Jun 13, 2021 News
By Sharmain Grainger
“It is very important to answer any question a patient may have about their medication such as side effects, missed dosages and other problems as they arise.”
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, not only in our homeland but across the globe, a common appeal being echoed by health care professionals is for persons to be vaccinated. Our featured Frontline Worker, Brinnet Bernarai, is among those who have been preaching ad nauseum about the importance of vaccination.
Bernarai, a pharmacist by profession who functions out of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), in an appeal to the public said, “You should get vaccinated because it lessens your chances of being hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit and also helps to protect you and others.” But Bernarai doesn’t merely talk the talk for she has long walked the walk as well, having been the first health worker to be vaccinated when the country’s initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived.
Fully vaccinated, a move intended to reduce the likelihood of her becoming severely ill should she become infected, Bernarai said that her main goal at this juncture is to help alleviate the suffering of patients. “I am dedicated to helping patients,” she professed, although she still worries sometimes about becoming infected. Since the onset of the disease, she has seen one too many colleagues and friends fall prey to the disease but this certainly has not waned her dedication to the job. In fact, she confided that the most important lesson she has learnt since the infiltration of the novel coronavirus is that “we must take care of ourselves and each other,” now more than ever.
She sees the role that she plays in the delivery of health care as especially important. As a pharmacist, she is tasked with counselling COVID-19 patients on the use of their medications and is also responsible for packaging and labelling medications with further instructions on their use. But catering to the pharmaceutical needs of these patients did not come by accident as according to Bernarai, “I had volunteered my services because no other staff member wanted that role.”
Bernarai, who hails from the village of Triumph on the East Coast of Demerara, spoke of her upbringing as she called to mind her decision to pursue a career as a pharmacist. The daughter of Bans Kumarie Bernarai (who was a nurse for many years at the GPHC), and the late Godfrey Bernarai (who was an accountant at the Guyana School of Agriculture), entered the world on January 12, 1982. She, the younger of two children the couple reproduced, attended the Enmore Hope Primary and Annandale Secondary schools before deciding to pursue training as a multi-purpose technician. The programme offered by the Ministry of Health, she recalled, consisted of three areas of study – pharmacy, laboratory and x-ray. But according to Bernarai, “after I was exposed to the three areas, I found the pharmacy aspect interesting and challenging” and this led to her opting to delve into that field.
DRIVEN BY PASSION
For the past two years the University of Guyana-trained pharmacist has been committed to the job, a quality that only morphed into a passion with the advent of COVID-19. Despite still grieving the loss of her father, who passed away on May 17, last, she remains focused on the agenda to overcome the scourge of the contagious disease, which, up to the time of writing this article, has infected 18,196 people, 422 of whom have died.
Speaking of the general role of the pharmacist, Bernarai said, “the roles are reviewing of prescription written by doctors for side effects and incompatibility; packaging of medications for distribution to patients; checking the dosage frequency to ensure proper therapeutic levels are met for the effective recovery of the patient; counselling patients on the proper use of medication; labelling of medications with instructions and warnings for patients for their safety and effective use; consulting with physicians about unclear instructions and maintaining proper records on each patient while ensuring those records remain confidential.”
Added to this, she quipped, “it is very important to answer any question a patient may have about their medication such as side effects, missed dosages and other problems as they arise.” As such, she asserted, it is crucial for a pharmacist to “always be learning about new drugs and devices as they become available on the market and educating fellow health care professionals about them.”
The process of learning and sharing for our featured health care professional continues this weekend as she participates in a virtual convention and award ceremony, which is being held by the Guyana Pharmacists Association.
Bernarai, who also makes time for church activities, medical outreaches in areas across the country and distribution of food hampers to the less fortunate, said that she finds joy in such endeavours. As she does her part to contribute to the nation in especially meaningful ways, Bernarai does not falter in her efforts to mask up, social distance and sanitise in order to keep the virus at bay.
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