Pharmacist Talks to Patients Like She Would Her Own Family
As fourth-year student pharmacists, Cate Halloran (left) and Evan Stoll (right) vaccinated more than 100 patients against COVID-19, in the parking lot of Community Pharmacy in Springdale, Arkansas, after a snowstorm in February 2021.
More than a year after COVID-19 vaccines became available to the general public, more than 65% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. While the days of mass vaccination events with pharmacists providing hundreds of vaccines in arduous 12-hour shifts are over, in many ways, the hardest work still lies ahead. Patients used to stream through lines at vaccine clinics every 5 minutes, but these days, the one-off patients who walk into pharmacies with a head full of questions may need substantially more time to put their minds at ease about getting vaccinated.
Cate Halloran, PharmD, a pharmacist at Community Pharmacy in Springdale, Arkansas, is more than willing to spend that time.
“These patients have legitimate questions,” says Halloran, “and if I can answer questions for people who are scared and help them protect their health, that’s what I’m here for.”
One such patient recently drove into the parking lot at Community Pharmacy, just as Halloran was loading up her car with supplies for the vaccine clinic where she was headed after her shift.
Seeing Halloran’s white coat and scrubs, the young man approached her as she loaded boxes into her trunk. His questions ran the gamut from concerns about infertility to fears about the newness of COVID-19 vaccine and the potential for unknown side effects. Halloran addressed each question thoroughly and respectfully.
“I was very straightforward,” Halloran said. “He reminded me of my older brother, and I talked to him like I would my brother.” To assure him of her confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, she explained that her pharmacy had administered more than 25,000 doses and that she personally had vaccinated her mother, her brother, and her pregnant sister-in-law.
“You have to try to put yourself in your patients’ shoes,” Halloran said. “As pharmacists, we are trained to do research, read academic articles, and find the real facts about vaccines and medications, but most of our patients are not.”
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. As pharmacists, we are trained to do research, read academic articles, and find the facts about vaccines and medications, but our patients are not.
As she probed further, Halloran learned it was the man’s girlfriend who didn’t want him to get the vaccine. Because his girlfriend lived abroad, it had been nearly 2 years since they’d seen each other—and, as Halloran pointed out to him, it was the ongoing pandemic that was keeping them apart.
As the man began to come around, he expressed an interest in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine; however, Halloran took into consideration the news about blood clot risk, which had recently been reported.
“He was a smoker, and I told him I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for him,” she said.
After 45 minutes of frank conversation in the parking lot, the man decided he’d get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. With all patients, especially those who express hesitancy, there’s always the risk that they won’t return for the second dose, but this patient did.
When Halloran began hauling clinic supplies out to her car that evening, she didn’t expect to spend nearly an hour on her feet answering a patient’s questions. She said, “I was just happy I was able to answer all his questions and help him feel more confident about the vaccine before I had to go.”
For resources to Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines, Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination, and Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence, visit APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.