Jackie Fairweather draws on her years of experience to keep the pharmacy running smoothly, somehow finding the time to raise money for important charitable causes too
At just 15 years of age, Jackie Fairweather got her first job in a pharmacy. Her dad worked there cleaning the pharmacy and informed her when a position became available. “I took it and I’ve stayed in pharmacy since,” Jackie explains.
The Co-op Pharmacy in Colchester, Essex, where her journey first began was eventually bought out by Boots and Jackie remained at the pharmacy for a good 20 years. Now, she is a qualified accuracy checking technician (ACT) and pharmacy manager at Holland Pharmacy, a member of Numark, in nearby Clacton-on-Sea, where she has been for the past 11 years.
Going out of her way to support her community is just daily practice for Jackie. She frequently gets involved in events to help raise money for charities and the local community. “We do quite a lot of charity stuff between us. We do charity walks, fundraising and that kind of thing,” she explains. “Going the extra mile, well we probably do that all day every day if I’m honest.”
Recently, Jackie quite literally did go the extra mile, walking one million steps over three months to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. “I picked that [charity] because my dad was terminally ill with cancer,” she explains. “But which charity we choose just depends on what jogs us at the time really.” Jackie and a couple of her pharmacy colleagues have also taken part in the Clacton-on-Sea Pier to Pier 14-mile walk, raising £1,300 for St Helena Hospice, to support its residents.
Unfortunately, a lot of upcoming events that the pharmacy had planned on getting involved in have been cancelled due to Covid-19, but Jackie hopes to get back to raising money again soon and has already decided on which charity she wants to focus on next. “It would probably be for Alzheimer’s because my mum has just been diagnosed,” she explains. Even when faced with difficult situations, Jackie has really continued to try and make a difference. “You just have to do your best,” she says.
Learning to adapt
Inside the pharmacy, Jackie has helped with additional organisation and works to keep things running smoothly as the pharmacy became a Covid-19 vaccination site in February 2021. A lot of things have had to change, including a large area of the shop floor being taken up by consultation rooms, built especially to provide the service. “Being a Covid site, the noise level has gone up and footfall has gone up. It has been a bit difficult and testing at times, but we are getting there,” she explains. “All day there are people phoning with questions about bookings, so the phone calls have gone up too, with people wanting to change their appointment and things like that.”
Jackie has found that a lot of people struggle to use the online booking systems available – and this doesn’t just apply to the Covid-19 vaccines. “We mainly have older customers because this is a retirement seaside town. They are struggling with the online ordering for their prescriptions because they don’t really have a clue how to use the computers,” she explains. But Jackie confesses to enjoying problem solving and makes it her personal mission to chase down prescriptions that are missing and this stems from her desire to make a difference. “When I lost my dad, well, I know how difficult it was for him at the time and so I make sure I do my best for people that are struggling,” she says. Jackie strives to avoid turning patients away empty handed and reaches out to other pharmacies for stock if they don’t have something available.
Running with routine
As well as overseeing the Covid-19 vaccination service and her ACT duties, which includes checking the pharmacy’s 20,000 items a month, Jackie also flexes her managerial skills with her team of 10 to keep the pharmacy running like a finely tuned machine. “Basically, I’m just bossy,” she laughs. “My strategy is that I look for what people’s best points are and work with that. Dropping them in at the deep end sometimes is the best way to learn. I do think it is best doing training on the job.”
Equally, Jackie uses her own strengths to keep the pharmacy in ship shape. “I think my best skill is organisation and I do like routines because once it’s in place, I know everything is covered. It is hard to do when it’s busy, but I think I’m quite good at dealing with most situations,” she says. “We do have a routine, so even if I’m not here [the team] know what to do. I like it to run as smoothly when I’m not here as when I am here.”
The past year has been a difficult one, but as a manager Jackie has supported her team, lending a listening ear to whoever needed it. She has also found that the best way to the team’s hearts is through chocolate and cakes – a simple but sweet way to boost morale.
Viatris has created this short video based on a publication reviewing global research into the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health. It identifies six areas where psychiatrists can play a role in supporting people's mental health through these difficult times.