Sydney Kirkpatrick, PharmD candidate, shares how pharmacy helped ease the burden of COVID-19 in rural areas of Nebraska.
Drug Topics®: What are the key takeaways from your study on rural pharmacy and COVID-19?
Sydney Kirkpatrick: So, my research focused on pharmacists’ impact on access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacy had a huge impact on patients’ access to care, specifically involving COVID-19 vaccinations and COVID-19 tests. Just in the state of Nebraska alone, there were over 5 million COVID-19 tests administered and 5% of them were done at or through pharmacies. There were a couple million vaccinations done, and about 43% of them were done by pharmacists or in a pharmacy setting. Without pharmacy doing that role and taking on that extra responsibility, it would have been a huge extra burden for clinicians everywhere. The Department of Health and Human Services even gave pharmacy technicians the scope of practice to administer COVID-19 vaccines to help take the burden off of the pharmacist.
Drug Topics®: Why is it so important to consider the impact pharmacy had on COVID-19 testing and vaccination?
Kirkpatrick: It's important to consider the impact that pharmacy had on COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. Those are huge astronomical numbers to have millions done by pharmacists, that didn't have to be done either in a doctor's office or a clinic. Pharmacy really helped take some of that burden off doctors and hospitals who were already seeing a huge influx of patients due to the pandemic and having to turn patients away because they had COVID-19 symptoms. Pharmacy was consistently a great, accessible health care worker to patients across the country.
Drug Topics®: Why should policymakers consider pharmacists as important partners for improving health in areas beyond COVID-19?
Kirkpatrick: Policymakers should consider pharmacists as important partners when legislating and creating guidance for COVID-19 and beyond because pharmacists really do want to help. They stepped up and they took over the extra burden of screening, testing, and vaccinating patients throughout the pandemic. Pharmacists are really capable of doing a lot more than they're currently doing now. I think they really want to be the extra help that they can be.