We hold Pharmacy Assistant (PA) Trainings each month which allows the pharmacy team to come together, have lessons on relevant topics, and discuss issues/updates about the mission, their work and whatever is on their minds.
The teachers are most often the Pharmacy Technicians but today we had a bit of a role reversal. Today we had the MSF PA students who are currently on their break from Southern Africa Nazarene University, teach the group. The students picked whatever topic was of interest of them (from school topics of course). So it was really interesting to see what they chose and what they had to say.
The only therapeutic topic that was chosen was diarrhea. For some reason I placed this first on the agenda… who doesn’t want to start their day with diarrhea? Anyway, from there most topics were related to pharmacy standard operating procedures such as dispensing, pre-packing, hygiene, and preparing your pharmacy. One unique presentation was on the terminology we often hear in Swaziland such as epidemic, communicable disease, etc.
Since some of the topics overlapped I was impressed with how nimble the students were with tailoring their talks around those of the person who had spoken before them. The group asked many questions, seemed to have fun with the training, respected the students as presenters, and the appreciated the information they shared.
What was evident for me is the disparity between the idealistic pharmacy situation taught in school and the reality of pharmacy in a rural clinic. Ideally the label is typed out with comprehensive information including the prescriber and clear directions for use… but in reality we don’t have a computer system. Ideally there is a pharmacist (or pharmacy technician) in the pharmacy double checking the accuracy… but in reality we have technicians covering 7-8 clinics and are only able to get to each clinic once a week or so. Ideally there are ancillary labels outlining which medications make you drowsy or should be taken with or without food… but in reality these stickers aren’t available and, if the dispenser knows this information, it might be conveyed verbally.
What I was happy to see was the group focusing on what we can do to optimize our work within our environment, not on the constraints of our environment. What was evident in the presentation, questions and discussion is the pride of this team on the important work that they are doing to help the people in Shiselweni.