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Xrayser: PPE makes pharmacy staff look like extras in a sci-fi film

Pharmacy staff are not happy with the awkwardness of personal protective equipment (PPE), despite knowing its importance, says Xrayser

We’ve all seen films like 28 Days Later, Resident Evil and that lockdown favourite Contagion full of people running around in hazmat suits with big domed headpieces. Who’d have thought that one day we’d be dispensing in a scene reminiscent of these fictional portrayals of biohazards, but which now is the new normal in pharmacy?

Like underpaid extras in a science fiction film, our pharmacy staff are not happy. The masks are hot and humid, the face shields keep slipping, and every form of PPE messes up your hair, your makeup and your ability to slurp a cup of coffee.

The grumbles about the new normal ways of working are getting louder. But we explained, very forcefully, how they help to stop an over-zealous contact tracer from shutting down our pharmacy and encourage people to enter wearing face masks.

I do sympathise with staff concerns about the awkwardness of PPE though, as I keep smearing my lunch over it. I’m thinking about taking up smoking just so I have an excuse to go out the back and remove it every few hours.

The majority of patients and public, meanwhile, just take it in their stride. Most expect to see each of us working in an hermetically sealed bubble, although I prefer the people who take it for granted rather than those who want to debate with you the merits of differing types of PPE like some health protection nerd quoting the latest “10 Best Masks” blog.

For them, I was tempted to install at our door the sort of foot bath found by gates to cow fields during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, but instead I had to make do with a touchless hand gel dispenser.

This device required careful positioning at our entrance in order to provide accessible sanitising without being triggered by the occupant of a pram, despite them potentially living up to the epithet of ‘super-spreaders’.

A portion of hand gel in the face is no laughing matter, as I discovered when the device misfunctioned last week and began dribbling sanitiser like an old man with a prostate problem. Simple enough to strip down and clear the blockage, I stupidly gave the dispensing mechanism a squeeze while examining the nozzle – deep cleaning my eyes with alcohol gel.

But with face masks donned on both sides of the counter, do we now resume normal service? An anxious and seemingly distressed young lady today asked me to examine her scalp because it itched and, living alone, she couldn’t tell herself if it was red.

I felt the risk of such proximity wasn’t justified for what sounded like a simple case of seborrhoeic dermatitis, but as I reflected on this with a colleague I began to wonder if all this biosecurity and social distancing means we risk losing contact with our patients – and with it our oft quoted pharmaceutical care.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser

Pharmacy Assistant
Paignton, Devon
£ Competitive

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