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Vernon pharmacist helps fill healthcare void with independent practice

Without no walk-in clinics left in town, Jamie’s Pharmacy doing its part
Jamie Nicolson opened up his own independent pharmacy practice, Jamie’s Pharmacy, July 17, 2023. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

A new pharmacy owner in Vernon is ready to play a bigger role in local healthcare in a city that no longer has a walk-in clinic.

Jamie Nicolson opened up his own unbranded pharmacy, called Jamie’s Pharmacy, on July 17. The pharmacy is located downtown on 30th Street, conveniently next to a local seniors hub, the Hamlets long-term care facility.

Nicolson said he started his own pharmacy with the goal of helping people who are tired of the bigger, less personal pharmacies out there.

He says a lot of his patients from his old place of work have switched to his pharmacy, which is also seeing a number of new clients.

“(There are) a lot of new people who kind of want to be out of the big box pharma concept or they’re getting tired of that and want a more personal connection and knowing who they’re dealing with,” Nicolson told The Morning Star.

For those people, getting to know their pharmacist won’t be a problem at Jamie’s Pharmacy.

“My name’s on the sign and I’m the guy in the store as well.”

Nicolson is a Vernon pharmacist through and through; he and his family have lived in town for 13 years. And just as patients like to know who their pharmacist is, Nicolson likes to get to know his clients.

“I like to know who’s coming through my door as much as my patients like to know who I am, so it kid of works both ways,” he said.

“It makes it really rewarding as a professional to know who’s coming through the door, that you’re not treating people like a number,” he said, adding a strong relationship with patients allows him to get to know their health status better, and the pharmacy has private consultation rooms so health needs can be discussed discreetly.

Now practicing independently, Nicolson says he’s glad not to be tied to corporate quotas, or having someone else tell him what he needs to be providing patients. He says pharmacists under a banner aren’t always able to follow their professional judgement.

“No one’s able to twist your arm into doing something else that may not be in the best interest of your patients,” he said of practicing as an independent pharmacist.

Jamie’s Pharmacy is located just up the street from the Vernon Urgent Primary Care Centre, which is seeing more people after Vernon’s last walk-in clinic, the Sterling Centre, closed permanently Nov. 15.

With the new prescribing powers the B.C. government gave to pharmacists earlier this year, allowing them to treat 21 minor ailments and provide contraception, Nicolson says he’s up to the challenge of being a more important part of Vernon’s healthcare system now that it is without a walk-in clinic.

“I think it’s an exciting expansion of our professional abilities, being able to service people who need (healthcare) more quickly,” he said. “It is a challenge like other labour markets with staffing and being able to serve the customers you need to in your basic core pharmacy functions and then put in addition of these other services as well. It’s challenging but definitely doable.”

And people’s reactions are always positive when they discover what their pharmacist can now do for them, Nicolson said.

“When you’re able to give them a urinary tract infection medication ASAP and them not having to wait at urgent care or the hospital for hours, they’re just ecstatic,” he said. “Just the promptness of being able to service those ailments, I think it’s a great addition for our profession.”

Nicolson specializes as a diabetes educator and does special insulin pump training for people who undertake daily injections who want to transition to pumps.

“And there are lots of new medications that are available now to be able to get diabetes under control and make sure a person is able to live a fulfilling life with less complications.”

As a pharmacist, Nicolson is happy to be what he calls the most accessible health care professional in the community.

“We’re definitely the first phase of contact for a lot of people,” he said. “We do have that accessibility which makes us unique among health care professionals.”

Jamie’s Pharmacy also does blister packing for medications as well as all vaccinations, including COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

And important to Nicolson is the fact that the pharmacy has parking stalls at the rear of the building, so patients don’t need to search for parking downtown.

READ MORE: New Vernon pharmacy drives care closer to seniors

READ MORE: Interior Health busy recruiting after Vernon’s last walk-in clinic closes

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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