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Rebecca Lahrman is a pharmacist at Shrivers Pharmacy & Wellness Center on W. Union St. in Athens, Ohio.

Pharmacy professionals detail difficulty, importance of profession during pandemic

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, numerous professional fields have felt its impact. Specifically, the pharmaceutical industry has faced challenges since the start, with stress building when the rollout of vaccinations began in 2020. 

Ben Holter, pharmacist and owner of Shrivers Pharmacy and Wellness Center, 310 W. Union St., said the greatest challenge of being in the pharmacy field during the pandemic has been the need to constantly adapt to new information to better serve the Athens community. 

“We were one of the first pharmacies in the state of Ohio to receive and administer the Moderna vaccine and have now administered over 10,000 initial and booster vaccines in Athens County,” Holter said in an email. “Staying up to date with current treatments, vaccines and testing protocols so we can be a trusted source of information has been a challenge, but I believe our team has done a great job and is a trusted source in the Athens community.”

R. Logan Yoho, director of pharmacy for Hopewell Health Centers, said the pandemic emphasized staffing concerns for the centers and navigating those concerns throughout the changes amid the pandemic.

“Constantly, we're having CDC changes that we have to keep up to date with that sometimes change on a weekly basis, just by the nature of a novel virus as well as keeping up with the recommendations for our staffing,” Yoho said. “ I run a very small staff, so it's very challenging if there was an exposure, especially prior to vaccines, that would risk taking out my entire staff and halting my entire pharmacy operation.”

Despite the challenges facing pharmacists during the pandemic, Yoho said there were some positives that came out of it — particularly in the early stages of the vaccination efforts, as the public’s spirits were high in receiving their first doses. 

“That was such a valuable experience to be able to provide something that was really impacting public health in a quantifiable way,” Yoho said. “We've always been an important part of the public health but, sometimes, we don't see that on a day-to-day basis. And especially early on in the vaccination efforts, people were so excited, and they were so grateful that they were receiving the vaccine, and it was just a very valuable time to be part of that effort.”

Marina Stevens, a senior studying chemistry pre-pharmacy, also works at Shrivers Pharmacy. Stevens said the importance of a pharmacist’s role has been magnified by the effects of the pandemic. Their ability to provide crucial information to the public about the virus and the vaccines to treat it are essential to getting through the pandemic overall. 

“We get questions all the time, like, ‘My kid tested positive, and I don't know if I should go to work. What should I do? What do you recommend? Can I take ibuprofen?’ Things like that,” Stevens said. “I think the pandemic has made this occupation more important. It just shows that it's not just a person with a white coat standing behind the counter. They have a lot of responsibility, and with a pandemic, they have even more responsibility.”

The personal interaction between a pharmacist and a patient, Yoho said, is what makes the profession stand out among others. Yoho stressed these interactions make pharmacists one of the most accessible health care providers, which showcases the significance of their presence through the pandemic.

“You can walk up to a pharmacist at a counter and ask a question right there,” Yoho said. “And that is such an impactful position to be in, that you can really make a positive impact in somebody's life.”

With the many negatives that the pandemic has caused, including the stress on the pharmaceutical profession, Holter said it also reminded the public of the true capabilities pharmacists manifest and that they are a reliable source for information during a critical period of time. 

“Many folks now realize that pharmacists are capable of much more than just filling and dispensing prescriptions,” Holter said in an email. “ I think people will remember that during this period of uncertainty and need that pharmacists were in the trenches doing our part.”

@laureneserge

ls351117@ohio.edu 

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