward to be injection-certified. Thousands of pharmacists across Canada are now trained to administer flu (and other) shots.
For Randeep Birdi, a pharmacist manager with Rexall in Edmonton, the legislative green light to give injections provided a two-pronged opportunity: to assist patients and to enhance business. “I wanted an expanded scope of practice and to build the business around this,” he says. “It’s about accessibility. It’s about better healthcare, and it’s about better business.”
Taking advantage of these opportunities requires more than the willingness and ability to offer injections. Pharmacists and their teams need to make sure patients are aware of the service and understand the benefits of getting an injection at the pharmacy. In the case of flu shots, usually the most common injections given by pharmacists, patients also need to understand the health benefits of immunization.
“We promote this service to patients,” says Birdi. “We want to provide a full and personalized health service.”
That means flu shots do not stand apart from other health considerations. When Birdi, also a certified diabetes educator, does a medication review or care plan for patients, he brings up the issue of injections and the health benefits that accrue. “These are important opportunities to discuss the flu shot and other injections in the context of the individual. It allows us to develop more personalized relationships with patients.”
If the patient has diabetes, for example, Birdi will highlight the importance of a flu shot for this high-risk group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. have stated that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes face serious complications, including hospitalization and even death, as a result of getting the flu because diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections. In addition, the flu can make it harder to control blood sugars.
“Talking to our patients about these issues helps us to manage their health better,” says Birdi. “It gives them, and us, a more close-knit experience. We’re building trust.”
In addition to one-on-one discussions and consultations, Birdi uses posters and signage throughout the store to draw attention to the service. Pharmacists will also find the Influenza Guide for Pharmacists helpful. Developed by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, in collaboration with Immunize Canada, the guide outlines a step-by-step program and details how pharmacists can host immunization clinics in their pharmacies.
“Many of your patients will appreciate this clinic; it also serves as an opportunity for you to market your professional services. The key is in communicating the value of your services to your patients,” the guide states.
Birdi agrees. “When patients understand the scope of services pharmacists can now provide, they see us in a new light. They are surprised – and pleased.”
New customers, he notes, will also come to the pharmacy specifically for a flu shot or other vaccination, and this presents an opportunity to build a new relationship. “Giving someone an injection, whether they are a new or existing customer, sparks conversation. We have a moment to sit with someone and talk with them. That time is valuable.”