World Pharmacists Day is on Monday 25 September and the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s theme is Pharmacy strengthening health systems.
We spoke to Debbie Rigby, Clinical Executive Lead at the National Asthma Council Australia about this year’s theme and the critical role that pharmacists play every day in the management of asthma and allergies for the 2.7 million Australians with asthma.
Debbie is an Advanced Practice Pharmacist with over 40 years of experience across clinical pharmacy practice, interdisciplinary care, policy and advocacy, clinical governance, guidelines development and education.
Q: What does the ‘Pharmacy strengthening health systems’ theme mean to you and how can pharmacists play a role in this?
Pharmacists are the custodians of medicine safety across our health system and work to enhance patient’s lives through safe, effective and quality use of medicines. Many pharmacists are at the forefront of caring for people living with asthma and allergies. We have a responsibility to improve inhaler device technique, and impact on adherence to therapy through patient support and education.
Q: What is a pharmacist’s role in helping people with asthma?
Community pharmacists play an important role to ensure optimal treatment for patients who have both asthma and allergic rhinitis (hayfever) – firstly by identifying these patients who may ask for pharmacy-only medicines for their hayfever, and then recommending appropriate treatment.
Pharmacists contribute every day to quality use of medicines in the management of asthma and allergies, and support patients to live well with these conditions.
Q: Can pharmacists help with how to use devices correctly?
Pharmacists have an important role in checking asthma inhaler device technique and assessing adherence to therapy. Home Medicines Review are an ideal opportunity to provide detailed support to patients, checking and correcting their inhaler technique, and helping patients to understand the importance of preventers.
Q: What has been your proudest moment in your career as a pharmacist?
I am proud to have worked across many areas of pharmacy practice, and mostly for my roles in implementing and supporting pharmacists conduct Medication Management Reviews.
Q: Tell us more about your role in Home Medicines Reviews
Pharmacists credentialed to conduct Home Medicines Reviews can do a comprehensive assessment of the patient - using validated tools to assess asthma control; provide patient education after discussing the patient’s beliefs, preferences and attitudes, check and correct inhaler technique and provide recommendations to prescribers on guideline-based treatment.
Q: Your role seems quite diverse. Is this typical in the various types of pharmacy positions that exist?
There are many career pathways for pharmacists, beyond the traditional roles in community and hospital pharmacy. Pharmacists should be wherever medicines are – in the home, in aged care disability services, in Aboriginal Medical Services – as well as academia, education and industry. This diversity of practice will only continue to grow as we face an ageing population and a growing number of complex medicines.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your role as a pharmacist and your clinical executive lead role with National Asthma Council?
I love contributing to the support NAC provides to health professionals in the management of asthma. My role is diverse, across professional development, policy and advocacy, guidelines development and working with a wonderful team at NAC. It really is a job made for me!