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New campaign to promote kindness, stop harassment of pharmacists

By Caitlin Snow May 2, 2024 | 6:00 AM

Pharmacists around Nova Scotia are getting harassed every day and it needs to stop, according to Alison Bodnar, the CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

Bodnar tells our newsroom harassment can range from yelling, derogatory remarks, patients leaning over the counter and even prescription bags being thrown at the heads of staff.

It was after a few years of noticing this behavior getting worse, and a recent annual survey that showed more than 50 per cent of pharmacy staff are getting harassed, they launched a new campaign.

KindRx aims to try to promote kindness and stop harassment of pharmacy professionals.

Pharmacies around the province have been given posters to help create awareness and provide a code of conduct for patients on how to treat staff.

Bodnar says some frustration they see from patients, comes from not realizing how much pharmacists have going on behind the counter, even if doesn’t appear that way.

“I don’t think people realize Pharmacy Nova Scotia fills almost 15 million prescriptions a year. The vast majority of those prescriptions come to the pharmacy by fax or electronically.”

She says even if there are not a lot of people in the pharmacy, staff are very busy, with hundreds of other prescriptions that need to be filled.

Pharmacists also have procedures they must follow with assessments that need to be done and they don’t have the same scope of a doctor.

Bodner says she hopes with the campaign, the harassment stops.

Firsthand experience

Carolyn Cox works at Brookline Pharmacy in Bedford, which is a primary care clinic.

Cox says she has been a pharmacist for several years and has developed a “thick skin” after seeing and experiencing several types of harassment.

“Intimidating someone physically, whether it’s trying to get over the counter in the pharmacy…yelling…screaming…”

Cox says there are a few main reasons that cause patients to get upset including issues with insurance; it’s either not covered or needs prior approval.

Other triggers include wait times for prescriptions, stock issues and unattainable expectations.

Patients also expect to see a pharmacist right away, but in many cases need to book an appointment.

When asked what she thinks of the campaign Cox says, “I think it’s wonderful…but I’m not sure of the effect.”