Pride in the Park and in our Profession

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By Tana Yoon and Michelle Hebert, Pharmacy Technicians

On Sunday, September 2, 2018 we were thrilled to participate in hosting a wellness booth aimed at providing harm reduction education and support during the “Pride in the Park” event in Calgary.  We were there in partnership with Safeworks, the Center for Sexuality and the HIV Community Link.  Our main role as pharmacy technicians was to provide Naloxone Take Home Kits and the education required for safe use.

Like the pharmacy technicians that participated at a similar event in Edmonton in June, we had previously completed the AHS Naloxone e-Learning Module and viewed the Overdose Response and Administration of Naloxone Video.  Both of us have past experience distributing the kits.  Michelle educates on Naloxone and distribute kits as a regular part of her role in Correctional Health Pharmacy, and Tana has done so during a national “Point In Time” homeless count.

The interest in the signs and symptoms of overdose and the willingness to learn how to respond through the use of the Naloxone kits was overwhelming.  In conjunction with two Safeworks nurses, Tim Heavyshields and Meghanne Hicks, we gave out over 140 kits in a span of 6 hours.  In fact we ran out of kits prior to the close of the event.  It is important to note that the cultural diversity at the event was vast.  It was inspiring to see so many varying populations in attendance to support the Pride initiative.  Kits were distributed to individuals from both mainstream and alternative lifestyles, from within a multitude of cultural backgrounds.

We immensely enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the community and showcase the value of pharmacy technicians.  In return we had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people with fascinating stories to tell.  Connecting with our patients cannot be understated and it is always inspiring to be reminded of the value of our purpose through the gratitude demonstrated to us in return.

This experience highlighted that there is a massive opportunity for pharmacy technicians to take on a leadership role within community pharmacy as harm reduction experts. During our 6 hours at the booth, we had two separate occasions where a pharmacist presented and stated that they have the kits at their stores but they are unsure on where to access training.  One of them stated that she has given out the kits but not been able to provide education and that she is unsure on how to obtain replacement kits for the store.  We also spoke with several individuals that commented that they had picked up kits from community pharmacies previously but had never received any direction or training on how to use them because the community pharmacy team members did not know themselves.  We believe that pharmacy technicians are uniquely qualified to fill in this gap with our patients.   Do you agree?  We would love to hear from you – are your team members trained to educate and distribute Naloxone kits?  As a health professional are you prepared to meet your patient’s needs?  We know that stepping up and taking on a new role can be scary and challenging! If further information or support is required we are here to help! Feel free to reach out to us via the comment section below or by emailing info@ptsa.ca.

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