Working: Paul Martel is doing a lot more than just filling your prescriptions

AUBURN As a junior at Rumford High School, Paul Martel was ready to start a job following a local optometrist, when fate and a car accident prompted him to follow a local pharmacist.

After his first day shadowing Frank Hargreaves and his team, Martel says he was hooked. I thought, this is amazing, this is amazing. You can help people; you really can make a difference.

We go to Boston and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, where Martel graduated with his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy after five years of school. He then obtained his pharmacy license.

Pharmacist Paul Martel works March 14 at Auburn Hannaford Pharmacy. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Thirty years later, Martel remains enthralled and continues to help patients and customers as a pharmacy manager at Hannaford in Auburn, where he and his team of 16 do much more than count pills and fill prescriptions.

While the role of the pharmacist has evolved over the past 100 years, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the game. Pharmacists and technicians are more focused on patient care services and less on the product.

The interactions were different, but I think the interactions became a lot more personal because of COVID, Martel said. People felt very closed in, they couldn’t get their medicine, they couldn’t access the things they needed.

Shelves were emptied, masks and wipes were treated as prized possessions if you could find them. All the while, it was the pharmacy that people increasingly turned to for help with their medical questions, when getting an appointment to see a doctor or nurse became nearly impossible.

Since COVID we follow up a lot more with doctor’s offices to get patient refills, Martel explained, this is not as automated a process as most people think. .

Martel adds that insurance companies and insurance coverage are not all one-size-fits-all and not all are created equal. That information needs to be retrieved and then we go through the process of trying to find out if your drug is covered. So we go through form issues, and we fight that every day and then we fight pre-authorizations all the time.

Martel credits Hannaford with instituting curbside prescription delivery, combined with a two-way delivery option for its customers using the US Postal Service and a private delivery service, a service that remains intact today day.

Martel says these steps helped keep customers and pharmacy staff safe and reduced some of the patients’ stress at a time of high anxiety.

Hannaford recently presented Auburn Pharmacy Director Paul Martel with the Eastern Pharmacist of the Year Award. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Pharmacists have stepped up their role as vaccinators, which the National Institutes of Health describes as vital to increasing vaccination coverage rates, removing barriers to getting vaccines, and improving vaccine education.

In addition to vaccines, Martel says they also now play a larger role in other aspects of health care. The clinical work that we do, doing medication therapy management, (in) that you know you’re looking for medication-related issues for patients and a lot of other things.

The arrival of asylum seekers and migrants to Maine also accelerated after the pandemic, creating another challenge for local pharmacists, a language barrier. I think it’s a whole other population, Martel explained. Although they only had Google Translate at first, Hannaford found a better solution.

One of the things that Hannaford has allowed us to do is a new system called language line. It allows a pharmacist or technician to be on the phone with the patient and a translator, facilitating a three-way conversation to discuss medication questions and problems and find a solution.

I think it’s very critical, Martel said. I think you couldn’t give good health care if you didn’t really try to help people understand.

Paul Martel’s passion for what he does becomes apparent after a few minutes of talking to him. He says he gets compliments from customers, and Hannaford recently awarded him the Eastern Pharmacist of the Year award with high praise from an employer and peers.

Hannaford says the criteria for the award include leadership, delivering results and representing Hannaford and the pharmacy profession every day. Winners exemplify Hannafords values ​​of caring, integrity, humor and teamwork while contributing to positive health outcomes for their patients and their community.

After nearly three decades as a pharmacist, Martel says he loves what he does because he gets to help people get the health care they truly deserve.

You know, when people leave here, they leave happy, they get real customer service. I think they have an inclusive team here that really cares about them, their family and their quality of life. And I hang my hat on it every day.

So what does a multitasking pharmacy manager do when he’s not on the phone, consulting with patients, or putting out fires? Their refuge is a house on Lake Sabattus.

When I get home, I have two black Labs, who usually, depending on the time of day, go for a walk or run or something. I run a lot myself anyway. I try to run three to five miles a day.

Martel says he also likes to read a lot. Reading is for me a very thoughtless and meaningless activity, and I try to lose myself in it to try to get out of it, referring to the always busy pharmacy and the cacophony of intercom pages, shopping carts that squeak and chatter from a busy supermarket. .

Martel says she reads a lot of fiction and mysteries, but says she doesn’t necessarily have a favorite author. I mean, I like Stephen King I’ve read all his books. He’s from Maine, then.

He is currently reading a prayer book. I am very big in my faith. I think my faith gets me through each day.

The definition and role of a pharmacy may have changed forever with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the job clearly extends beyond simply dispensing medication. You know, God gave me the brains and the means to go to pharmacy school and to get through it, Martel said. And I’m just lucky to be able to help people.

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