COVID-19 hasn't changed rural Alberta pharmacy's special place in community
Caitlin McGrath came home to Bonnyville, AB, after receiving her pharmacy degree to work at Tellier Pharmacy – a pharmacy where she started working when she was 15 years old. Now a pharmacist and store operator at the pharmacy 3 hours northeast of Edmonton, Caitlin and her pharmacy team embody the community spirit of pharmacy, holding a special place in the hearts of their rural community of 5500.
A special place in the community
Caitlin’s story perfectly illustrates the important role pharmacies play as health hubs across Canada, especially in rural communities like Bonnyville. Filmed in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic, this video profiles the important place a pharmacy team has in the community, and the meaningful relationships they develop with their patients.
“It’s a safe place for people to come in and ask questions, to have the pharmacist assess them if needed, to have prescriptions refilled,” says Caitlin. “Everyone’s always excited to know that they have more accessible health care and that their ailments can be addressed, and their questions can be answered without huge wait times. We care about our patients… It’s the relationships at the end of the day that just make it so rewarding.”
Filling a care gap for women
Assessing and prescribing for birth control and UTIs are an essential service provided at Tellier Pharmacy. These services are not available in all jurisdictions, representing a significant care gap for more than a million women across Canada. Alberta’s expanded scope of practice has allowed Caitlin and her team to meet these needs for women in Bonnyville.
“In rural Alberta, we don’t always have a walk-in clinic open. So, we’re able to use our knowledge and expertise to assess a patient and to see if it’s appropriate for a pharmacist to prescribe for UTIs or to renew their birth control,” says Caitlin.
COVID-19 has brought change, but community spirit stronger than ever
We caught up with Caitlin again in June to see how COVID-19 has impacted their pharmacy and community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how the pharmacy looks and operates, but it hasn’t changed how much the Bonnyville community relies on Caitlin and her team. As information, and misinformation, abounded throughout the crisis, Tellier Pharmacy played a vital role in helping their patients navigate the pandemic and continue to take care of their health and well-being.
Navigating the pandemic has been a humbling experience for Caitlin, but ultimately it was the sense community and personal relationships that has enabled them to continue to support their community throughout the crisis. “Our pharmacy doesn’t look the same now as it did before COVID-19,” says Caitlin. “We have barriers in place. We sanitize every hour. We’re more conscientious than ever of our patients and their safety. But our relationship with the community and the value of the personal connections we have built has truly shone through this crisis. It is so humbling to see how much our patients trust us.”
With a dramatic increase in call volume to the pharmacy, Caitlin says that patients are taking comfort in their ability to call in for a telephone consult for both COVID-19 assessments and a range of other minor ailments and health issues. “We’ve really been able to help our community navigate the information and misinformation out there about COVID-19 and act as a pillar of support.”