Co-op's Prescribing Pharmacist

Oct 31, 2017

If you think pharmacists are just the friendly folks who hand you your prescription, think again. Changes to legislation in Alberta mean pharmacists can do more for both patients and the healthcare system at large. And Co-op pharmacists do.

Save a trip to the clinic? See a prescribing pharmacist at Co-op

pharmacists“At Calgary Co-op more than 50% of our pharmacists have prescribing authority,” says Sonal Ejner, Pharmacy Professional Services Manager at Co-op. “Prescribing pharmacists can help bridge gaps in care, alleviating some of the stress on the healthcare system.”

A prescribing pharmacist may issue a prescription after assessing a patient for a minor ailment (such as a cold sore, seasonal allergy) or pre-existing and previously diagnosed condition. This could save the patient a trip to the doctor, walk-in clinic or even potentially, the hospital. It’s important to note that prescriptions may only be issued based on the clinical judgement of the individual pharmacist, and patients may be asked to return to their doctor for further care in some situations. 

“We are just trying to make sure that people are aware that they can turn to the pharmacy for certain things. The prescribing pharmacist is not intended to replace the care that a physician provides, rather, they can help prioritize those ER spots and urgent care visits for the serious cases they are intended for,” explains Ejner, noting all prescription information is forwarded on to the patient’s primary physician.

Co-op pharmacists have specialized training

It’s important to note that pharmacists can only prescribe medication or offer advice on ailments that their specialized and individualized training has provided them knowledge of.

“We are not able to prescribe everything, like narcotics or controlled drugs. And the pharmacist has to really limit their prescription ability to what they are comfortable with, within their scope of practice.”

Get help & advice from Co-op pharmacists for diabetes, quitting smoking, asthma

While they can’t diagnose medical problems, Co-op pharmacists do have a myriad of specialties and can help customers with a variety of health issues and education. 

“At Calgary Co-op we have 34 certified diabetes educators. We have 53 tobacco reduction educators, we have 18 certified respiratory educators and we have 4 certified travel health pharmacists. So we really want to convey that patients can come and seek us out for these types of requests when they want more information.”

Get vaccinated for home and travel at Co-op

Co-op pharmacists are also able to prescribe and administer vaccines both for preventative health as well as vaccines travelers may need when heading out on world voyages.

“Say someone is going to Peru. They’ll fill out an on-line pre-travel questionnaire indicating what all of their medical conditions are, and what medications they are taking. The Pharmacist will evaluate and assess this information and will then initiate prescriptions accordingly based on where they are going and their medical history. They may need a yellow fever vaccine, they may need malaria tablets, they may need something for travelers’ diarrhea. So our pharmacists our able to initiate that at the clinic, fill those prescriptions and also inject in one appointment,” explains Ejner.

Launch a pre-emptive strike against flu, pneumonia, shingles

And closer to home, there are other vaccines that may be more pressing. Flu season can be busy but pharmacists at Co-op can also administer vaccinations for things like shingles and pneumonia.  

Says Ejner, “We are trying to provide the patient with a better quality of life and make sure that they don't get sick, but it is also savings overall for the healthcare system.”

Prescription renewals

Prescribing pharmacistsAll pharmacists at Co-op may able to handle the renewal of regular or recurring prescriptions for chronic conditions. Common chronic medication that can be refilled by a Co-op pharmacist includes asthma inhalers, blood pressure medications, or prescriptions issued to treat depression and mental health concerns. Cholesterol and COPD medications are other examples.

“We never want patients to be off chronic medication. There is no reason for it,” according to Ejner. “So if we can tide them over with a five, or ten day supply — whatever is appropriate based on the pharmacist’s clinical judgment — we want patients to know that, so they are not going without their meds and risking any other health issues. Of course patients will and should continue to check in with their family doctor.

While renewal of a prescription isn’t guaranteed, pharmacists will make a decision after completing a thorough assessment.

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