WHEN should I speak with a pharmacist and doctor?

Here in Australia we are so blessed with timely and quite vast access to health professionals (and my wish for the entire globe!)

This hopefully means that seeking advice and treatment is available, provided that we know when we should see somebody and knowing exactly what they can offer!

As a pharmacist that has worked in community pharmacy predominately, and most recently in a corporate consulting setting, I feel it is important to ‘advertise’ or explain exactly what we do…so that you know when, why and what information you can get from speaking to one of us!

Here are some common things that we can help you with (but not limited to of course! There have been multiple things I have navigated through when helping a patient, so if in doubt, we are here to help in any and all ways!);

+ When starting a new medication to discuss all aspects (dosage, side effects, how to take it, when to take it and in regards to food, drug interactions, safety with alcohol, how long to take it for, what to do if it is not working); confidentially of course

+ If you have any concerns or fears about the medication

+ If you have ANY health conditions, including mental health concerns and want to learn more about them and ways to manage them; confidentially of course

+ If you are PREGNANT; to ascertain the safety of all preparations, including OTC (over-the-counter) products as we have access to safety information and advice

+ If you are BREASTFEEDING; to ascertain the safety of all preparations, including OTC (over-the-counter) products, as well as considerations to timing. Also advice on milk supply, breastfeeding devices and herbs/supplements to assist with milk supply and referral to a GP or lactation consultant when needed. Some pharmacies have baby nurses or child health nurses come in, which can be another great resource

+ We can ascertain when you should see your GP when symptoms, duration and severity warrant being referred to your health provider (we can act as a triage service to handle what we can within our scope of practice and refer when we feel it is necessary to gain optimum care from other health professionals)

+ We can dispense commercial medication and compounded medications

+ We can advise on the safe handling, storage and disposal of medication

+ I believe you should speak with a pharmacist before combining any medications or complementary supplements, as we have access to comprehensive drug-to-drug interactions and whilst something may seem innocuous and safe; it still amazes me what people combine unknowingly that are not safe! (ahhh!)

+ Health concerns with your baby and children; we will always refer to your GP when it is beyond our scope of practice, but can provide simple and helpful strategies to assist you and your family

+ Some pharmacists do offer immunisation services, private consultations on specific health conditions, and also Webster packing (packing of medications in dosage containers for the safe administration of medication, which is helpful for elderly patients or those on multiple tablets to minimise dosing errors)

When you come in to speak to a pharmacist with symptoms, in order to determine what medication to take or what you should do, we will always ask several questions to determine the best course of action, some but not all include;

  1. Who is the patient?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. What have you tried already?
  4. How long have you had the symptoms for?
  5. What other medical conditions do you have? Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Any allergies? Any danger or stand-out symptoms?
  6. What other medication do you take?
  7. Based on these, we will either recommend something OTC (over-the-counter) if we feel it may be sufficient OR we will refer you to your GP or other health professional.

You should definitely chat to your doctor, if:

+ The symptoms are getting worse

+ The symptoms feel serious, you have a fever, has been present for quite some time, you feel within yourself that it requires a full assessment

+ If you feel like you have tried things OTC and nothing is making the condition or symptoms better

+ If you require a blood test and/or referral to another health professional

+ Usually children under 2 and adults over the age of 65, we will always be more mindful as to the possible complications and understanding that things can change quickly

+ GP’s can conduct a Mental Health Plan if you are having concerns with your mental health. Currently with Covid, they can arrange for up to 20 referrals to an appropriate health professional based on your responses to the pre-set questionnaire. They are an amazing resource that themselves can offer support and strategies as well as being able to refer you to an appropriate psychologist and/or psychiatrist or program they feel will benefit you

+ They are amazing at differential diagnosis and look through your full medical history, family history, biochemical markers, medication, symptoms and really are so well placed at assessing you entirely. They can run tests to help diagnose what you are experiencing and refer you to whomever you need to see.

I strongly would advocate for finding a GP that you have wonderful rapport with that you, that can help you navigate through your health concerns throughout your life (I have moved across Australia a lot, so can appreciate the ideology in this, but can certainly see the benefits of a regular physician and what that can bring)

With Telehealth appointments also, a lot of consultations can be undertaken over the phone and when needed they will call you into the practice. This is logistically a great option and I hope that where possible this can continue in our healthcare landscape, as we grapple with re-emerging back into a busy way of life and taking the factor of time and ability to make physical appointments will be a benefit to health outcomes.

I would say as a general rule of thumb, if in doubt please speak to a health professional! It is always best to be safe than to leave things that can be treated safely and effectively.

I hope that this has been insightful and helpful with any questions you may have AND that it has motivated you to speak to a GP or pharmacist when needed!

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