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“Accept that you can’t do everything, but everything you can do will be a great help to someone.”

Jim Hutchins is Relief Manager at Well Pharmacy and also Pharmacist Support Charity Ambassador. We caught up with him to see how his life has been impacted by the global pandemic and how his positive mindset has helped him to stay resilient. 

I’ve been in community pharmacy for twenty-five years now but didn’t become a pharmacist until I was 37 years old. I came to pharmacy with a useful range of experience including manufacturing, managerial, quality control, work measurement and medical sales – all of these skills gathered over twenty years, mostly in one company.

While I have managed many pharmacies, I came to realise that I am a problem solver and that my strength was in being a relief manager/ pharmacist, able to walk into virtually any situation. In particular, I love having the time to engage with customers, either to help them or even just for a bit of banter.

How has your day-to-day changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Since Covid, I found myself working in only a few branches. My priority was to ensure that my teams could operate safely and that the patients could still get access to their medication. Some of the things were practical like tape & signage, others were things like keeping a positive slant on what we COULD do, while looking for ways to eliminate or minimise stresses. Once we did get screens up, good access to PPE and minimised the number of patients in the store at once, we all felt safer and much more in control.

Is there anything you’ve found interesting or that has challenged you in a good way during this time?

There have been many challenges. Often patients didn’t understand at first why they were queuing or why their inhalers weren’t available. We became adept at explaining things to people who often either didn’t understand the new rules or refused to accept them. At first we had trouble getting everything done because the dispenser was fully occupied serving on the counter and we simply couldn’t get the prescriptions ready fast enough. A change in hours to close in the middle of the day was a life saver for us. It gave us a chance to catch up with work, and to try to unwind for a bit to break up the day. Now the hours are back to normal, we miss that interlude.

Is there anything in particular that you’ve struggled with since news of the virus hit?

We’ve struggled with tiredness due to lack of time off and the pressures of constant queuing outside the shop. It was frustrating to hear people complaining about being stuck at home while we couldn’t find any relief but we were repeatedly blown away by the thanks and appreciation our customers showed us. There were times when I found that the Thursday Clap for the NHS was genuinely able to lift my spirits again.

What piece of advice would you give someone who might be struggling right now?

If I had to give advice from this experience it would be to accept that you can’t do everything, but everything you can do will be a great help to someone. Make sure you are all safe and that you all feel safe. When things get too tough, don’t be scared to share your feelings with your team-mates and to take some time out, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Don’t be scared to ask for help. You won’t be alone.

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