COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives greatly. In fact, I wrote a previous article about how my mom was in the ICU due to probable coronavirus. You can read that article here. I, like many others, are beyond grateful for both essential workers and essential healthcare workers. I realized though, that nurses, doctors, and others who work in the hospital scenery aren't the only type of essential healthcare workers there are. I decided to interview my friend, Austin, about his essential healthcare worker position (pharmacy tech), which is kind of "behind the scenes" compared to those previously mentioned.
How long have you been a pharmacy technician?
About half a year, now.
What department do you work in?
I'm primarily a floor technician, which essentially means I get prescriptions from longterm care facilities. About 70 percent of it is automated, but everything else like OTC and generalized and specific stuff comes to us [pharmacy techs]. So, we get a prescription, we fill it and send it to a pharmacist who does a final review of it. I do a variety of things as well, though, such as compounding, which is if there is a specific medicine that needs to be made such as creams, from the ingredients given.
What is your office's procedure with regard to COVID-19?
So we've always had to wear gloves when dealing with pills or medications, but now we have to wear masks, it's the norm of things now. We're constantly getting updated on new safety policies to do. No one is allowed to go between our area and billing now unless you're a CEO.
What is the protocol if you (or another worker) shows signs of infection?
They're sent home immediately and have to stay home for two weeks at least, and they also have to get tested.
Do you have enough PPE?
Yeah. I get a lot of people don't, but we have a shit ton of gloves. Also, a lot of pharmacists and other employees know people who make their own masks.
What is the biggest change your day-to-day has faced because of COVID-19?
It's been actually a lot slower. We've gotten less work because there have been fewer admissions to our facilities. They don't want to admit a bunch of new elderly people; potentially exposing the rest of them since they're already immunocompromised. Our stock has actually taken a hit. People are buying so much in bulk it's hard for us to get certain inhalers, we've had to go generic on a lot of things to have enough. Please don't purchase all of the acetaminophen from CVS, you make it get out of stock and that makes us not be able to get any, anymore.
Describe your work's atmosphere.
Our atmosphere hasn't really changed. We're all still kinda working through it, we're kinda working through it together. It's kinda like a commonality sort of thing
How do you feel about the national news coverage of COVID-19? Accurate? Downplaying the situation?
I do not typically watch the news. I will say, I don't think it's taking everything into consideration. You can certainly make a case for it not being that big of a deal, but you could certainly make a case for "it's not a big deal to you." Do I personally think it's a big deal for me — someone who's 22, in healthy shape, and could likely fight it off? Not really. But do I understand that there's a lot of elderly people, immunocompromised, people who can not fight off the illness? Absolutely. I think there are a lot of people who shouldn't be worried about it, but I definitely get the panic.
What is one thing you wish you could tell the country about COVID-19?
COVID-19 doesn't stop people from taking unnecessary risks and that shouldn't be the case. Some of our facilities are still taking new patients from hospitals.
How is your personal life impacted by COVID-19?
I work the night shift, I stay at home anyways. I don't have a life.
Are there any stories of hope that you can share with us?
I will say that I do see occasionally the logs of some facilities that have COVID-19. I am seeing fewer and fewer people that have it and more and more people who are recovering in these homes, which is good, and it makes me feel good.
What advice can you give us for staying as healthy as possible?
I don't think hydroxychloroquine and doxycycline is actually a cure for it. I haven't done all the research myself, but I just don't think that it's necessary and I see some facilities ordering so much of it, and I'm like, "Why?" There are pharmacists whom I work with that are like, "this isn't going to do anything" and I trust them over a lot of other people because they did go to school for it.
What can citizens in your area do to help healthcare workers fight COVID-19?
Volunteering. It's scary to volunteer, but I don't know what else you could really do other than that.
Make sure to thank everyone who has been working to battle COVID-19 or keep providing goods and services to the public during this pandemic.