Pictured above are Rexall pharmacists Muhannad Kazzazi and Wenting Jia. Barbara De Angelis, Senior Director of Professional Affairs at Rexall, credits emergency assignment registration for providing the additional coverage needed to allow their pharmacy teams to rest and recharge.
As the pandemic surged and placed increased strain on Ontario’s healthcare sector, the College heard from pharmacy professionals feeling overwhelmed and from new graduates eager to support their peers and community. But without access to exams and practice-based assessments due to COVID-19 public health measures, new graduates were at risk of having their registration as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians delayed.
To ease the demands on the pharmacy workforce, support the province’s vaccine efforts, and ensure patient access to safe, quality pharmacy services, the College initiated emergency assignment (EA) registration for temporary certificates of registration for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. During heightened pressures on pharmacy, EA registration increased the availability of pharmacy professionals able to practise to full scope.
Driving Vaccination Efforts
Rakesh Chaudhry was one of the College’s EA pharmacists who worked to support Ontario’s vaccination efforts. At vaccination clinics in Pickering, Durham, Ajax and Bowmanville, Chaudhry pre-loaded syringes with the vaccine, performed quality assurance and worked alongside other professionals to keep Ontarians safe and healthy.
With mass vaccination clinics seeing an average of 1,000-1,500 patients per day, it took a team of healthcare professionals to get the job done.
“I worked with a team of amazing nurse practitioners, registered nurses, paramedics, doctors and other pharmacy professionals,” says Chaudhry. “The more healthcare professionals out in the field, the more help there is to fight the pandemic.”
Supporting Community Pharmacies
With the COVID-19 pandemic having a significant impact on pharmacy workplaces, EA pharmacy professionals provided much needed support and relief to pharmacy teams.
“Ensuring the health and wellness of our workforce is key to being able to provide patients with the care they need, especially during a global health crisis,” says Barbara De Angelis, Senior Director of Professional Affairs at Rexall.
Community pharmacies were among those who accessed the over 400 EA pharmacists and 60 EA pharmacy technicians registered by the College.
De Angelis credits EA registration for providing the additional coverage needed to allow their pharmacy teams to rest and recharge. “Pharmacy professionals have been working very hard during this pandemic,” says De Angelis. “In some communities that are experiencing a shortage of pharmacists, finding coverage for much needed vacation time has been a challenge. The EA program has allowed our teams to take some time away from the pharmacy.”
The EA registration program is also positioning most recent graduates for success. After gaining experience practising in their full scope and being accountable and responsible for their practice, EA registrants become good candidates for permanent positions once they receive their final registration.
Studying the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy and pharmacy professionals
Published studies have confirmed the COVID-driven demand for care by pharmacy professionals and its effect on them. Two of these studies are highlighted below:
- Zubin Austin and Paul Gregory looked at a small group of Ontario community pharmacists and published on their experience during COVID-19 and what factors may influence or predict resiliency of individual practitioners and their workplaces.
- The University of Alberta published a snapshot of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian pharmacists’ roles and pharmacy services. The findings, published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, revealed an increase in the number of patients seeking pharmacists’ care as they avoided other avenues of the healthcare system out of fear of contracting COVID-19.