My name is Terry. I’m a 26-year- old pharmacist working in a large university teaching hospital in Dublin, and I’ve just returned from my first volunteering trip overseas with the not-for-profit organization Nurture Africa. For three weeks in July and August, Nansana in Uganda was my home.
Since 2003, Nurture Africa has been striving to improve the quality of life of vulnerable Ugandan children, many of whom are infected with HIV/ AIDS. Through sustainable development projects, Nurture Africa provides access to healthcare and psycho-social support which allow children and their guardians to lead healthier, happier lives. They also own and operate a primary healthcare centre which provides HIV-positive children and adults with life-saving medication, as well as advice on nutrition and psychological support.
As a volunteer, I was fortunate enough to see and experience these services first hand. Nansana is located about ninety minutes from the capital city of Kampala, and boasts a rapidly expanding population of over 350000 inhabitants. From early morning, the streets are bustling with adults travelling to work and children to school. Businesses stay open well after nightfall, and small business owners often work from 7.00 to midnight. Large and modern supermarkets are also easily accessible, and stock many of the brands available in Ireland. After dark, and particularly at weekends, the main streets are full of people socialising after a hard day’s work, stalls selling barbecued meats and bars playing music.
Traffic in Uganda really does have to be seen to be believed; the road is shared by pedestrians, packed buses which beep to let customers know there is still some space, large trucks and ‘boda bodas’ (motorcycle taxis). Traffic jams are also common, particularly on the main road to Kampala, and can stretch for miles at rush hour. Despite its liveliness, the extreme poverty in Nansana cannot be overlooked. Narrow dirt roads create a maze around the main thoroughfare, and are lined with small (often one-roomed) brick houses – some do not have electricity or plumbing. Due to a lack of refuse services, rubbish is commonly burned outside the home, and dogs freely roam the streets. At night, these streets are in near total darkness due to the absence of street lights. Fortunately for us volunteers, our accommodation consisted of two gated compounds complete with running water, electricity, and excellent shower and toilet facilities.
For the first week of volunteering, my mornings were spent with Geofrey, a Ugandan-trained pharmacist, and his pharmacy staff in Nurture Africa’s HIV/ primary healthcare clinic. Not knowing what really to expect, I was surprised by the similarities between this pharmacy and any other here at home. As in Ireland, central importance was placed on patient care, whilst other fundamentals such as accuracy in dispensing and effective stock procurement were also very apparent. A glaringly obvious difference however was the absence of a dispensing software system, meaning all deliveries, stock movements and patient records were maintained by hand. My first task was therefore to develop a database on Microsoft Excel which would help them to more easily and accurately record stock movements. Once completed, I helped Geofrey to carry out a risk assessment of the pharmacy’s processes to reduce errors. Simple measures we implemented included separating sound-alike- look-alike- drugs on the shelves, trialling a double-check system for pharmacist dispensing and introducing an ‘error log’ (a completely new concept for them).
Prior to my arrival, Geofrey had also identified drug-drug interactions with anti-retrovirals as a cause for concern. In order to better enable the pharmacy team to identify and manage these interactions, I provided them with new editions of the BNF, BNF for Children and Stockley’s Drug Interactions (kindly donated by Tallaght Hospital Pharmacy Department). In addition, I showed them some free online resources which they could use to obtain more detailed and reliable information if needed (the entire clinic was connected with WiFi). When not working in the Pharmacy, my mornings were spent with my fellow healthcare volunteers, made up of three medical and three nursing students. As a group, we spent much of our time travelling to schools and teaching children and adolescents about malaria, cervical cancer, epilepsy, basic first aid and reproductive health. We also provided several sessions to young women on malnutrition, and even had a cooking demonstration on how to prepare a balanced meal using staple Ugandan foods. During these classes, I couldn’t help but notice the friendly and engaging nature of Ugandan people, as well as their great sense of fun.
Perhaps the most rewarding activity I undertook as a healthcare volunteer was community HIV testing. On three occasions we, alongside our Nurture Africa colleagues, travelled to rural areas around Nansana to provide free HIV tests. The test was relatively simple to perform, and involved collecting a small quantity of blood from a finger-prick and applying it to a specially designed test strip. A result was ready within minutes, and was explained to the patient by a Ugandan member of the team. Out of the 360 patients we tested over three days, only 6 patients were positive, which challenged my preconception that HIV was extremely common in Uganda. In fact, the national prevalence of HIV in Uganda is approximately 7%.
After lunch (a mix of rice, beans, avocado and tomato) each day, all three groups mixed for evening activities. Once again, these were incredibly varied, and included reading to primary school children and organising games, visiting businesses supported by Nurture Africa, and visiting clients of the HIV Clinic in their homes. These home visits in particular gave me a privileged opportunity to interact with everyday Ugandan people, and to get a personal insight into their background, health and welfare. I was again struck by the openness, hospitality and outright resilience of these people, despite the extremely arduous circumstances in which they found themselves. As a people, they are also incredibly fit, and I was easily out ran (and out-classed!) on the soccer pitch.
Whilst our weekdays were jam-packed, our weekends were free to explore some of Uganda’s amazing natural landscape. On our first weekend, we travelled over nine hours on a very rickety bus to Sipi Falls in east Uganda (50 km from the Kenyan border). Here, we trekked over a mountain range that boasted four individual waterfalls, and got to prepare, brew and taste our own traditional Ugandan coffee. It really was a stunningly beautiful place. A week later, I fulfilled a long-held ambition of going on safari in another of Uganda’s national parks, and also took a boat trip down the River Nile. Whilst I felt incredibly lucky to see Uganda in this way, I also felt a sense of injustice for many Ugandans who can’t afford to see and experience the beauty of their own country. Volunteering with Nurture Africa in Nansana was an incredible experience, not least because of the continuous on-site support of Nurture Africa’s staff, the warmth of the Ugandan people and the safe environment that was created for us. The value I could add as a Pharmacist to the clinic’s activities was very gratifying, and reminded me of how well trained and knowledgeable we as a profession are. For anyone considering volunteering abroad, I have the following advice:
- Do your research, and select a cause you’re passionate about, or at least interested in
- Pick the organisation wisely: meet with the co-ordinators, ask about the supports available on the ground and about security, speak to previous volunteers
- Organise your fundraising activities early, reach out to potential sponsors and scope your events to a manageable scale
- Travel with an open mind and get to know your fellow volunteers
- Take the leap and go for it!
As a final note, I’d like to thank all those who attended and sponsored my fundraising events, the staff of Nurture Africa for allowing us to work with them, my fellow volunteers and the people of Nansana for making us ‘mzungus’ feel so welcome. Clarity Locums also deserves a special welcome for their generous support of my trip. Next stop... Who knows?
Following on from last year's success, Clarity Locums is delighted to announce its sponsorship of the "Excellence in Locum Pharmacy" category at this year's Clanwilliam Pharmacist Awards in aid of the Pharmacy Benevolent Fund. The Pharmacy Benevolent Fund supports those associated with pharmacy and are now in need of assistance. The funds are put to a wide variety of uses to improve the basic quality of life of those in need. The Locum award gives recognition to an outstanding Locum Pharmacist whose activities in the course of their professional duties and development is judged to be the most commendable. Nominations for the award are open to any Pharmacist who locums in either the community or hospital sectors. Speaking at the launch of this year's awards, Anthony O'Neill, Managing Director of Clarity Locums, said he envisaged that this will be a highly competitive category. "We are delighted to be on board again, providing support for the Pharmacy Benevolent Fund. Recognising excellence within our profession is very important; we would encourage all our Clients and Locums to give some thought to nominating any Locum they feel would be deserving". You can nominate across all ten categories at the following link:
Clarity Locums is delighted to announce its collaboration with TouchStore Rx. From today, TouchStore Rx users will be able to link up directly with Clarity Locums from the TouchStore Rx home screen and book locums with Ireland's number one locum agency.
Speaking at the launch at the Irish Pharmacy Union Conference, TouchStore's John Cassidy said "This is a great step forward for TouchStore. We are always striving to remove the hassle from our client's lives. Even the most enthusiastic of TouchStore users need to take the odd day off - Clarity are ideally placed to provide cover if needed!"
The interface will deliver TouchStore Rx users directly to the Clarity Locums site where they can book locums in a matter of seconds. This isn't the first time Clarity and TouchStore have teamed up, back in 2015 they opened Ireland's first locum training centre which has gone on to see hundreds of locums trained on TouchStore Rx. Clarity and TouchStore will continue to work closely together over the coming months and we look forward to the many opportunities ahead.
At the United Drug Pharmacy Show were John Cassidy, Eamonn Hynes and Anthony O'Neill
This year's United Drug Pharmacy Show was a huge success for Clarity. It gave us the chance to meet so many of our existing clients face to face and talk to them about all that's been happening at Clarity. We were very pleased to on-board lots of new clients and we look forward to working with them over the coming weeks and months.
The United Drug Pharmacy Show is a strong focal point for Clarity's year - as well as giving us the chance to interact with pharmacy owners and retail pharmacy management, we found ourselves in the heart of the Irish pharmacy industry. The show gives exhibitors a broad, high quality overview of what's happening in pharmacy now and gave us a glimpse into the future of Irish pharmacy. Clarity comes away renewed and excited for the future and looks forward to building on everything that we've learned over the last few days.
At the Pharmacy Show were Anthony O'Neill, Managing Director and Eamonn Hynes, Technology Director.
Relationships old and new at our stand at the Pharmacy Show yesterday
We're delighted to announce the refresh of our website! Clarity has been in business since 2012 and over the years, it has always kept itself up-to-date and regularly renewed itself as an organisation so that it can continually adapt and offer the best possible service. Clarity has always prided itself on its high quality, professional service, its responsiveness, clarity and its personalised approach to the placement and recruitment of Pharmacists. Building strong relationships is at the heart of Clarity's core philosophy. Today Clarity launches its refreshed brand which retains all those aspects of Clarity which has led to its success, while updating itself in line with its renewed focus on the pharmacy recruitment sector in Ireland and the UK. We very much look forward to the next stage of Clarity's growth. Clarity Locums will be at the United Drug Pharmacy Show in the Aviva Stadium this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Come visit us and say hello!
‘Cycle for Hugh’s House’ to raise €40k
Hugh’s House is proud to launch the inaugural ‘Cycle for Hugh’s House’ will take place over 5 days from the 3rd to the 7th of August 2017. A core group of 20 cyclists will tackle the 600km route from Mizen Head to Malin Head in order to raise much needed funds for the maintenance of services and continuing refurbishment of our two houses.
Hugh’s House was established in 2015 by Ade Stack and Marty Curley following the death of their 8 month old son Hugh. The charity now operates two houses which provide cost-free long and short term accommodation for parents forced to move to Dublin while their sick children are taken care of in Temple Street Hospital or at The Rotunda. The houses are located within a 5 minute walk of each hospital and are an invaluable resource for the affected families.
When describing her reasons for establishing Hugh’s House, co-founder Ade Stack commented:
‘It is the hardest thing in the world to have a sick child and nobody ever expects it. When it does happen, you end up far away from home without the support of your family. We were able to be with Hugh every day and when he died we could look back on every day spent together - it makes it bearable – there was no guilt’.
The cyclists will leave Mizen Head on the 3rd of August and arrive in Malin Head on the 7th of August with overnight stops in:
Each day will involve over 100km of cycling with fund raising efforts in each town along the route. In total, the cyclists will cover a gruelling 600km over the five days.
A core group of 20 cyclists will take on the entire route with many more choosing to complete on a stage or too along the way. Included in this group are Sinead Lynch and Claire Lambe who were last seen competing together in the Final of the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls at the Rio Olympics. Indeed, Lambe is fresh from helping Cambridge to their first victory in 5 years over Oxford in the Women’s Boat Race.
On their reasons for trading the boat for a tandem bike, Lambe commented:
Both myself and Sinead have gone our separate ways since Rio and have only had the opportunity to meet on a few occasions. This cycle will be a great opportunity to team up again and by doing the cycle on a tandem it will give us plenty of hours to catch up!
When I heard about the charity and the idea for the cycle, I knew it was something I wanted to support. It is a cause that really touches the hearts of many. When faced with the realities of a serious illness for a child, few parents would have a plan of where they would stay or who would look after the siblings of the sick child. The priority becomes the child in hospital and thankfully Hugh's House provides invaluable help for families in these unfortunate situations.
Lynch, a mother of three who is currently completing her GP training, had the following to say in respect of the charity and the cycle:
As a doctor I see at first hand the stress and heartache that the parents of sick children have to endure and as a parent of 3 little girls I can only imagine how devastating this is. Parents also have the financial worry of taking time off work and looking after other children at home whilst finding somewhere to stay in Dublin. Hugh’s House makes a massive difference to these parents, accommodating them and looking after them in this terrible time.
I’m delighted to be involved with this fantastic charity and so excited to be riding the tandem with Claire, exactly 1 year after our Rio Olympics. Hopefully we will gel as quickly as we did in the boat and won’t be looking for some medical attention ourselves!!! Please support this brilliant cause and any advice from experienced tandem cyclists would be very welcome!
Hugh’s House is an entirely volunteer driven charity. Each of the participating cyclists are self-funding their expenses, meaning all funds donated will go directly to the provision of services and the refurbishment of the family accommodation. Every euro will make a difference to the lives of families affected by a child’s illness.
The cycle aims to raise €40,000 which will fund an entire year of accommodation, food and related services for the hundreds of families who use this invaluable resource.
How you can help
There are a number of ways you can give your support to the Cycle for Hugh’s House:
Get Involved: If you would like to get involved as a cyclist or corporate/jersey sponsor, please contact the cycle’s Founder and Co-Ordinator Feargal O’Shea at 085-776 2701 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our annual Locum survey is now live.
We genuinely value your feedback and our objective is to improve our service for all our Locums.
One lucky participant will recieve a copy of Elaine Lorigan McSweeney's "Pharmacy Wizard" claims processing guide guide.
Click HERE to start.
Clarity Locums were in the rebel county yesterday for a CPD day on PCRS claims with Elaine Lorigan McSweeny of Pharmacy Wizard. Despite a persistent blizzard throughout the moring, over twenty pharmacists and technicians managed to attend the day-long event in the Kingsley Hotel. The day kicked off with a brief talk by Clarity Managing Director, Anthony O'Neill, where he outlined Clarity's plans for further CPD events throughout the year. Elaine then took over through to lunch outlining the mechanics of the claim. After lunch, there was a focus on rejections and resubmissions. Feedback on the day was unanimously positive. Plans are already underway for further events throughout the summer and the Clarity team is keen for suggestions from pharmacists and technicians who might have any novel ideas for further events. We are keen to work in non clinical area as we feel there is already an abundance of resources in this area.
In Cork yesterday were Anthony O'Neill, MD Clarity Locums and Elaine Lorigan McSweeny, Pharmacy Wizard
Following on from last week's successful event in Dublin, Clarity Locums is delighted to announce its Cork Pharmacy Claims CPD event in conjunction with Pharmacy Wizard and Elaine Lorigan McSweeney of the Irish Association of Community Pharmacy Technicians (IACPT). This event will take pharmacists and technicians through the entire claims process and how to deal with PCRS rejections. The course is a valuable CPD opportunity for any pharmacist or technician who may or may not have experience with the increasingly complex claims process. A firm grasp of the claims process is valuable knowledge for anyone who is considering a move to hospital pharmacy or to locum pharmacists considering a move to a permanent community job.
Elaine McSweeney will deliver the presentation on the day. Elaine has extensive experience in pharmacy claims and below is an excerpt from her LinkedIn profile:
"With over 20 years' experience in the Pharmacy Services sector, I have a well-rounded knowledge of how the business as a whole works. I possess sound business acumen and awareness of the need for constant vigilance in dispensary management, financial compliance and checking procedures in relation to all pharmacy aspects but particularly claims.
Currently managing the claims process for 80 pharmacies.
Claim rejections have improved from 16% loss to 0.14% in the 2.5 years I have been in this role.
I am responsible for training of all dispensary staff, including pharmacists and ensuring that the staff are claiming/reclaiming correctly."
The event takes place on Wednesday, 22nd of March at The Kingsley Hotel, Victoria Cross, Sunday's Well, Cork.
There is no charge for this event for pharmacists or technicians, however you must be registered with Clarity Locums to attend.