What’s in a name? Harnessing the true potential of Pharmacy Assistants

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At the Pharmacy Expo held in Sydney from 4-6 June there was much discussion about the evolving role of the Pharmacy Assistant in the modern pharmacy environment.

The Footy Show in Melbourne leads in with their theme “It’s more than a Game”, but in Community Pharmacy land, the role of the Pharmacy Assistant is certainly “more than a name”. They come into the pharmacy industry with wide-eyed enthusiasm, but is their title really appropriate – one which reflects their status in their role in the Pharmacy healthcare team?

Pharmacy Assistants are fundamentally important to the survival of Community Pharmacy as we know it. As the ‘coalface’ representatives, they offer the caring perspective with which the pharmacy industry is entrusted and must multi-task every day. An average day in Pharmacy sees the whole spectrum of humanity – from those with minor illnesses, to impatient individuals and drug-dependent people with accompanying overt behaviour. Being passionate, understanding, knowledgeable, structured and organised are elementary requirements for a career in this challenging environment.

As an increasing number of Australians look to the pharmacy for ‘everyday’ management of their health concerns, the Pharmacy Assistant will become an increasingly important entity within the business. Pharmacists do expect Pharmacy Assistants to keep abreast of the latest information on treatments and disease areas, but are they encouraged and rewarded for this ongoing career development? There are a number of ways we can do this:

  • Consider initiating a specialised pathway which allows career development in a particular area – diabetes, natural medicines, wound care or cardiovascular health -  complementing the role of the Pharmacist
  • Encourage improvement of their professional skills by providing relevant courses and seminars
  • Provide the opportunity for online study/learning, and incentivise with appropriate rewards
  • Ensure they are kept informed of the latest product news and launches via the pharmacy media, particularly PostScript and Contact
  • Always consider the messages and language appropriate to this audience and focus on helping them to have the confidence to conduct a consultation with customers that offers real solutions
  • Highlight great work – showcase ‘stars’ through appropriate communications channels so all Pharmacy Assistants recognise what ‘the best in the business’ is all about.

Now is the time for the role of Pharmacy Assistants to be recognised and re-branded. What’s in a name? Let us know your thoughts below…

This blog has been co-authored by Gerald Quigley, practicing Community Pharmacist & Accredited Herbalist & Lisa Burling from Cube

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What makes a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign?

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Following the combined efforts of six different cancer organisations (Bowel Cancer Australia, the Gut Foundation, the GI Cancer Institute, the Bowel Cancer Foundation, the National Bowel Cancer Coalition and the Cancer Council Australia) last week in raising awareness of Australia’s second largest cancer killer, bowel cancer, it prompted us to ask: what makes a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign?

Poignant call to action

Poignant call to action

If we take a look at Bowel Cancer Awareness Week as the most recent example, the issue dominated health news headlines all week, generating some 200 media impressions each day.

While there were varying messages from all of the organisations vying for a voice, the most common and resounding messages were: this is a cancer beginning to hit younger people (emotional), screening is critical (call-to-action) and society needs to put ‘social awkwardness’ aside when it comes to talking about bowel cancer (quirkiness).

Some organisations harnessed the power of celebrity to get their message across including Lara Bingle, George Calombaris and John Singleton, while others embraced research, personal stories and a touch of humour to spread the word.

With over 160 local, national and international health awareness days, weeks and months formally recognised by the Australian Department of Health & Ageing each year, why is it that some stand out from the crowd and demand such public and media attention, like Bowel Cancer Awareness Week, while others remain almost unheard of?

We know that not all health awareness campaigns are created equal and when embarking on a health awareness campaign, whether it’s an NGO, charity or pharmaceutical company, there needs to be a number of critical ingredients in place for a level of noise to be achieved. A host of important decisions must be made and depending on the topic/issue in question, one may find they have to work that little bit harder than their counterparts to pique the interest of media and ultimately get their target audience to act.

Working in the area of health and having played a part in many a health awareness campaign over the years, we’ve put together our top tips (with a couple of examples showing these in action) for what can help make a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign:

1. Compelling, new research & statistics

2. Clear call-to-action that can be measured

3. Celebrity/high profile personality including MPs

4. Appeals to wider community – not just those that are affected

5. Real life stories

6. Specialists, key opinion leaders, clinical spokespeople

7. Original, creative or quirky take on getting the message across

8. Finding a journalist/media outlet with a personal connection

9. Ways to extend the campaign beyond the ‘day’, ‘week’ or ‘month’

10. Strong online presence

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2 health social media campaigns worth a look

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Whilst on the topic of the health impact of the ‘digital age’, it is worthwhile exploring the power its most current and relevant offspring, social media, has in disseminating health messages and empowering the public.

While it is impossible to talk about all successful campaigns at once (and this is something Cube will be keeping an eye out for), below are two campaigns which have caught our attention:

1. Twitter Autism Day

In this simple and effective example, Twitter was used to create a channel for sufferers of autism and their careAutism Awarenessrs to share their knowledge and experiences of life with autism. Communication and misunderstanding are some of the obstacles faced by people with autism. Twitter was an appropriate medium for this particular disease area, helping sufferers address these obstacles. It also allowed the community an opportunity to show their support by following and re-tweeting. A hashtag was created to help. Twitter Autism Day became a trending topic and this speaks volumes for the success of the campaign in raising awareness and public understanding of the condition (via Engaging Social Media).    

2. Digital Men’s Health Campaign

With last week marking YouTube’s 5th birthday – it is impossible not to give the popular video sharing site a hat-tip. Particularly, as sharing video content online is becoming increasingly important (41% of Australians streamline or download videos).

Click here to view is a reel which encapsulates an interesting digital campaign, developed internationally by the industry, in the area of men’s health (via http://pharmadigital.wordpress.com/). Below is a snapshot of some of the digital content generated.

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Always on the line…is social media bad for your health?

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This week has seen a resurgence in discussion about the effect mobile phones are having on our health, with a large international study receiving widespread media coverage. Suggestions about the health impact of our mobile phone habits are a popular topic, so it may be worthwhile considering the impact the so-called ‘digital age’ and the resulting constant connectivity has on our health.

Our very smart phones allow us to stay connected, longer. But next time you are getting through the flurry of work emails on your Blackberry/iPhone while in traffic or on the bus, or even at home in front of the telly, consider this: a recent study has linked working overtime to an increased risk of heart disease.

This is worrying, considering a survey found nearly one third of Americans feel they need to stay connected to work 24/7, even during weekends and holidays. With Australians working the longest hours of any other country, we must be batting a similar average.

And with almost a third of us now using our mobiles to tweet and update our Facebook accounts, is it any wonder there are suggestions some are becoming addicted? In light of this, Facebook apps like this are eerily ironic.

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