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Story Unmasked: Daphne, Pharmacy Assistant (Alberta)

Interviewed by Madeleine Testore


What has working through the pandemic been like?

Since March 2020, life at work has changed dramatically and it seemed, for so long, things changed every minute. Everything was new - news of Covid, warnings of Covid, what to do about Covid, numbers of cases, numbers of deaths - and it was so overwhelming. Absolutely overwhelming. Added to the day-to-day at an extremely busy pharmacy in rural Alberta, it was quite simply a lot.

Because word of Covid changed so much as well, we really had no idea what to do, and very few guidelines were in place or developed by the company to deal with the situation. It was awful.

That complete confusion was stemmed only in time, not by developing any plan of action. Like everyone else, we rode out the choppy waves. It wasn’t easy, though. It hasn't been easy since March.

Masks were asked to be worn. We, as staff, set up our own barriers because those in charge were moving far too slowly to protect their employees. That cost was borne by an employee as well. Resentment and frustration have plagued the staff.

Masks were asked to be worn. We, as staff, set up our own barriers because those in charge were moving far too slowly to protect their employees. That cost was borne by an employee as well. Resentment and frustration have plagued the staff.

Today, masks are finally mandatory. That provincial decree (finally) helped all of us. Being scorned for wearing masks: gone. Encouraging customers to wear masks: gone.


I was stupid and chose, at first, not to wear a mask in March. I’d told myself I was careful. I was dumb. We had a customer come in who had tested positive. I’d been within six feet and I’d touched his vials. I was completely terrified.

I was tested for a second time. The first time was when I got a sore throat. That was at the beginning of the pandemic. This second time was much later. I really didn’t know how it would play out. I called my family and set in motion what was to happen should anything happen, such as deciding who was going to get my dog.

My life since March has been terrifying. If I was to pass anything on to a customer, if my elderly and in-firmed parents get sick- I worry excessively over this; it’s all just terrifying.

Life is terrifying.

What are some of the challenges you may face on a day-to-day basis?

The day-to-day challenges I face are anything between my glasses fogging up to dealing with customers who have tested positive coming into the store for refills.

Cleaning is also a definite challenge. We’re required, like anyone else on the frontline, to clean all the time. Hands are chapped, the smell can be overwhelming, the spray has affects my co-workers eyes and they cannot spray the alcohol anymore.

We’ve also run out of supplies. At first, Lysol wipes were good enough - but then they weren’t. At the start of the pandemic, employees were allowed one mask per morning and afternoon shift. Then it was that 99 percent alcohol cleaners were the only ones working. When we ran out of that, 70 per cent was OK.

And the simplest of things, such as wearing masks, was such a stupid controversial issue. People harassed others for wearing a mask and said it hurt, their ears were sore, it was too hot, and it's uncomfortable. Nowadays, I think something is wrong if I’m not wearing one.

What motivates or inspires you?

My co-workers motivate me to work through this. I feel I should say the customers/patients who need medication, help, guidance. But no. I come to work daily on the normal because of the customers/patients. I come to work during the pandemic because of my co-workers. They are the inspiration. I look at all of them as well as the grocery clerk, the gas attendant, the guy who comes to clean our store - all of them are terrified of Covid. That’s it. It’s these people that inspire me to go to work during a pandemic.

What might people not know about being a pharmacy assistant?

That makes me giggle. I was told, before I applied (I did not go to school for the job) that if I could count by fives, I was golden. Ha!

So much much more to it.

I think what people don’t know about being a pharmacy assistant is just how much we care about the customer/patient. No matter who it is, each person affects us all. We care, we worry, and we try to do our best for each one of them.

I think what people don’t know about being a pharmacy assistant is just how much we care about the customer/patient. From cholesterol medication to cancer medication, we know what they take and what they take it for. We’ve lost a fair number of our patients this past year, not necessarily due to Covid, but issues related to Covid as well, including suicide. Each of those deaths affects us all. No matter who it is, each person affects us all. We care, we worry, and we try to do our best for each one of them.


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