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“Being assured, understanding the facts and confident in your abilities calms yourself and others too.”

Mark Sweeney is a newly qualified Pharmacist currently working in a Merseyside hospital. He joined Pharmacist Support as a trustee in 2019. Here Mark shares with us details of how his job has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak, the things he’s struggled with and also learnt about himself in the process.

How has your day-to-day changed since the COVID-19 outbreak? If so, how are you coping with the changes?
Hospital pharmacy often requires a lot patient contact, for example meds reconciliation and counselling on new meds, which of course have been made much harder due to social distancing and PPE.

There are fewer people coming to hospital at the moment, but those who do are often more sick and their needs more complex, which can make your job more time consuming.

We’re also dealing with a lot of nervous and scared patients who would rather be anywhere than in hospital as they’re worried that they may catch the virus and it’s difficult to be reassuring behind PPE!

Is there anything you’ve found interesting or that has challenged you in a good way during this time?
This situation has shown how departments can work remotely and use apps etc to provide services (eg procurement, some patient reviews can be done off site). This has allowed me to call on skills learnt in other positions and bring them to the department.

Is there anything in particular that you’ve struggled with since news of the virus hit?
Sometimes it’s difficult to remain calm when constantly coming into contact with patients who are very unwell, often many with confirmed Covid. Sometimes you feel like a ’sitting duck’ just waiting to get the virus. This combined with constant news coverage of the global situation, makes it is difficult to turn off and stay sane at times.

Have you learnt any new skills or realised new strengths? Do you have any tips to help others who may be in a similar situation to yourself?
I would say it’s highlighted the importance of strong leadership. Often during a crisis, the void will be filled with noise and panic. Being assured, understanding the facts and confident in your abilities not only calms yourself but others too.

What piece of advice would you give someone who might be struggling with their mental health right now?
This pandemic has shown that things can change very quickly, and just because something has worked in the past, it can change in the future. It’s essential to look after yourself and find time to relax, so that you can make a real difference in these very trying times.

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