At Pharmacy Forum NI’s March 2021 webinar, the keynote presenter, Mark Fenton, reminded us that ‘difference is the difference that makes the difference’. This phrase rang true again at our third and final webinar, which took place in advance of International Day of People with Disabilities, 3 December, and focused on the theme ‘Dealing with disability in pharmacy: Are we doing enough?’

Held 23 November, the webinar featured testimonies by two pharmacists who spoke of their experience of mental and physical disabilities as well as presentations from Action Mental Health (AMH), Disability Action NI, our EDI partner the Equality Commission NI, and the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership (NIRDP).

We unfortunately ran into some technological glitches on the evening, including a zoom video crash! This has resulted in two recordings – Part 1 & 2 – of the event. A written summary by EDI Working Group member Fatimah Khan is also provided below.

Watch the webinar Part 1

(Pharmacist testimonies & keynote presentation from AMH)

Watch the webinar Part 2

(Equality Commission NI, Disability Action NI, NIRPD)

 

Pharmacy, burnout and me

Harpreet Chana, Former National Level Pharmacist, now Leadership & Wellbeing Coach (Video Part 1, mins 5:00-17:10), opened with a first-hand account of her experience dealing with stress, depression and burnout. She noted that this experience is not atypical as the latest report by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has shown that 90% of pharmacists are at high or very high risk of burnout. The fast-paced and high-pressure pharmacy environment alongside other contributing factors noted in her presentation are key factors to this. She identifies several signs of burnout to look out for:

  • Struggle to focus
  • Little interest in work
  • Easily irritated by patients/team
  • Low energy
  • Dreading going into work

Harpreet noted that pharmacists are often compassionate with patients, but lack this same compassion for themselves and that working to destigmatise mental health issues in pharmacy is paramount. She further states that while some level of stress is necessary for effective working, if this becomes a debilitating daily experience, that is when people should seek help.

Seeking support and the use of a mindset coach helped Harpreet overcome her experience and she now dedicates her time to helping pharmacists dealing with similar issues through her Mental Wealth Academy. Her course, Mental Fitness for Pharmacy, is a free, six-part video course that aims to support pharmacy professionals succeed in work and life.

Building resilience at work

Keynote speaker, Rachael Power, Action Mental Health (Video Part 1, mins 17:40-40:55) spoke about resilience at work. Rachael discussed how to create a workplace culture that is open and inclusive regarding mental health. Employers can foster a safe place for workers to openly discuss mental health issues and be encouraged to seek support. She further noted that employers should encourage employees to take breaks and leave on time to support positive mental health within the workplace. Through initiatives like this and increased awareness and training, employees will be encouraged to address mental ill health when it arises, thereby preventing any worsening. This is especially pertinent since mental ill health is responsible for 59% of long-term work absences.

Normalising the discussion around mental health within the workplace is the key driver to enabling employees to address mental ill health, recognise it in peers and identify appropriate avenues for support and, in turn, de-stigmatisation. Rachael identified several ways to improve mental health in the workplace:

  1. Positive culture towards mental health
  2. Investment in workplace well being
  3. Train staff
  4. Policy & strategies properly implemented

Attitudes to physical disability may have changed but do the barriers still exist?

Anita Cawley (Video Part 1, mins 40:55 – 1:00:40), a pharmacist with cerebral palsy, spoke of her experience as a person with a physical disability. Anita stressed how disability is ‘a part’ of a person, not the whole person, and that people with disabilities should be judged on what they can do rather what they cannot do. She stated that people with disabilities sometimes feel as though they need to show they can ‘do’ more than their able-bodied peers. However, modifying work environments and providing support in place for individuals of all abilities will enable workplaces to be equitable and accessible to all. She mentioned how forward-thinking employers can benefit from providing opportunities to individuals with disabilities and how this can serve as a positive role model for others as well as diversifying the workplace.

Employment law focus: the disability agenda

Our EDI webinar partner, the Equality Commission NI joined us again with Louise McGregor (Video Part 2, mins 0:00 – 27:45) who discussed employers’ duties to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons such as modifying policies, making physical changes to premises and providing auxiliary services or aids. She identified schemes to help individuals with disabilities to access work such as the Government Access to Work Scheme, which enables users to access funding for work and transportation, disability awareness training for their workplaces or communication support.

Disability employment: creating a more inclusive pharmacy workforce

Karen Smith, Disability Action NI (Video Part 2, mins 28:07 – 39:44), echoed the experiences shared by Anita Cawley. She noted that hiring and providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities can help to reduce barriers. She added that disabled persons should be considered for their skills and abilities rather than being judged solely on their disability. Establishing a disability workplace champion within organisations can help provide visibility and reduced stigmatisation. Karen reiterated how Disability Action NI can aid in providing impartial advice and advocacy for individuals with disabilities.

Caring for rare disease patients

Rhoda Walker, Chair of the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership (Video Part 2, mins 39:46 – 54:24), shared insights regarding individuals with rare diseases in NI. The NIRDP works to ensure that no one is disadvantaged due to the rarity of their condition through advocacy, education and innovation. Over 110,000 people in NI live with a rare disease and this often Rhoda signposted the NIRDP Virtual Support Hub, which provides advice, support and assistance for individuals with rare diseases, their families or carers, friends and healthcare professionals alike. She underscored the necessity for awareness and education of rare diseases to facilitate better understanding within the health professional community and the public.

PASS

At the end of the webinar (Video Part 2, mins 54:24 >), participants were reminded of the Pharmacist Advice and Support Service (PASS), a Pharmacy Forum NI registered charity.

PASS supports pre-registration pharmacists, pharmacists and their dependents in times of need such as in instances of unfair discrimination or harassment. All services are free and confidential.

 

Background

Marking 1 March 2021, Zero Discrimination Day, Pharmacy Forum NI launched a new initiative aimed at advancing, encouraging and supporting Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) in the Northern Ireland pharmacy workplace.

As part of its EDI activity, the Forum established a pharmacist-led EDI Working Group and organised throughout 2021 a 3-part EDI CPD webinar series – Diversity & Inclusion in NI Pharmacy – Creating the right Culture. The first of these took place on 23 March on the case for inclusion and handling race, with almost 70 participants and 98% indicating in the event poll that they found it of excellent or very good value.

The webinar series was set up to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion within the NI pharmacy profession that aims to cultivate a safe and inclusive workplace environment; keeps us in step with our increasingly diversified workforce and population; and supports current and future workforce needs.