CGI Hero's


I'm a Girl Guide...what’s your superpower? 


Alison Devlin in her Boots storeOutside of the various hats I have worn within CGI, over the last 12 years, I have worked many roles within Boots Chemist starting out as a Saturday girl, to an assistant manager of a top 300 store, to a temporary Boots store manager in a busy shopping centre to where I am now working as trainee Pharmacy technician. 


Over the course of all these roles, I have worked alongside and been part of many great teams but these last few weeks the word team doesn't seem to sufficiently fit the people I'm spending 9 hours a day with. This team, my colleagues, have become more of a family to me since the week of St. Patrick's Day when everything changed quite dramatically for us. 


For me, like many others, my personal routine also changed very quickly, my Guide meetings had been cancelled which was unfortunately meant to be our annual unit enrolment. All our area events which had been planned by a great team of people had to be put on hold and my weekly parkrun (my me time) had also been cancelled. All of this happened in a very short space of time and was added to when my work routine had been changed dramatically. Doctors surgeries were no longer allowing patients to collect their own prescriptions and all routine appointments were cancelled. We were inundated with HUGE amounts of patients’ prescriptions from all over Belfast. Patients we had never seen, drugs we had never dispensed, and all whilst, trying to limit the number of people in the shop to observe the social distancing guidelines and having to answer all patients’ queries was extremely draining. 


So a new routine began to develop over the next number of days, in work we had to rearrange our daily activities and change how did most things including interacting with patients. We began closing for lunch to allow for a deep clean and to clear the counter of queries and not to mention try to inhale some food so we could stay on our feet for the rest of the day. This has become our "new normal". My role has now changed and I now work closely with doctors surgeries on behalf of three Boots pharmacies and collect and dispense more prescriptions for patients than we would done even at Christmas time only months before. With this in mind we have also 'run out' of many medications that wouldn't normally be problematic. Therefore I've had to call surgeries and suppliers for alternatives for patients and even reach out to other pharmacies too. This "new normal" has put additional amounts of stress on us simply trying to source normal weekly medications for our long term vulnerable patients, who depend on us. However these patients have been extra special, bringing us sweet treats to keep us going and telling others of the service they have received, it’s the little things that goes away towards helping us at the end of a long day.  


We may have an increased workload and the smell of bleach now fills the air rather than perfume during most shifts. With our increased out of stock levels becoming more the norm and with the increasing number of patients in need of our service, we also have had a big increase of appreciation. We have had many more “thank you's” than ever before. It still comes as a shock to hear, because at the end of the day we are doing "our job", same as always, but it has been nice to hear that they understand and appreciate that our job cannot be done from the safety of our own homes. We are doing all we can to support the community and our patients in extraordinary circumstances and will continue to do all that we can to help.  


An image of a neon pharmacy crossWe may not be NHS but we still are front line essential workers and we hope to see an end to our "new normal" soon.  We can't wait for the day when our shelves are fully stocked up of all medications we need. For a time when we don't have to make you wait for 48 hours for your medications. For a time when the newest perfume fragrances fill our senses again instead of bleach and disinfectant. But mostly, what we can't wait for, is not to see the unease in the eyes of the people coming through our doors for our essential service. To again see the smiles of some of our most vulnerable patients who are now self-isolating and not able to pop into us themselves.   


To everyone who has had to adjust to a "new normal", you are not alone. In the meantime I thank everyone who has supported essential workers, from the postal workers to the teaching staff, from the delivery driver to the shop assistants, from police, to all of us in chemists and to our fantastic hospital staff and everyone else in between.


Remember please stay at home as much as possible of all our sake's as much as your own and remember to stay safe.


Alison Devlin