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‘How much racism happens in pharmacies that we don’t see?’

“I’m hoping to take one step towards stamping out racism in pharmacy”

C+D clinical editor Naimah Callachand wonders how many other pharmacists have also received racist microaggressions in the workplace

Coming from a mixed-race background, the global anti-racism protests and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on different ethnic groups have been weighing heavily on my mind. My dad is from Mauritius and my mum is Northern Irish, so I always felt a bit different growing up in predominantly white Northern Ireland.

Throwaway remarks such as “half-caste” or “the brown girl” are just a couple of the things I was called while working as a locum pharmacist in Belfast. They trigger thoughts like “is this how people see me?” and “do I fit in here?” Perhaps it’s just a lack of understanding from colleagues and patients that these phrases are not acceptable.

Acts of prejudice can be less explicit. When patients have asked to speak to the other pharmacist, I often wondered if it was because they were more comfortable speaking to a white pharmacist – or were their remarks causing me to overthink?

These microaggressions made me reflect upon and even question my identity. They sometimes got in the way of me doing my job as a locum pharmacist.

In a C+D survey about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak of 1,018 pharmacy professionals – which ran from April to May – several respondents highlighted racism as the worst kind of abuse they receive from patients.

I have been one of the lucky ones to get away with only the odd remark about my ethnicity. But it’s got me thinking: How much racism is really going in pharmacies that we don’t hear about or see?

The anti-racism protests that have been held all over the world over the last few weeks have really brought to the forefront the inequalities that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are facing. By highlighting how these issues exist in pharmacy, I’m hoping to take one step towards stamping out racism in the sector.

C+D wants you to share your experiences with us in a survey. This is our time to stand up to any discrimination that is affecting our pharmacy teams.

If you’d like to share your experiences of racism in pharmacies, answer our survey here.

By presenting a united front against abuse we can help to pave a path towards a future of racial acceptance.

Naimah Callachand is C+D clinical editor

6 Comments

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

There will be potential racism directed towards locums from contractors (not necessarily multiples but certainly from indies) whereby if the pharmacy is is a rural, overwhelmingly white area of the country, the contractor is more likely to employ a white British locum than a BAME one while in, for example an inner city, predominantly, say, Muslim area, the contractor is more likely to employ a Muslim pharmacist. It's based more on economics than racism - customers in each area may be put off by the pharmacist face they see and not come in, so the contractor doesn't want to lose out. However, it still shows racial bias and is still racism.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

An example that I can think of in recent memory is when the man in the dispensary is considered to be the pharmacist based purely on appearance by a patient.

There are definitely stereotypes that need to be broken down. And I feel we are getting there. Take, for example, the role of the nurse. It was not too long ago that this was considered to be a female-only role.

On an individual level is how we tackle this. We may not always get it right, and it is important to understand when we do something wrong and reflect upon it. But eventually, we will get better at being better towards everyone.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I probably look like the stereotypical pharmacist - middle aged, bald and haggard!

Has the 'white coat' stereotype gone yet? Not in the media, I don't think. If you ever watch the telly, a pharmacist is always portrayed as some sort of white-coated nerd or plain weird (think Mrs Tishell in Doc Martin). WE ARE NORMAL(ISH) PEOPLE!!!!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

My white coat makes me look like a dentist apparently. Not that I wear it at all these days.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I would like to highlight that racism works both ways and I've personally worked in areas and experienced racism towards my non BAME colleagues. And work needs to be done to address this.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Mark - am I right in thinking you are BAME yourself?

In my experience as a white locum, it is difficult to get work in an area where the population is predominantly non-white. I'm not saying this is necessarily overtly racist but like goes to like, as they say and maybe the customers would feel more comfortable with someone who looks like they do?

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