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Pharmacists can ease patients’ fears during deadly flu season

This season’s flu is a beast, and people are scared. As pharmacists, we can be there for them.

Ask your patients if they have had a flu shot, let them know that it’s not too late to get one, and that you can administer it right there in your pharmacy. Remind them of flu symptoms and when they should seek antivirals like Tamiflu. In some states pharmacists can evaluate the need for and prescribe antivirals. This is important since timing is important with these medications. Give patients tips to avoid flu for themselves and their children. As the most accessible health care providers, who is better positioned to deliver these messages? Take the lead and start the discussion.

People are increasingly aware that pharmacists provide immunization services, but it’s not just about the shot. It’s also about education. The flu is an opportunity to start a discussion about the importance of the whole range of immunizations, and to make sure patients know pharmacists are qualified and authorized to administer them. And it’s not just about patients themselves—it’s about their kids and the other family members they care for. Pharmacists and team members should “walk the walk” and get immunized themselves, letting patients know you take your own advice.

The theme of the 2018 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Nashville, March 16–19, is “Leading Our Communities in Patient Care.” Immunizations are one area where pharmacists have proven to be leaders. We’re already known as valuable members of the immunization neighborhood among health professionals and public health officials. Conservative estimates are that approximately a quarter of people get their influenza immunizations in community pharmacies. States have given pharmacists expanded authority to provide vaccines (and naloxone, smoking cessation products, and more) to patients—and in many cases that includes children—some through collaborative practice agreements and standing orders. No matter what processes pharmacists have been made to follow, whether to administer a vaccine or provide antiviral medications, they have proven the value of their inclusion as front line providers to the communities they serve. The time is now to remove arbitrary barriers and embrace pharmacists as valued team members.

As the flu news develops, you may be called on to lead. Pharmacies and pharmacists are ideal partners for pandemic immunization response. According to a recent study, if pharmacies are fully engaged during a pandemic, the time it takes to immunize 80% of adults could be reduced by 7 weeks. To learn more, visit APhA’s Pandemic Planning Resource Center.

And don’t forget to take care of yourselves. Drink plenty of water, get some good sleep, and most of all, BREATHE. We’ve got to be good to ourselves to be good to our patients and communities.

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