Commonwealth Games Pharmacy Practice
By CPA Adviser, Libby McCourt
Between the 4th and 15th of April this year, 4,500 athletes from across the Commonwealth of Nations converged on the Gold Coast, Australia for the 21 st Commonwealth Games. In the lead up to and during the games, myself and nineteen other pharmacists volunteered our time to provide medicines and pharmacy services for athletes, games officials, and various healthcare staff.
As a pharmacist and CPA advisor, I view volunteering my time and skills as a pharmacist as part of my professional responsibilities. I have previously had the honour of volunteering in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands, where I have worked in hospitals, health centres, and universities.
Despite this experience, I have never had the opportunity to volunteer as a pharmacist within Australia. So, when I saw that the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games required pharmacist volunteers I knew I had to apply. After a brief online application and an interview, I was thrilled to be accepted to join the pharmacy team.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games involved 15,000 volunteers working together over 24 venues. With so many people at one event it was important to make sure we were all on the same page, so there was a lot of training before we started work. Training was conducted online and face-to-face and consisted of general orientation, venue training, medical team training, pharmacy role specific training, and medicines in sport training.
Face-to- face training was a great opportunity to hear stories from other volunteers and find out about their experiences. For some people it was there first-time volunteering at a large event, for others they had volunteered at all the major sporting events in Australia in the last few years. As someone in the former category it was great to have the support of experienced volunteers during training sessions. There was a real sense of community and excitement at every training and event in the lead up to and throughout the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The pharmacy team worked from the Athletes Village Polyclinic, the medical facility in the village where athletes and officials lived, rested, and trained. The Polyclinic was open 24 hours to attend to the health needs of athletes, games officials, and ‘games family’. Practice at the polyclinic was truly multidisciplinary. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, optometrists, paramedics, exercise physiologists, medical imaging, and dentists all worked alongside and consulted with each other throughout the games.
The pharmacy team was headed up by two pharmacists from the nearby Gold Coast University Hospital, Rachael Raleigh and Tamasine Philip. They did an amazing job setting up the pharmacy in the Polyclinic, teaching us about the unique aspects of medication supply during the Commonwealth
Games, and keeping the pharmacy team on track. The rest of the team were from a variety of areas in pharmacy practice including academia, research, community, and hospital. It was an amazing experience to work with so many dedicated and diverse professionals.
The pharmacy team operated from 7am to 11pm throughout the games and served a variety of health needs. The pharmacy was stocked with a most things you would expect in a typical pharmacy such as cold and flu medication, inhalers, pain medicines, and antibiotics. With over 6000 people living in close quarters at the games, there was a very strong public health presence, so we also kept items such as bleach for cleaning ice baths in the nearby recovery centre and condoms.
Our role within the Polyclinic was similar to what it would be in a regular pharmacy. We provided medicines off prescriptions or over-the counter, counselled people on medicines, and liaised with prescribers to give advice about medications. For athletes we also had to check if medications prescribed were restricted in the sport that they were competing in, a role that was new for me. More generally as volunteers, it was also our job to make sure our visitors feel welcome and at home, so we spent time talking to people, learning about what they did and their games experience. Meeting people from all around the world in one place and sharing this unique event with them was very special and rewarding.
Volunteering as a pharmacist at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was a rare opportunity. Not only was I able to volunteer as a pharmacist in my own country, but I was able to look after the health needs of people from all over the commonwealth. The next games are in Birmingham, England in 2022. I would strongly encourage any pharmacists interested in this experience to keep their eyes out for volunteer positions. It is a very rewarding, exciting role, and not one that comes around very often.